This dissonance can be resolved by imagining pragmatic grounds: decorum, or established protocols, or even self-protection. His argument, well-elucidated and expertly supported, is that the emergence of language as language is merely that of the author in another form. Indeed, he offers an extremely astute analysis of the ways in which both individual readers and society as a whole continually reconstruct conceptions of authorship in the face of the historical and formal developments he arrays in hopes of supplanting them. And then there are those relationships that leave the institutional wholly behind. The large scale of the questions Widiss addresses and the subtle, original brilliance he brings to bear on them, along with the power and delight of his writing, will guarantee wide critical recognition of and engagement with this book. In so doing, they complicate received wisdom regarding the constitution of and distinctions between literary movements and moments, and shepherd us to a fuller understanding of the stakes and strategies of writing throughout the century.
I am powerfully indebted to many colleagues and students at Princeton who have propelled and sharpened this work through timely conversations, engaged readings, acute questions and suggestions, and general cheer. Obscure Invitations argues that this taboo has blinded us to fundamental elements of twentieth-century literature. They are drawn together here by the particularly artful, and broadly consistent, ways in which they both manage and figure the practice of authorship in twentieth-century America. Narrative progress and rhetorical digress function conjointly: narrative establishes the stakes of play, while play distinguishes the layers of narrative and often enlarges their number. My parents, Alan and Ellen Widiss, first taught me to cherish authorial invitations, albeit invitations construed in somewhat less abstruse terms. He received a doctorate in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and a bachelor's degree from Yale University. Widiss entirely upends the critical consensus that the author as a living, speaking presence has been eliminated.
Ostensibly, this book provides a new method for analysis of modern and postmodern texts. He sacrifices all the time he can, while constantly working on other committees and further enriching the scientific minds on campus, to helping each and every student understand the course material. It then discusses Eggers' Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and the films Seven and The Usual Suspects, demonstrating that each is a highly self-aware rebuttal of the notion of authorial absence. Associate Professor of Literature Root Hall 112 315-859-4137 Benjamin Widiss specializes in twentieth-century and contemporary American literature and film. At its most basic this is no more than a simple structural homology between reader and author, at its most extreme a full-on annexation of Eucharistic ritual. Each of the readings it contains is a tour de force: well researched, elegantly written, and powerfully persuasive. I am endlessly grateful for the support, friendship, and high spirits, all along the way, of Loretta Chen, Jonathan Davis, Stephanie Green, Brian Lee, Matthew Pincus, Ted Robertson, Jackie Starr, Alex Thompson, Abigail Trillin, Charles Tung, Paula Vielmetti, Alex Winter, and especially Jim Hinch and Ramu Nagappan, with whom I have shared classes, houses, peregrinations near and far, and the most wide-ranging of reflections.
She has inspired me to take my education further; and really make the most of my time here. In all cases, the demands made on the reader are less than straightforward even the most direct-seeming of appeals masking considerable indirection, or indeed misdirection. The project has further benefited from discussions with Charles Altieri, Ann Banfield, John Bishop, Catherine Gallagher, Celeste Langan, and George Starr, and from tenacious early readings by Erika Clowes, Gillian Epstein, Luciana Herman, Heather Levien, Kim Magowan, Diane Matlock, Mayumi Takada, and, most especially, Joseph Jeon and Florence Dore, who have continued to give enormously of their time and sagacity—and, far from least, their good humor—through every stage of its advance. Connecting this dynamic with the author, however, has been an uneasy move at best in academia for some decades. His argument, well-elucidated and expertly supported, is that the emergence of language as language is merely that of the author in another form. Before that, Dawood was a postdoctoral researcher in physical chemistry at the University of Maryland. The obscure invitation that each text issues is to a self-conscious apprehension of, and perhaps by extension a form of communion with, its author.
Indeed, part of the continuing interest of a document that is, at one level, the product of a cultural moment well behind us is its predictive value for any number of anti-institutional literary-critical regimes of the succeeding decades. Only the most radically chance-driven works, it seems to me, prove so eager to shed all authorial design; only in describing the content of such works do we fully relinquish euphemisms for, or interpretive circumlocutions taking us back to intimations of, intentionality. It is presented on the basis of superior teaching and for having a significant and positive impact on students. The specific genesis of this book lay in a seminar on William Faulkner led with incomparable verve and rigor by Carolyn Porter; while the book has gone on to embrace many other figures, it remains grounded in that experience and in her responses to my work. My words can neither recognize nor thank them enough.
Widiss is working on a second book that explores a constellation of relationships between mass production and individual bodily presence, conceptions of temporality and loss, and constructions of adolescence and maturity as a means to articulate the aesthetic postures of an emergent post-postmodernism. Widiss entirely upends the critical consensus that the author as a living, speaking presence has been eliminated. And, even more importantly, in the last third of the century a conversance and thoroughly imbricated relationship not just with the history of literature but also with academic literary criticism—most importantly with the notion of the death of the author. ¹ Fully attending to a text in this binary fashion places the reader at a lively crossroads, measuring authorial figurations in tandem with those of character and plot, and at the same time understanding that the binary is itself something of a heuristic fiction. Both approaches reveal, then, that the hermeneutic strategies we have been taught by modernism, and taught as well that they serve to elucidate texts that at the very least strive to be hermetically sealed, instead derive essential energy from the specter of the author standing behind and beyond—whether as aid, arbiter, or prize for the process of interpretation.
Diana Fuss and William Gleason. Toklas driving -- See monkey, do monkey : Lolita aping -- The gospel according to Dave : A heartbreaking work of staggering genius imbibing -- The death of Kevin Spacey : Seven and The usual suspects envisioning. It then discusses Eggers' Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and the films Seven and The Usual Suspects, demonstrating that each is a highly self-aware rebuttal of the notion of authorial absence. Thus my revision of death to dearth: that the ostentatious absence of the authorial hand actually drives us to locate its traces. She earned her doctorate in materials chemistry at Penn State, focusing on colloidal routes for the predictable and controllable synthesis of metastable nanoparticles using crystal structures as templates. While Nabokovian shell games remain the order of the day in a great deal of work over the subsequent decades, my interest in the final chapters is in late-century texts that extend their reflections into a consideration of surrounding cultural formations, and with them the material substrate of textual circulation itself. The variability and complexity of this subject would then be revealed as products of readerly assiduousness, more sustained and engaged readings generating fuller realizations of the self-accounting written into the discourse.
He eagerly anticipates a new critical stance that would take up the kinds of questions he proposes in the late stages of his essay, for example, How, under what conditions and in what forms can something like a subject appear in the order of discourse? Both approaches sensitize readers to the vexed status of the author and engineer related responses—inquisitiveness, investigation, investment—in the reader. In ways far too numerous to recount, or even count, they have offered the most joyous of distractions from the work and the most selfless encouragement to return to it. But as with any zealously voiced protocol—especially one frequently enforced in a spirit of staunch rectitude—a penumbra has long fallen in excess of the actual taboo, leaving us blind to much that goes on within texts themselves, irrespective of any actual appeal to external authority. Seán Burke, in his magisterial dissection of the anti-authorial commitments of poststructuralist criticism, The Death and Return of the Author 1992 , reads this as our current impasse: the acceptance of authorial disappearance. It then discusses Eggers' Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and the films Seven and The Usual Suspects, demonstrating that each is a highly self-aware rebuttal of the notion of authorial absence. The second is a process of tutelage, each step in the discernment and pursuit of an invitation changing the seeker in small but finally significant ways.
Their influence colors this writing obliquely but profoundly, and their belief subtends it at a yet deeper level. Neither technique is transparent, of course; both progress by way of repetitions and revisions, gestures and allusions, elaborations and elisions that I group under the heading of obscure invitations—invitations to the reader not just to seek out the author from whom they spring, but to imagine him or her in a particular fashion and to attend to that imagination as a constitutive element of the reading process. In so doing, it extends a clear invitation for other critics to look back at the twentieth century and reappraise the assumptions they might bring to rereadings of its texts. Benjamin Widiss The Class of 1962 Outstanding Teaching Award specializes in 20th-century and contemporary American literature and film. Eric Naiman not only taught me much about Vladimir Nabokov, but offered stringent and incisive critiques of many other elements of my thinking as well. Both will factor, in varying combinations and degrees, in each of the works I discuss herein, each embracing the longueurs and divagations of the narrative form to stage a dialogue equally as sustained as it is surreptitious.