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A neighborhood in Mexico City called Colonia Juárez has given all its streets the names of foreign, mainly European, cities. It is an old neighborhood, extensive and populous, formally caught between the boundaries of the two greatest metropolitan avenues, Insurgentes and Reforma.
If a dialogics, inspired by the work of Mikhail Bakhtin, were recognized as an art of discourse on the level of the arts of rhetoric and dialectic, it might shape a critical practice different from those governed by the more familiar arts. Tzvetan Todorov's recent essay on dialogic criticism and Merle Brown's account of F. R. Leavis's “collaborative exchange” in criticism contribute to the invention of such an art; further efforts to rationalize it seem desirable and possible in the present critical conversation.
Despite its prominence in many critical lexicons, the term “literary convention” rarely receives sustained theoretical scrutiny. Rather, it has served interpreters, and even theorists, as a kind of general-purpose catchall, loosely synonymous with “custom,” “habit,” “assumption,” “myth,” “cliché,” “fiction,” or the French convenance. I argue that a philosophically rigorous definition of social convention may work heuristically to clarify what literary convention means and how it functions within a larger poetics. In particular, an intelligible notion of literary convention will help clarify the dialectical relation of mimesis and semiosis—what derives from the “natural” world and what results from an internal economy of parts and whole.
Narrative theorists generally assume that narratees in novels are distinct from actual readers, as narrators are from authors. In early novels by Stowe, Gaskell, and Eliot, however, “engaging narrators” encourage actual readers to identify with the “you” that appears in narrative interventions. These novelists explicitly hoped to stir actual readers' sympathy for real-world sufferers, possibly even to move readers to action. An engaging narrator, unlike a “distancing” one, calls the narratee “you” (not “the reader”); assumes that the narratee sympathizes with the story; claims that the characters are “real”; and consistently directs the actual reader to consider the parallels between the fiction and “real life.” Since these strategies seem to originate in certain nineteenth-century women's texts, narrative theory's omission of them may have implications for gender criticism.
Strether's final gesture of renunciation, like his various attempts to live vicariously through those around him, follows from his own position of ambassador—both for Mrs. Newsome and for Henry James. The logic he invokes in the closing scene to justify his renunciation denies the ambassador any direct profits in his own person but permits him to delegate to others his desire to “live all [he] can.” This Jamesian logic of delegation conforms to the Derridean “logic of the supplement” and governs both the novel's fictional and its compositional plots of the deviation from authority and the mediation of experience. In particular, it regulates the novel's central thematic conflict between a New England theory of representation as the preservation of an original and a Parisian theory of representation as a potentially infinite dispersal of delegates without a guiding origin or authority.
Skelton's poem begins with a radical view of reading in which the text “cues” readers to create (rewrite) texts in their own images, as does the work's fictional reader, Jane. Although Jane's rewritten text appears to be uniquely hers, the second section of Phyllyp Sparowe deconstructs it to show how it was predetermined or “cued” by her past reading. The third section of the poem disempowers Jane further, deconstructing her physical person and reconstructing her as a text that Skelton the poet “scripts.” Although Jane soon escapes his control, he once again deconstructs her autonomy and power. This time Skelton points to another form of both licensing and limiting the reader, the interpretive community of male readers that enables Jane to challenge Skelton and simultaneously determines and shapes her criticism. Ultimately, Phyllyp Sparowe requires us to examine the nature of reading and the ways in which interpretive communities function.
As a conceptual framework, the ascending spiral does not originate with Coleridge, but it appears in his work in a prominent and distinctive form. Although he used the figure at first to describe the external world—and modified it for that purpose during the 1820s—Coleridge soon connected it with the human world of the mind as well. Attempts to put it to work as a principle of development in his writings include the revised Friend of 1818 and the Aids to Reflection of 1825.