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Textual Bodies - Michael Kaufmann Preview:
"Many have commented on the unusual appearance of modernist novels, but few have bothered to examine what part is played by the unusual typography, paginal arrangement, and binding in the works themselves. Examining Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, Stein's Tender Buttons, Joyce's Finnegans Wake, and William Gass's Willie Masters' Lonesome Wife, Michael Kaufmann shows how these writers exposed the printed surface of their works and eventually made the print a part of the fiction itself." "Earlier English novels always presented themselves as printed artifacts - letters, diaries, logs - but by the nineteenth century, writers played down the physical form of the novel, positing the book as a space for tale-telling and not of reading. Print was simply the transparent medium that delivered the tale. In the twentieth century, modernist writers were aware that print had been subtly shaping language and consciousness, so they felt the necessity for exposing the printed page. To make readers aware of the print itself, modernists broke up the conventional arrangements of the page and the book." "Kaufmann shows the gradual opening of the "iconic space" of the novel from Faulkner and Stein to Joyce and Gass. Stein breaks with the conventional arrangement in Tender Buttons to split the husk of "meaning" that words had acquired through use. Her apparent nonsense turned out to be the only way she could find to make sense. Faulkner and Joyce employ a more conventional paginal arrangement, but bring their narratives into the space of the page. As I Lay Dying speaks itself, physically enacting the narrative. The enactment calls attention to the printed surface and shows the composed rows of interchangeable type comprising the narrative. In Finnegans Wake Joyce overuses the conventions of print until they become visible as conventions. Readers see fully the various textual spaces of the book - alphabetic, lexical, paginal, and compositional. More spectacularly, the paginal space becomes narratival space; the printed characters on the page are the fictional characters." "The final novel studied, Gass's Willie Masters' Lonesome Wife, meditates on its fictions, especially the fictions of its physical form, its body. Gass uses the textual space of the novel with a thoroughness similar to Joyce's. The book, the wife, sounds a simultaneous delight and despair at the form that gives her the visible body of language but which also encloses her bodiless voice in a skin of print." "Recognizing the printed body of the modernist text as one of its defining features, argues Kaufmann, helps define high modernism, and identifies the modernist strain of some writers considered postmodernist."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved.