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Papers on Language and Literature
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Volume 54, Number 4, 2018



MICHAEL JAY LEWIS, “Letting In the Right Let the Right One In: Sympathy for the Making of Fictional Sympathy”

ABSTRACT: Recent studies have discussed the relation between literature and sympathy. Like their predecessors, several of these studies focus on the sympathy readers feel for characters or depicted figures. Certainly, most of these studies do more: they often also discuss sympathetic acts, scenes, as well as the resultant sympathy the reader has to an authorial or textual worldview. In doing so, however, they often downplay what might be narrative fiction’s most unique sympathetic experience: the one the reader has with the inferred act of constructing sympathetic depictions. Through John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in), the paper analyzes how one’s encounter with a fictional narrative encourages one to sympathize not with the image of another—whether that be character, context, or view—but with the act of depicting or representing others sympathetically.

SOHEILA FARHANI NEJAD, “The Crisis of Interpretation in Allegorical Reading of Iris Murdoch’s The Unicorn

ABSTRACT: Murdoch’s The Unicorn includes covert and overt references to various modes of cultural discourse. In reading this novel, the reader comes across different literary, popular, and cultural modes of discourse. The Unicorn’s elaborate form and circular Gothic plot with its mishmash of sensationalism and quasi-religious symbolism serve to challenge the reader’s ability to “naturalize” and understand the text according to traditional narrative conventions. This uncertainty is partly rooted in the impossibility of placing the novel in any single literary tradition. Using Jonathan Culler’s notion of “literary competence,” this study aims at explaining the way discrepancies in terms of the author’s use of intertextuality, particularly with regard to the notions of scapegoat and sacrifice, serve to problematize, rather than “naturalize,” elements of the reader’s prior knowledge of genres, cultural modes of discourse, and their symbolic-allegorical implications. Murdoch’s highly disorienting collage of fictional modes is a deliberate device, the ethical purpose of which is to unsettle traditional assumptions about fiction’s relationship with reality.

JOE SARNOWSKI, “‘Self-preservation’: Identity, Idealism, and Pragmatism in Charles W. Chesnutt’s ‘The Wife of His Youth’”

ABSTRACT: Chesnutt’s “The Wife of His Youth” offers an extensive exploration of identity. Significantly, this short story also offers an extensive exploration of the discursive play and conflict between idealism and pragmatism. As a result, the story dramatizes how identity is negotiated within this idealism-pragmatism discourse. The implication, then, is that a crucial factor in the exploration and understanding of identity is exploring and understanding the extent to which the idealism-pragmatism discourse acts upon the individual. Consequently, the narrative portrays the complicated and grueling process within which identities are cast and recast by the discourse of idealism-pragmatism, revealing the component by which privilege undermines itself and, therefore, opening avenues for social change.

Book Reviews

JEFFREY P. COVINGTON reviews John Le Carré’s Post-Cold War Fiction by Robert Lance Snyder.

ERIK TONNING reviews Secularization without End: Beckett, Mann, Coetzee by Vincent P. Pecora.

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