Historiographic Metafiction

The frontiers of a book are ne’er distinct: beyond the rubric. the first lines. and the last full-stop. beyond its internal constellation and its independent signifier. it is caught up in a system of mentions to other books. other texts. other sentences: it is a node within a web. -Foucault What we tend to name postmodernism in literature today is normally characterized by intense self-reflexivity and overtly parodic intertextuality. In fiction this means that it is normally metafiction that is equated with the postmodern.

Given the scarceness of precise definitions of this debatable period appellation. such an equation is frequently accepted without inquiry. What I would wish to reason is that. in the involvements of preciseness and consistence. we must add something else to this definition: an every bit self-aware dimension of history. My theoretical account here is postmodern architecture. that resolutely parodic remembering of the history of architectural signifiers and maps. The subject of the 1980 Venice Biennale. which introduced postmodernism to the architectural universe.

was “The Presence of the Past.

” The term postmodernism. when used in fiction. should. by analogy. best be reserved to depict fiction that is at one time metafictional and historical in its reverberations of the texts and contexts of the yesteryear. In order to separate this self-contradictory animal from traditional historical fiction. I would wish to label it “historiographic metafiction. ” The class of novel I am believing of includes One Hundred Old ages of Solitude. Ragtime. The Gallic Lieutenant’s Woman. and The Name of the Rose.

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All of these are popular and familiar novels whose metafictional self-reflexivity ( and intertextuality ) renders their inexplicit claims to historical veracity slightly debatable. to state the least. 3 LINDA HUTCHEON In the aftermath of recent assaults by literary and philosophical theory on modernist formalist closing. postmodern American fiction. in peculiar. has sought to open itself up to history. to what Edward Said ( The World ) calls the “world.

” But it seems to hold found that it can no longer do so in any guiltless manner: the certainty of direct mention of the historical novel or even the nonfictional novel is gone. So is the certainty of self-reference implied in the Borgesian claim that both literature and the universe are every bit assumed worlds. The postmodern relationship between fiction and history is an even more complex one of interaction and common deduction.

Historiographic metafiction works to locate itself within historical discourse without give uping its liberty as fiction. And it is a sort of earnestly dry lampoon that effects both purposes: the intertexts of history and fiction take on analogue ( though non equal ) position in the parodic reworking of the textual yesteryear of both the “world” and literature. The textual incorporation of these intertextual yesteryear ( s ) as a constituent structural component of postmodernist fiction maps as a formal marker of historicity-both literary and “worldly.

” At first glimpse it would look that it is merely its changeless dry signaling of difference at the very bosom of similarity that distinguishes postmodern lampoon from medieval and Renaissance imitation ( see Greene 17 ) . For Dante. as for E. L. Doctorow. the texts of literature and those of history are every bit just game. Nevertheless. a differentiation should be made: “Traditionally. narratives were stolen. as Chaucer stole his ; or they were felt to be the common belongings of a civilization or community …

These noteworthy occurrences. imagined or existent. put outside linguistic communication the manner history itself is supposed to. in a status of pure occurrence” ( Gass 147 ) . Today. there is a return to the thought of a common dianoetic “property” in the embedding of both literary and historical texts in fiction. but it is a return made debatable by overtly metafictional averments of both history and literature as human concepts. so. as human illusions-necessary. but none the less illusive for all that.

The intertextual lampoon of historiographic metafiction enacts. in a manner. the positions of certain modern-day historians ( see Canary and Kozicki ) : it offers a sense of the presence of the past. but this is a past that can merely be known from its texts. its traces-be they literary or historical. Clearly. so. what I want to name postmodernism is a self-contradictory cultural phenomenon. and it is besides one that operates across many traditional subjects.

In modern-day theoretical discourse. for case. we find enigmatic contradictions: those consummate denials of command. totalising negations of totalization. uninterrupted attest4 HISTORIOGRAPHIC METAFICTION ings of discontinuity. In the postmodern novel the conventions of both fiction and historiography are at the same time used and abused. installed and subverted. asserted and denied. And the dual ( literary/historical ) nature of this intertextual lampoon is one of the major agencies by which this paradoxical ( and specifying ) nature of postmodernism is textually inscribed.

Possibly one of the grounds why there has been such het argument on the definition of postmodernism late is that the deductions of the doubleness of this parodic procedure have non been to the full examined. Novels like The Book of Daniel or The Public Burning-whatever their complex intertextual layering-can surely non be said to shun history. any more than they can be said to disregard either their moorages in societal world ( see Graff 209 ) or a clear political purpose ( see Eagleton 61 ) .

Historiographic metafiction manages to fulfill such a desire for “worldly” anchoring piece at the same clip questioning the very footing of the authorization of that anchoring. As David Lodge has put it. postmodernism short-circuits the spread between text and universe ( 239-4 0 ) . Discussions of postmodernism seem more prone than most to confounding self-contradictions. once more possibly because of the self-contradictory nature of the topic itself. Charles Newman. for case. in his provocative book The Post-Modern Aura. Begins by specifying postmodern art as a “commentary on the aesthetic history of whatever genre it adopts” ( 44 ) .

This would. so. be art which sees history merely in aesthetic footings ( 57 ) . However. when contending an American version of postmodernism. he abandons this metafictional intertextual definition to name American literature a “literature without primary influences. ” “a literature which lacks a known parentage. ” enduring from the “anxiety of non-influence” ( 87 ) . As we shall see. an scrutiny of the novels of Toni Morrison. E. L. Doctorow. John Barth. Ishmael Reed. Thomas Pynchon. and others casts a sensible uncertainty on such dictums.

On the one manus. Newman wants to reason that postmodernism at big is resolutely parodic ; on the other. he asserts that the American postmodern intentionally puts “distance between itself and its literary ancestors. an obligatory if on occasion conscience-stricken interruption with the past” ( 172 ) .

Newman is non entirely in his screening of postmodern lampoon as a signifier of dry rupture with the yesteryear ( see Thiher 214 ) . but. as in postmodernist architecture. there is ever a paradox at the bosom of that “post” : sarcasm does so tag the difference from the past. but the intertextual echoing at the same time works to affirm-textually and hermeneutically-the connexion with the yesteryear.

When that yesteryear is the literary period we now seem to label as 5 LINDA HUTCHEON modernism. so what is both instated and so subverted is the impression of the work of art as a closed. self-sufficient. independent object deducing its integrity from the formal interrelatednesss of its parts. In its characteristic effort to retain aesthetic liberty while still returning the text to the “world. ” postmodernism both asserts and so undersell this formalized position.

But this does non ask a return to the universe of “ordinary world. ” as some have argued ( Kern 216 ) ; the “world” in which the text situates itself is the “world” of discourse. the “world” of texts and intertexts. This “world” has direct links to the universe of empirical world. but it is non itself that empirical world. It is a modern-day critical truism that pragmatism is truly a set of conventions. that the representation of the existent is non the same as the existent itself.

What historiographic metafiction challenges is both any naif realist construct of representation and any every bit naif textualist or formalist averments of the entire separation of art from the universe. The postmodern is selfconsciously art “within the archive” ( Foucault 92 ) . and that archive is both historical and literary. In the visible radiation of the work of authors such as Carlos Fuentes. Salman Rushdie. D. M. Thomas. John Fowles. Umberto Eco. every bit good as Robert Coover. E. L.

Doctorow. John Barth. Joseph Heller. Ishmael Reed. and other American novelists. it is difficult to see why critics such as Allen Thiher. for case. “can think of no such intertextual foundations today” as those of Dante in Virgil ( 189 ) ’ Are we truly in the thick of a crisis of religion in the “possibility of historical culture” ( 189 ) ? Have we of all time non been in such a crisis? To lampoon is non to destruct the yesteryear ; in fact. to lampoon is both to enshrine the yesteryear and to oppugn it. And this is the postmodern paradox.

The theoretical geographic expedition of the “vast dialogue” ( Calinescu. 169 ) between and among literatures and histories that configure postmodernism has. in portion. been made possible by Julia Kristeva’s early reworking of the Bakhtinian impressions of polyphonic music. dialogism. and heteroglossia-the multiple voicings of a text. Out of these thoughts she developed a more purely formalist theory of the irreducible plurality of texts within and behind any given text. thereby debaring the critical focal point off from the impression of the topic ( here. the writer ) to the thought of textual productiveness.

Kristeva and her co-workers at Tel Quel in the late 1960ss and early 1970ss mounted a corporate onslaught on the initiation topic ( assumed name: the “romantic” platitude of the writer ) as the original and arising beginning of fixed and fetishized significance in the text. And. of class. this besides put into inquiry the full impression of the “text” as an independent entity. with subjective significance. 6 HISTORIOGRAPHIC METAFICTION In America a similar formalist urge had provoked a similar onslaught much earlier in the signifier of the New Critical rejection of the “intentional fallacy” ( Wimsatt ) .

However. it would look that even though we can no longer speak comfortably of writers ( and beginnings and influences ) . we still need a critical linguistic communication in which to discourse those dry allusions. those re-contextualized citations. those double-edged lampoons both of genre and of specific plants that proliferate in modernist and postmodernist texts. This. of class. is where the construct of intertextuality has proved so utile.

As subsequently defined by Roland Barthes ( Image 160 ) and Michael Riffaterre ( 142-43 ) . intertextuality replaces the challenged authortext relationship with one between reader and text. one that situates the venue of textual significance within the history of discourse itself. A literary work can really no longer be considered original ; if it were. it could hold no significance for its reader. It is merely as portion of anterior discourses that any text derives intending and significance. Not surprisingly. this theoretical redefining of aesthetic value has coincided with a alteration in the sort of art being produced.

Postmodernly parodic composer George Rochberg. in the line drive notes to the Nonesuch recording of his String Quartet no. 3 articulates this alteration in these footings: “I have had to abandon the impression of ‘originality. ’ in which the personal manner of the creative person and his self-importance are the supreme values ; the chase of the one-idea. uni-dimensional work and gesture which seems to hold dominated the esthetics of art in the aoth century ; and the standard thought that it is necessary to disassociate oneself from the yesteryear.

“In the ocular humanistic disciplines excessively. the plants of Shusaku Arakawa. Larry Rivers. Tom Wesselman. and others have brought approximately. through parodic intertextuality ( both aesthetic and historical ) . a existent skewing of any “romantic” impressions of subjectiveness and creativeness. As in historiographic metafiction. these other art signifiers parodically cite the intertexts of both the “world” and art and. in so making. contend the boundaries that many would unquestioningly utilize to divide the two.

In its most utmost preparation. the consequence of such contesting would be a “break with every given context. breeding an eternity of new contexts in a mode which is perfectly illimitable” ( Derrida 185 ) . While postmodernism. as I am specifying it here. is possibly slightly less indiscriminately extended. the impression of lampoon as opening the text up. instead than shuting it down. is an of import 1: among the many things that postmodern intertextuality challenges are both closing and individual. centralised significance.

Its willed and wilful provisionality rests mostly upon its credence of the inevitable textual infiltration of anterior dianoetic 7 LINDA HUTCHEON patterns. Typically contradictory. intertextuality in postmodern art both provides and undermines context. In Vincent B. Leitch’s footings. it “posits both an uncentered historical enclosure and an abysmal decentered foundation for linguistic communication and textuality ; in so making. it exposes all contextualizations as limited and restricting. arbitrary and restricting. self-serving and autocratic. theological and political.

However paradoxically formulated. intertextuality offers a liberating determinism” ( 162 ) . It is possibly clearer now why it has been claimed that to utilize the term intertextuality in unfavorable judgment is non merely to avail oneself of a utile conceptual tool: it besides signals a “prise de place. un title-holder de reference”

( Angenot 122 ) . But its utility as a theoreticalframework that is both hermeneutic and formalist is obvious in covering with historiographic metafiction that demands of the reader non merely the acknowledgment of textualized hints of the literary and historical yesteryear but besides the consciousness of what has been done-through irony-to those hints.

The reader is forced to admit non merely the inevitable textuality of our cognition of the past. but besides both the value and the restriction of that ineluctably dianoetic signifier of cognition. situated as it is “between presence and absence” ( Barilli ) . aura Calvina’s Marco Polo in Invisible Cities both is and is non the historical Marco Polo. How can we. today. “know” the Italian adventurer? We can merely make so by manner of texts-including his ain ( Il Milione ) . from which Calvino parodically takes his frame narrative. his travel secret plan. and his word picture ( Musarra 141 ) .

Roland Barthes one time defined the intertext as “the impossibleness of life outside the infinite text” ( Pleasure 36 ) . thereby doing intertextuality the very status of textuality. Umberto Eco. authorship of his novel The Name of the Rose. claims: “1 discovered what authors have ever known ( and have told us once more and once more ) : books ever speak of other books. and every narrative tells a narrative that has already been told” ( 20 ) .

The narratives that The Name of the Rose retells are both those of literature ( by Arthur Conan Doyle. Jorge Luis Borges. James Joyce. Thomas Mann. T. S. Eliot. among others ) and those of history ( mediaeval histories. spiritual testimonies ) .

This is the parodically twofold discourse of postmodernist intertextuality. However. this is non merely a double introspective signifier of aestheticism: the theoretical deductions of this sort of historiographic metafiction coincide with recent historiographic theory about the nature of history authorship as narrativization ( instead than representation ) of the past and about the nature of the archive as the textualized remains of history ( see White. “The Question” ) .

8 HISTORIOGRAPHIC METAFICTION In other words. yes. postmodernism manifests a certain invagination. a self-aware turning toward the signifier of the act of composing itself ; but it is besides much more than that. It does non travel so far as to “establish an expressed actual relation with that existent universe beyond itself. ” as some have claimed ( Kirernidjian 238 ) . Its relationship to the “worldly” is still on the degree of discourse. but to claim that is to claim rather a batch.

After all. we can merely “know” ( as opposed to “experience” ) the universe through our narrations ( past and present ) of it. or so postmodernism argues. The present. every bit good as the yesteryear. is ever already irremediably textualized for us ( Belsey 46 ) . and the open intertextuality of historiographic metafiction serves as one of the textual signals of this postmodern realisation. Readers of a novel like Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five do non hold to continue really far before picking up these signals.

The writer is identified on the rubric page as “a fourth-generation German-american now populating in easy fortunes on Cape Cod ( and smoking excessively much ) . who. as an American foot lookout hors de combat. as a captive of war. witnessed the fire-bombing of Dresden. Germany. ‘The Firenze of the Elbe. ’ a long clip ago. and survived to state the narrative. This is a fresh slightly in the telegraphic schizophrenic mode of narratives of the planet Tralfamadore. where the winging disks come from. Peace.

” The character. Kurt Vonnegut. appears in the novel. seeking to wipe out his memories of the war and of Dresden. the devastation of which he saw from “Slaughterhouse-Five. ” where he worked as a POW. The fresh itself opens with: “All this happened. more or less. The war parts. anyhow. are reasonably much true” ( 7 ) . Counterpointed to this historical context. nevertheless. is the ( metafictionally marked ) Billy Pilgrim. the oculist who helps rectify faulty vision-including his ain. though it takes the planet Tralfamadore to give him his new position.

Billy’s fantasy life Acts of the Apostless as an fable of the author’s ain supplantings and delaies ( i. e. . his other novels ) that prevented him from composing about Dresden before this. and it is the intratexts of the novel that signal this fable: Tralfamadore itself is from Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan. Billy’s place in Illium is from Player Piano. characters appear from Mother Night and God Bless You. Mr. Rosewater.

The intertexts. nevertheless. map in similar ways. and their birthplace is once more dual: there are existent historical intertexts ( docudramas on Dresden. etc. ) . assorted with those of historical fiction ( Stephen Crane. Celine ) . But there are besides structurally and thematically affiliated allusions: to Hermann Hesse’s Journey to the East and to assorted plants of scientific discipline fiction.

Popular 9 LINDA HUTCHEON and high-art intertexts mingle: Valley of the Dolls meets the verse form of William Blake and Theodore Roethke. All are just game and all get re-contextualized in order to dispute the imperialistic ( cultural and political ) outlooks that conveying about the Dresdens of history.

Thomas Pynchon’s V. uses dual intertexts in a likewise “loaded” manner to officially ordain the author’s related subject of the entropic destructiveness of humanity. Stencil’s dossier. its fragments of the texts of history. is an amalgam of literary intertexts. as if to remind us that “there is no 1 writable ‘truth’ about history and experience. merely a series of versions: it ever comes to us ‘stencillized'” ( Tanner 172 ) . And it is ever multiple. like V’s individuality.

Patricia Waugh notes that metafiction such as Slaughterhouse-Five or The Public Burning “suggests non merely that composing history is a fictional act. runing events conceptually through linguistic communication to organize a world-model. but that history itself is invested. like fiction. with interrelating secret plans which appear to interact independently of human design” ( 48-49 ) . Historiographic metafiction is peculiarly doubled. like this. in its inscribing of both historical and literary intertexts.

Its particular and general remembrances of the signifiers and contents of history composing work to familiarise the unfamiliar through ( really familiar ) narrative constructions ( as Hayden White has argued [ “The Historical Text. ” 49-50 ] ) . but its metafictional selfreflexivity works to render debatable any such familiarisation. And the ground for the sameness is that both existent and imagined universes come to us through their histories of them. that is. through their hints. their texts. The ontological line between historical yesteryear and literature is non effaced ( see Thiher 190 ) . but underlined.

The past truly did be. but we can merely “know” that past today through its texts. and therein lies its connexion to the literary. If the subject of history has lost its privileged position as the purveyor of truth. so so much the better. harmonizing to this sort of modern historiographic theory: the loss of the semblance of transparence in historical authorship is a measure toward rational self-awareness that is matched by metafiction’s challenges to the presumed transparence of the linguistic communication of realist texts.

When its critics attack postmodernism for being what they see as ahistorical ( as do Eagleton. Jameson. and Newman ) . what is being referred to as “postrnodern” all of a sudden becomes ill-defined. for certainly historiographic metafiction. like postmodernist architecture and picture. is overtly and resolutely historical-though. true. in an dry and debatable manner that acknowledges that history is non the transparent record of any certain “truth. ” Alternatively. such fiction 10.

HISTORIOGRAPHIC METAFICTION corroborates the positions of philosophers of history such as Dominick LaCapra who argue that “the past arrives in the signifier of texts and textualized remainders-memories. studies. published Hagiographas. archives. memorials. and so forth” ( 128 ) and that these texts interact with one another in complex ways. This does non in any manner deny the value of history-writing ; it simply redefines the conditions of value in slightly less imperialistic footings.

Recently. the tradition of narrative history with its concern “for the short clip span. for the person and the event” ( Braudel 27 ) . has been called into inquiry by the Annales School in France. But this peculiar theoretical account of narrative history was. of class. besides that of the realist novel. Historiographic metafiction. hence. represents a challenging of the ( related ) conventional signifiers of fiction and history through its recognition of their ineluctable textuality.

As Barthes one time remarked. Bouvard and Pecuchet become the ideal precursors of the postmodernist author who “can merely copy a gesture that is ever anterior. ne’er original. His lone power is to blend Hagiographas. to counter the 1s with the others. in such a manner as ne’er to rest on any of them” ( Irnage 146 ) . The formal linking of history and fiction through the common denominators of intertextuality and narrativity is normally offered non as a decrease. as a shrinkage of the range and value of fiction. but instead as an enlargement of these.

Or. if it is seen as a limitation-restricted to the ever already narrated-this tends to be made into the primary value. as it is in Lyotard’s “pagan vision. ” wherein no 1 of all time manages to be the first to narrate anything. to be the beginning of even her or his ain narrative ( 78 ) . Lyotard intentionally sets up this “limitation” as the antonym of what he calls the capitalist place of the author as original Godhead. owner. and enterpriser of her or his narrative.

Much postmodern composing portions this implied ideological review of the premises underlying “romantic” constructs of writer and text. and it is parodic intertextuality that is the major vehicle of that review. Possibly because lampoon itself has potentially contradictory ideological deductions ( as “authorized evildoing. ” it can be seen as both conservative and radical [ Hutcheon 69-83 ] ) . it is a perfect manner of unfavorable judgment for postmodernism. itself self-contradictory in its conservative installation and so extremist contesting of conventions.

Historiographic metafictions. like Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Old ages of Solitude. Gunter Grass’s The Tin Drurn. or Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children ( which uses both of the former as intertexts ) . use lampoon non merely to reconstruct history and memory in the face of the deformations of the “history of forgetting” ( Thiher 11 LINDA HUTCHEON 202 ) . but besides. at the same clip. to set into inquiry the authorization of any act of authorship by turn uping the discourses of both history and fiction within an ever-expanding intertextual web that mocks any impression of either individual beginning or simple causality.

When linked with sarcasm. as in the work of Vonnegut. V. Vampilov. Christa Wolf. or Coover. lampoon can surely take on more exactly ideological dimensions. Here. excessively. nevertheless. there is no direct intercession in the universe: this is composing working through other authorship. other textualizations of experience ( Said Beginnings 237 ) .

In many instances intertextuality may good be excessively limited a term to depict this procedure ; interdiscursivity would possibly be a more accurate term for the corporate manners of discourse from which the postmodern parodically draws: literature. ocular humanistic disciplines. history. life. theory. doctrine. depth psychology. sociology. and the list could travel on.

One of the effects of this dianoetic pluralizing is that the ( possibly illusory but one time steadfast and individual ) centre of both historical and assumed narration is dispersed. Margins and borders gain new value. The “ex-centric”-as both off-center and de-centeredgets attending. That which is “different” is valorized in resistance both to elitist. alienated “otherness” and besides to the uniformizing urge of mass civilization. And in American postmodernism. the “different” comes to be defined in specifying footings such as those of nationality. ethnicity. gender. race. and sexual orientation.

Intertextual lampoon of canonical classics is one manner of reappropriating and reformulating-with important changes-the dominant white. male. middle-class. European civilization. It does non reject it. for it can non. It signals its dependance by its usage of the canon. but asserts its rebellion through dry maltreatment of it.

As Edward Said has been reasoning late ( “Culture” ) . there is a relationship of common mutuality between the histories of the dominators and the dominated. American fiction since the 1960ss has been. as described by Malcolm Bradbury ( 186 ) . peculiarly obsessed with its ain pastliterary. societal. and historical.

Possibly this preoccupation is ( or was ) tied in portion to a demand to fmd a peculiarly American voice within a culturally dominant Eurocentric tradition ( D’haen 216 ) . The United States ( like the remainder of North and South America ) is a land of in-migration. In E. L. Doctorow’s words. “We derive tremendously. of class. from Europe. and that’s portion of what Ragtime is about: the agencies by which we began literally. physically to raise European art and architecture and convey it over here” ( in Trenner 58 ) .

This is besides portion of what American historiographic metafiction in general is “about. ” Critics have discussed at length the parodic 12 HISTORIOGRAPHIC METAFICTION intertexts of the work of Thomas Pynchon. including Conrad’s Heart ofDarkness ( McHale 88 ) and Proust’s first-person confessional signifier ( Patteson 37-38 ) in V. In peculiar. The Crying of Lot 49 has been seen as straight associating the literary lampoon ofJacobean play with the selectivity and subjectiveness of what we deem historical “fact” ( Bennett ) .

Here the postmodern lampoon operates in much the same manner as it did in the literature of the 17th century. and in both Pynchon’s novel and the dramas he parodies ( John Ford’s ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore. John Webster’s The White Devil and The Duchess of Malfi. and Cyril Tourneur’s The Revenger’s Tragedy. among others ) . the intertextual “received discourse” is steadfastly embedded in a societal commentary about the loss of relevancy of traditional values in modern-day life ( Bennett ) .

Merely as powerful and even more hideous. possibly. is the lampoon of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in Ishmael Reed’s The Terrible Twos. where political sarcasm and lampoon meet to assail white Euro-centered political orientations of domination. Its construction of “A Past Christmas” and “A Future Christmas” prepares us for its initial Dickensian invocations-first through metaphor ( “Money is every bit tight as Scrooge” [ 4 ] ) and so straight: “Ebenezer Scrooge towers above the Washington skyline. rubbing his custodies and avariciously peering over his spectacles” ( 4 ) .

Scrooge is non a character. but a guiding spirit of 1980 America. 1 that attends the startup of the president that twelvemonth. The fresh returns to update Dickens’ narrative. However. the rich are still cosy and comfy ( “Regardless of how high rising prices remains. the wealthy will hold any sort of Christmas they desire. a spokesman for Neiman-Marcus announces” [ 5 ] ) ; the hapless are non. This is the 1980 rematch of “Scrooge’s winter. ‘as mean as ajunkyard dog” ( 32 ) .

The “Future Christmas” takes topographic point after monopoly capitalist economy has literally captured Christmas following a tribunal determination which has granted sole rights to Santa Claus to one individual and one company. One strand of the complex secret plan continues the Dickensian intertext: the American president-a asinine. alcoholic. ex- ( male ) model-is reformed by a visit from St. Nicholas. who takes him on a trip through snake pit. playing Virgil to his Dante. There he meets past presidents and other politicians. whose penalties ( as in the Inferno ) conform to their offenses.

Made a new adult male from this experience. the president spends Christmas Day with his black pantryman. John. and John’S crippled grandson. Though nameless. this Bantam Tim ironically outsentimentalizes Dickens’ : he has a leg amputated ; he is black ; his parents died in a auto accident. In an effort to salvage the state. the president goes on televi13 LINDA HUTCHEON Xian to denote: “The jobs of American society will non travel off … by raising Scroogelike attitudes against the hapless or stating baloney to the old and to the underprivileged” ( 158 ) .

But the concluding reverberations of the Dickens intertext are finally dry: the president is declared unfit to function ( because of his televised message ) and is hospitalized by the concern involvements which truly run the authorities. None of Dickens’ optimism remains in this black satiric vision of the hereafter. Similarly. in Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down. Reed parodically inverts Dostoevsky’s “Grand Inquisitor” in order to overthrow the authorization of societal. moral. and literary order.

No work of the Western humanist tradition seems safe from postmodern intertextual commendation and controversy today: in Heller’s God Knows even the sacred texts of the Bible are capable to both proof and demystification. It is important that the intertexts ofJohn Barth’s LETTERS include non merely the British eighteenth-century epistolatory novel. Don Quixote. and other European plants by H. G. Wells. Mann. and Joyce. but besides texts by Henry David Thoreau. Nathaniel Hawthorne. Edgar Allan Poe. Walt

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Historiographic Metafiction
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