Reading between the lies: Liminal consciousness in American literature

Persistent Link:
http://hdl.handle.net/10150/282689
Title:
Reading between the lies: Liminal consciousness in American literature
Author:
Vetock, Jeffrey Joseph, 1965-
Issue Date:
1998
Publisher:
The University of Arizona.
Rights:
Copyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Abstract:
This study posits reading as a trope for meaning-construction and considers the thematized act of reading in American literature as a self-reflective phenomenon that reveals, questions, and complicates the state of America's cultural consciousness in and through literature. Against the institutionalized New Critical practice of explicating texts in a vacuum, the paradigmatic shift in recent decades to contextualized modes of criticism has promoted a performance-oriented view of textuality that immerses texts in a number of problematic relations with the past and with social reality. This "new" perception of reading has been with us all along, I suggest, and my study is an attempt to recuperate the major writers of the American Renaissance for the ongoing work of revisionist scholarship. The canonical writers of the mid-nineteenth century recognize an unstable view of textuality endemic to the American cultural imagination, and indeed centralize its destabilizing effects in their work. The struggle to find and maintain meaning in such a milieu largely informs Melville's ideas about reading, as I describe in Chapter Two, and it also becomes a compelling way to consider American identity and culture in terms of process rather than product. In Chapters Three and Four, I address Whitman and Dickinson as two particularly influential figures who discover, challenge, and even attempt to harness the liminal power from which a process-oriented conception of identity arises. In their ambitious attempts to achieve a freedom of the imagination, Melville, Whitman, and Dickinson consciously and unconsciously construct and reflect the American will to freedom. Their liminal conception of reading reveals a liminal sense of being, both of which extend to the present day as a primary trait of American literature and of American cultural consciousness. My concluding chapter considers the implications of a culture based on liminality and arrives at the hard fact that America is doomed by its own dream. The endless American mission to make possible in both fiction and reality the impossible experience of pure freedom inevitably leads to dislocation, frustration, and meaninglessness, as our most powerful and lasting literature consistently illustrates.
Type:
text; Dissertation-Reproduction (electronic)
Keywords:
Anthropology, Cultural.; Literature, American.
Degree Name:
Ph.D.
Degree Level:
doctoral
Degree Program:
Graduate College; English
Degree Grantor:
University of Arizona
Advisor:
Dryden, Edgar A.

Full metadata record

DC FieldValue Language
dc.language.isoen_USen_US
dc.titleReading between the lies: Liminal consciousness in American literatureen_US
dc.creatorVetock, Jeffrey Joseph, 1965-en_US
dc.contributor.authorVetock, Jeffrey Joseph, 1965-en_US
dc.date.issued1998en_US
dc.publisherThe University of Arizona.en_US
dc.rightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.en_US
dc.description.abstractThis study posits reading as a trope for meaning-construction and considers the thematized act of reading in American literature as a self-reflective phenomenon that reveals, questions, and complicates the state of America's cultural consciousness in and through literature. Against the institutionalized New Critical practice of explicating texts in a vacuum, the paradigmatic shift in recent decades to contextualized modes of criticism has promoted a performance-oriented view of textuality that immerses texts in a number of problematic relations with the past and with social reality. This "new" perception of reading has been with us all along, I suggest, and my study is an attempt to recuperate the major writers of the American Renaissance for the ongoing work of revisionist scholarship. The canonical writers of the mid-nineteenth century recognize an unstable view of textuality endemic to the American cultural imagination, and indeed centralize its destabilizing effects in their work. The struggle to find and maintain meaning in such a milieu largely informs Melville's ideas about reading, as I describe in Chapter Two, and it also becomes a compelling way to consider American identity and culture in terms of process rather than product. In Chapters Three and Four, I address Whitman and Dickinson as two particularly influential figures who discover, challenge, and even attempt to harness the liminal power from which a process-oriented conception of identity arises. In their ambitious attempts to achieve a freedom of the imagination, Melville, Whitman, and Dickinson consciously and unconsciously construct and reflect the American will to freedom. Their liminal conception of reading reveals a liminal sense of being, both of which extend to the present day as a primary trait of American literature and of American cultural consciousness. My concluding chapter considers the implications of a culture based on liminality and arrives at the hard fact that America is doomed by its own dream. The endless American mission to make possible in both fiction and reality the impossible experience of pure freedom inevitably leads to dislocation, frustration, and meaninglessness, as our most powerful and lasting literature consistently illustrates.en_US
dc.typetexten_US
dc.typeDissertation-Reproduction (electronic)en_US
dc.subjectAnthropology, Cultural.en_US
dc.subjectLiterature, American.en_US
thesis.degree.namePh.D.en_US
thesis.degree.leveldoctoralen_US
thesis.degree.disciplineGraduate Collegeen_US
thesis.degree.disciplineEnglishen_US
thesis.degree.grantorUniversity of Arizonaen_US
dc.contributor.advisorDryden, Edgar A.en_US
dc.identifier.proquest9832249en_US
dc.identifier.bibrecord.b38552371en_US
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