Mimesis and the Intertextual Parody: Contemporary Re-Visionings of Classic Literary Texts: An Annotated Bibliography Primary Sources



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Mimesis and the Intertextual Parody: Contemporary Re-Visionings of Classic Literary Texts: An Annotated Bibliography
Primary Sources:
Alcott, Louisa May. Little Women. 1869. New York: Oxford UP, 2009. Print. The action in Alcott’s classic novel centers on the experiences of the four March sisters as they grow and develop over the course of several years in Civil War era Concord, Massachusetts. Themes are grounded in Alcott’s moral vision: the value of work, personal integrity, and female identity. Traditionally viewed as a “girl’s book,” many critics maintain that Alcott surpasses the conventions of that genre in her time with its focus on a progressive view of a young girl’s development that focuses on personal identity and fulfillment in addition to identity grounded in culturally prescribed roles.

Atwood, Margaret. The Penelopiad. New York: Canongate, 2005. Print. Atwood’s feminist reinterpretation of Homer’s epic, The Odyssey, is narrated from the after-life by Penelope, the wife of Odysseus, as she wanders the Asphodel Meadows. As she delivers her story, Penelope occasionally encounters characters from her narrative (Helen of Troy, Telemachus, Odysseus, etc.), but refuses to allow them to alter her version of the “truth.” At the center of Atwood’s parody is a minor incident from Homer’s epic—the hanging of the twelve maids (Book 22). Unique to contemporary parody, which often imitates the original text as a form of “respectful homage” (Hutcheon 33), Atwood’s style and narrative voice in this parody does situate it in the commonly accepted tradition of parody wherein the original is mocked or ridiculed. Her use of elements associated with burlesque travesty, such as common, “vulgar” language, the popular culture context of the choral songs (the twelve maids), and Penelope’s determination to communicate the “real truth,” which is decidedly un-heroic, all contribute to the “low burlesque” parody in which a “high” style or content (both, in this case) is satirically expressed with “low” style and / or content.

Baum, L. Frank. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. 1900. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2005. Print. Baum’s classic tale of Dorothy’s adventures in the fantasy Land of Oz develops themes of loyalty, friendship, and collaboration. Conceived as a “modernized fairy tale,” Baum intentionally deviates from what he terms the “disagreeable” conventions of the classic fairy tales. Instead, he chooses to focus on “wonderment and joy” in a modern adventure story that purposes to entertain rather than teach a moral lesson; thus, Baum eliminates what he terms “the nightmares” of the classic fairy tales from his modern tale of wonder.

Beowulf. Trans. John McNamara. New York: Barnes and Noble, 2005. Print. The Anglo-Saxon epic poem chronicles the journey of the hero Beowulf as he engages in three trials: he battles with the monster Grendel and the monster’s mother in his youth, and he faces a final, fatal battle with a dragon in his old age. Central to the epic, is the record of Beowulf’s development from a youthful warrior to a wise, mature king. The epic poem highlights the importance of the Heroic Code to the Germanic peoples. Attributes associated with the code include: honor, loyalty, courage, strength, and hospitality; these are each exemplified in the behavior of the hero Beowulf as well as other noble characters in the poem.

Brooks, Geraldine. March. New York: Penguin, 2005. Print. The peripheral character of the absent father in in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women becomes the subject and the narrator of Brooks’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel. It is a fine example of what Hutcheon describes as the post-modern parody grounded in “repetition with difference” (32), which imitates some element of the original text without engaging in ridicule or critique. Unlike parodies that seek in some way to parallel the plot of the original text, in March, Brooks seizes upon a barely visible character, the patriarchal leader of the March family, and imagines a narrative context unknown in the original—Mr. March’s year-long military experience far from the Concord, Massachusetts setting of Little Women. Brooks’s novel is intertextual in its entirety, as the original, Little Women, always exists in the background of the reader’s experience; her story fills in narrative gaps that exist in the original. The comic mockery of traditional parody is absent in post-modern intertextual parodies like March, which provide satisfaction and understanding as the reader participates in the contextual and thematic differences between the two texts.

Erasmus, Desiderius. On Copia: Foundations of the Abundant Style, excerpt. Trans. Betty I. Knott. The Rhetorical Tradition: Readings from Classical Times to the Present. Eds. Patricia Bizzell and Bruce Herzberg. New York: Bedford, 1990. 502-556. Print. One of the most important Renaissance handbooks, On Copia is designed to assist the student to develop an “abundant style” through the skillful implementation of an extensive variety of expressions and subject matters. In this excerpted section, he demonstrates more than one hundred ways to achieve the amplification of a single sentence. Influenced by Cicero, Erasmus takes a middle ground approach regarding the rhetorical trends of his day, particularly relative to the use of verbal ornamentation. Like Cicero, he is not averse to any verbal style, whether terse or ornamental, if it works effectively to achieve the rhetorical goal. In Book I, Eramus extols on the value of invention as a practice that prepares the speaker to express his “meaning in a variety of ways.” He encourages his students to engage in invention by examining the expressions of skillful poets and orators of the past, such as Homer, Virgil, Cicero, and Quintillian, then directs them to move forward using imitation as a method for developing their own expressions.

Gardner, John. Grendel. New York: Random House, 1971. Print. Gardner’s post-modern revisioning of the Anglo-Saxon epic, Beowulf parallels the action of the original work relative to those scenes involving the character of Grendel. The story is delivered in the first person from the perspective of Grendel. Gardner mimics many of the structural and contextual aspects of the original epic in his parodic creation of kennings, boasting, flyting, etc. In addition to its intertextual qualities, Grendel is a fine example of the post-modern metafictional parody with its focus on the character of the Shaper, the storyteller who entertains Hrothgor’s court with songs of the Dane’s illustrious history. With Grendel’s critique of the Shaper’s art, Gardner engages in the self-conscious assessment of the creative process and cultural function of art that is a central characteristic of literary metafiction. In Grendel’s declaration that the Shaper’s power can make falsehood “true by the sweetness of his harp” (55) such that even Grendel himself wishes to believe, Gardner presents a typical post-modern critique of the power of art to shape history.

Homer. The Odyssesy. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2000.

Print. The Greek epic poem chronicles the hero Odysseus’s return to Ithaca from the Trojan War. His decade-long journey to return home and secure his position as king is riddled with trials and hardships inflicted upon him by the gods, some of which include his adventures with the Sirens, Scylla, the Laestrygonians, the Lotus Eaters, Circe, the Cyclops, and Calypso. A parallel plot line follows the trials of Telemachus and Penelope as they try to control the social chaos brought about by the invasion of the suitors. Loyalty and hospitality, themes prominent in classical literature, are evident throughout The Odyssey, most notably in sections that relate to Penelope and to Odysseus’s revenge against the suitors.

Ryman, Geoff. Was. New York: Penguin, 1992. Print. Inspired by L. Frank Baum’s classic children’s tale, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Ryman creates a post-modern novel in which a diverse cast of characters are linked by direct or tangential associations to either Baum’s 1900 story, or the 1939 film adaptation. The action and the narrative perspective shifts throughout the novel between four central characters: Jonathan, an actor whose life-long obsession with the Oz film propels him to set out on a quest to locate the historical Dorothy of Baum’s tale; Dorothy Gael, an orphaned child bought up in Kansas by her abusive Uncle Henry and Aunty Em, Frances Gumm (Judy Garland), a child actress and victim of dysfunctional parenting, and Frank Baum, who briefly serves as a substitute teacher in the rural Kansas school that Dorothy Gael attends. Acknowledging his debt to Baum, Ryman declares that “Books make authors, not the other way around;” this statement also underscores the essential function of intertextual parody in this novel. Was is structured as a pastiche—a compilation of elements from preexisting works, which are recombined, along with the author’s own original elements, to create a work that is new and original. The intertextual qualities (direct and indirect references to Baum’s story and the MGM adaptation of it) and the structure of pastiche function in tandem to create a fine example of the intertextual parody in Ryman’s postmodern novel.

Shakespeare, William. King Lear. The Annotated Shakespeare. Ed.Burton Raffel. New York: R. R. Donnelly, 2007. Print. Shakespeare’s tragic drama of betrayal, madness, and reconciliation centers on the tumultuous relationship between Lear and his three daughters, Cordelia, Regan, and Goneril. Lear’s blindness to the truth (he prefers the false flattery of Regan and Goneril to Cordelia’s humble declaration) propels the action toward a course of chaotic psychological and social collapse as Lear spirals into madness and the self-serving machinations of Regan, Goneril, and Edmund threaten the civic harmony of Lear’s empire.

Smiley, Jane. A Thousand Acres. New York: Knopf, 1991. Print. Smiley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of family disintegration parallels the setting’s cultural disintegration as Midwestern family farms fall prey to agri-business corporate takeovers during the economic hardships of the 1970s. A parody of Shakespeare’s King Lear, this narrative is certainly an example of the intertextual parody, as the parallels between post-modern novel and Renaissance drama are extensive, if the reader is familiar with the original text. Tension in the plot of Smiley’s novel builds as the patriarchal tyrant, Larry Cook (the Lear figure) decides to retire and divide his thousand acres of prime Iowa farmland between his three daughters, Caroline (Cordelia), Rose (Regan), and Ginny (Goneril). In the tradition of Renaissance imitatio, Smiley’s plot echoes Shakespeare’s enough for an educated reader to recognize, but she creates something new—a tragically complex post-modern narrative. A sophisticated example of the genre, it becomes parody only with the reader’s recognition of it as “repetition with a difference” (Hutcheon 32), for the “distance” from the original text (King Lear) is considerable. For example, only a reader familiar with the characters and plot of King Lear would recognize Shakespeare’s blinding of Gloucester in Smiley’s description of the tragic farm accident that leads to Harold Clark’s blinding with anhydrous ammonia. Thus Hutcheon’s description of the post-modern intertextual parody as a work that seeks to “recontextualize, to synthesize, to rework conventions—in a respectful manner” (33) is an apt depiction of Smiley’s novel.

Wilson, Thomas. The Arte of Rhetorique, excerpt. The Rhetorical Tradition: Readings from Classical Times to the Present. Eds. Patricia Bizzell and Bruce Herzberg. New York: Bedford, 1990. 587-621. Print. An important work of Renaissance rhetoric, Wilson’s focus is on the practical arena of deliberative rhetoric necessary for the public oratory associated with politics and law of his day. He promotes the Roman ideal of the “wise orator” as articulated in Cicero and Quntillian, and supports the Humanistic model articulated by Erasmus and Thomas More which emphasized the importance of rhetorical skill for success in public life. In Book I , Wilson outlines the three “ends” of rhetoric: to teach, delight, and persuade, and connects the practice of rhetoric to the Renaissance idea of “eloquence.” The value of imitation in achieving eloquence is emphasized as Wilson declares that an earnest imitation of the speech and gestures of learned men can help the imitator to develop similarly noble attributes, for those that “have good wittes, by nature, shall better increase theim by arte.” One of the earliest theorists to associate invention and imitation, Wilson declares that by “searching out of thynges true. . .whiche maie reasonably sette forth a matter” (invention) in the oratory of eloquent men, a rhetor may succeed in creating his own work of eloquence. Thus, Wilson forges a direct connection between invention, imitation, and art.




Secondary Sources:
Burgass, Catherine. “A Brief Story of Postmodern Plot.” The Yearbook of English Studies 30 (2003): 177-186. JSTOR. Web. Burgass examines the Postmodern novel with a view to its characteristic deconstruction of linear time. Using Aristotle’s definitions of time in The Physics (measured by motion) and plot in The Poetics (a temporal-causal movement of events) as a benchmark for comparison, she describes the Postmodern plot as one that consistently questions traditional perceptions of time. Burgass uses several critically acclaimed novels to exemplify her claim: Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughter-House Five, and Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveller. Relying primarily on the scholarly work of Jacques Derrida, she outlines the various ways that postmodern writers challenge linear time, such as structural circularity and metafiction. The metafictional elements of Calvino’s novel are described as “parodies of various genres.”

Chatman, Seymour Benjamin. “Parody and Style.” Poetics Today 22 (2001): 25-39. Project Muse. Web. In a detailed study of parody as a literary form, Chatman, opens by establishing his definition of style, and grounds his discussion in Gerard Genette’s articulation of four distinct categories of parody: strict parody, travesty, satiric pastiche, and pure (non-satiric) pastiche. The relationship of parody to satire is a key concept that Chatman considers relative to both form and content. He devotes considerable space to a critique of Linda Hutcheon’s A Theory of Parody; he questions her definition of the form as “repetition with a difference,” as well as her claims that irony is central to all parody and that parody is the preeminent post-modern genre. Chatman does embrace Hutcheon’s assertion that imitation (mimesis) is the heart of all types of parody, and he details the numerous textual components that are often imitated in parody (syntax, figurative language, themes, characters, settings, authorial stance, etc.). He is most assertive in his agreement with Hutcheon on the centrality of the audience in the creation of parody, noting that the very existence of parody relies on audience recognition—parody depends on an audience familiar with the original text.

Corbett, Edward P. J. “The Theory and Practice of Imitation in Classical Rhetoric.” College Composition and Communication 22 (1971): 243-250. JSTOR. Web. Corbett outlines the tradition of the rhetorical concept of imitation (mimesis) from antiquity through the Renaissance. He focuses particularly on the pedagogical application of imitation in the teaching of composition. Aristotle’s observation that humans learn first through imitation was the foundation for ancient schools of rhetoric, grounded in his observation of the learning process of “imitation and practice.” This was the foundation, Corbett asserts, for the teaching of language arts for two thousand years. Roman rhetoricians emphasized similis—to create a text / speech that was similar in some way to a superior example (NOT identical). Students were encouraged to carefully observe an excellent model, then emulate it. Renaissance students were instructed to first analyze a superior work (“preelection”), by engaging in a close reading that identified strengths in structure and form so that they could proceed to generate something similar to the model. Referring to Erasmus’s de Copia and Roger Ascham’s The Scholemaster, Corbett describes the central Renaissance compositional exercises: memorizing, translating, and paraphrasing, noting they were the foundation for a pedagogy grounded in imitation. He concludes with a few brief examples of the implementation of this pedagogy in 18th and 19th century rhetoric classrooms, and makes the claim that it should be more often implemented in the contemporary composition classroom.

Fowler, Alastair. “Apology for Rhetoric.” Rhetorica: A Journal of the History of Rhetoric 8 (1990): 103-118. JSTOR. Web. Acknowledging the institutional rift that exists between the academic disciplines of rhetoric and literary criticism, Fowler maintains that in the contemporary era, classical rhetoric does relate directly to literary criticism and should be consistently employed in the practice. He chronicles practical and theoretical approaches that resulted, by the mid-nineteenth century, in the complete disappearance of rhetoric in literary studies. Pointing to the Renaissance, when rhetorical and literary practice were “interlocked” via the technique of imitation (mimesis), Fowler notes that rhetorical practice directly influenced the “form and texture” of Renaissance literature. Despite the decline of rhetoric in literary studies from the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries, Fowler claims that it should be reinstated. He asserts that the complexity of contemporary literature is well suited to a critical model based on principles of classical rhetoric.

Haskins, Ekaterina V. “Mimesis Between Poetics and Rhetoric: Performance Culture and Civic Education in Plato, Isocrates, and Aristotle.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 30 (2000): 7-33. JSTOR. Web. Haskins claims that classic positions regarding mimesis are central to what she terms the current “schism” between poetics (literature) and rhetoric. She presents an exhaustive description of the pedagogical and philosophical theories of mimesis as exhibited in the works of three key figures in classical rhetoric—Plato, Isocrates, and Aristotle. Haskins associates the splitting of rhetoric and literature to Plato and Aristotle who were both skeptical of the sophistic performance based civic pedagogy of Isocrates that was grounded in mimesis. According to Haskins, Plato’s separation of mimesis as representation from mimesis as performance imitation evolved into Aristotle’s elevation of representational mimesis as evinced in The Poetics to the less esteemed imitation of style—performance mimesis—exhibited in The Rhetoric. In contrast, Isocrates’s approach synthesized both representational and performance mimesis into a pedagogy that combined speech-thought-action with a view toward the perfection of civic identity and action.

Hutcheon, Linda. A Theory of Parody: The Teachings of Twentieth-Century Art Forms. New York: Methuen, 2000. Print. Hutcheon’s study of twentieth century parody focuses on its literary / textual manifestations, but also extends the study to encompass examples of parody in the visual arts, music, and film. She asserts that the central purpose of parody for the contemporary artist and audience is the connection it provides to traditions of the past; parody, she declares, allows us to “come to terms with the past” (29, 101). She grounds her examination of the genre in both formalist and pragmatic theory. Acknowledging Genette’s formalist characterization of parody as a structural relationship between two individual texts, she quickly asserts the “active” nature of parody as grounded in the functional impact of signs (pragmatics) upon the audience. Hutcheon maintains that audience recognition of the parodist’s intent is critical to its success. Her emphasis on intertextuality is grounded in this assertion. Noting the reliance of metafiction (an important post-modern literary genre) on intertextuality, she emphasizes that meaning occurs only when the audience understands and interacts with the intertextual elements of a narrative. Linking this postmodern convention to the contemporary parody moves her to coin the phrase “intertextual parody,” which provides a foundation for her study.

Mailloux, Steven. “Literary Criticism and Composition Theory.” College Composition and Communication 29 (1978): 267-271. JSTOR. Web. Acknowledging the long-standing institutional rift that exits between the dual functions of academic departments of English—literary and rhetorical studies, Mailloux asserts that “common ground” is apparent in the overlap of shared theory and practice. He demonstrates this particularly with two contemporary models of criticism that view literary art as communication: textual-biographical and reader-response. Demonstrating how these particular models can be utilized in the composition classroom, Mailloux relies on the work of such prominent scholars as Wolfgang Iser, Stanley Fish, and Kenneth Burke. This intersection between rhetorical and literary theory is fundamental to a comprehensive study of parody.

Pigman, G. W. “Versions of Imitation in the Renaissance.” Renaissance Quarterly 33 (1980): 1-32. Print. Pigman provides a brief overview of key Renaissance concepts of imitation (Erasmus, Peter Ramus), then focuses on and grounds his discussion on the principles set out by Bartolomeo Ricci. Using Ricci’s system of classification, Pigman identifies two basic categories of imitation in Renaissance literature: imitatio and aemulatio. The various images, metaphors, and analogies employed by Renaissance poets are further categorized into three specific types: transformative, dissimulative, and eristic, which refer to the manner in which elements of earlier literary works are integrated or referred to in Renaissance poetry. Pigman demonstrates how Renaissance poets like Petrarch use these various techniques to import elements from the works of classic poets like Longinus and Seneca into their own original works.

Plett, Heinrich F. “Rhetoric and Intertextuality.” Rhetorica: A Journal of the History of Rhetoric 17 (1999): 313-329. JSTOR. Web. Plett demonstrates the quality and function of intertextuality by connecting it to classical concepts of invention—the commonplaces (topoi). His theory is grounded in the concept of “imitatio” as exemplified in Renaissance commonplace books. He outlines a direct connection between ancient and contemporary theories of invention that originates with Aristotle, noting that all imitation consists of three basic components: the model, the copy, and the relationship that exists between the model and the copy. This relationship, the third component, is at the center of Plett’s analysis, as it relates directly to the concept of intertextuality. Plett defines intertextual rhetoric as the interrelation between two or more texts, based on shared structures—a relevant foundation for the study of the post-modern intertextual parody.

Potolsky, Matthew. “Imitatio: Rhetorical Imitation.” Mimesis. New York: Routledge, 2006. 49-70. Print. In an extensive examination of the concept of mimesis from classical antiquity through the twentieth century, Potolsky demonstrates the scope this term encompasses. The imitation of artistic role models—imitatio—was the dominant principle of artistic production until its decline at the close of the eighteenth century. This chapter, on rhetorical imitation, surveys the foundations of this concept as an artistic convention, as expressed in such works as Quintillian’s Institutio Oratoria from classical Rome and Erasmus’s Adages from the Renaissance. Potolsky emphasizes that the measure of artistic success in these periods was the ability to make something new out of the imitation of a model—to transform it into something better than the original. Through imitation, the present is connected to noble models of the past, and thus contributes to cultural stability. Rome’s penchant for copying the art and literary forms of classical Greece is exemplified in their emulation of such literary forms as the epic, comedy, tragedy, satire, and parody. Potolsky asserts that the Roman and Renaissance practice of imitatio to create parody anticipates contemporary intertextuality, the literary concept that acknowledges “all cultural products are a tissue of narratives and images borrowed from a familiar storehouse.”

Rose, Margaret A. Parody: Ancient, Modern, and Post-modern. Cambridge UP, 1993. Print. Rose presents an exhaustive study that traces the evolving definitions, theories, and structures of the literary genre of parody from antiquity through the post-modern era. She opens with a discussion of the classical definitions of the genre where Aristotle (in the Poetics) examines the mock-epic style of Hegemon. As she examines numerous variations on the definition of parody, Rose also attempts to distinguish it from other forms often mistakenly associated with it, such as: burlesque, pastiche, satire, and meta-fiction. The critical contributions of such modernist theorists as Mikhail Bakhtin and Wolfgang Iser are detailed, particularly in regard to their articulation of the concepts of “dual structure” and “double-voiced discourse” which they view as central to the genre of parody. Rose details the evolving relationship among often divergent theories, notably with her examination of the concept of intertextuality, which emerges in the work of Julia Kristeva and Roland Barthes. Interrelationships that exist between disparate texts (intertextuality) become, according to Rose, the central character of post-modern parody.

Staels, Hilde. “The Penelopiad and Weight: Contemporary Parodic and Burlesque Transformations of Classical Myths.” College Literature 36 (2009): 100-118. Project Muse. Web. Relying on Gerard Genette’s (Narrative Discourse, 1980) theory as her basis for analysis, Staels demonstrates the intricate uses of burlesque and travesty in the mythic revisionings of Jeanette Winterson’s Weight and Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad. With Atwood’s work, she focuses specifically on the use of travesty, a type of parody historically related to the mock-epic—the humorous and /or trivial imitation of an established work or style. Staels details, in particular, Atwood’s adaptation of Homer’s elevated style into the contemporary, colloquial style of The Penelopiad. The use of colloquial language is a common attribute of travesty; the juxtaposition of Homer’s elevated, heroic style (in the mind of the reader) to Atwood’s use of a common, often vulgar style results in the “low” humor characteristic of travesty. This quality of the work also supports Genette’s assertion that travesty “brings the past closer to the present.” Additionally, Staels emphasizes Atwood’s clever use of intertextuality, a central characteristic of the post-modern parody. Atwood’s skillful intertextual references to Ulysses by James Joyce (also a parody of Homer’s Odyssey), underscores the scope and popularity of this literary genre.

Sullivan, Dale L. “Attitudes Toward Imitation: Classical Culture and the Modern Temper.” Rhetoric Review 8 (1989): 5-21. JSTOR. Web. Sullivan examines the traditional use of imitation as a pedagogical method for the teaching of composition. From antiquity to the nineteenth century, imitation (mimesis) was the central method used to reach composition; Sullivan claims that several factors associated with the modern world view led to its decline—even disfavor—in the modern academy. He identifies three specific aspects of the modern temper which contributed to a decline in the appreciation of imitation as an appropriate pedagogical approach: the myth of progress, the Romantic concept of genius, and the technological mindset. Despite a critical consensus that imitation is: “antiquarian” and “unscientific,” Sullivan argues for a reassessment of the method for contemporary writing instruction. Grounding his claim in the work of the scholar, Richard E. Young, he asserts that imitation can provide a platform for synthesis that bridges modern and pre-modern pedagogical approaches. Sullivan’s overview of the historical foundation of imitation in classical philosophy, art, and politics is useful in developing a connection between imitation and parody, notably in his discussion of Aristotle’s description, in The Rhetoric, of the characteristics of effective deliberative and epideictic discourse. These types of discourse often employ earlier models from history and culture that serve as examples to communicate a contemporary message—similar in purpose to the parody.

Suzuki, Mihoko. “Rewriting The Odyssey in the Twenty-First Century: Mary Zimmerman’s Odyssey and Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad.” College Literature 34 (2007): 263-278. JSTOR. Web. Suzuki’s analysis of two contemporary adaptations of Homer’s Odyssey is grounded in her consideration of the feminine creative process. She asserts that Atwood’s purpose is surely to critique the social /cultural norms of class and gender reflected in Homer’s Odyssey. Atwood’s decision to foreground the execution of the maidservants, a marginal event treated as customary and acceptable in Book 22 of the Odyssey is, Suzuki claims, clear evidence of her purpose. The maidservants, who are denied a voice in Homer’s epic, function as a Greek chorus in The Penelopiad, and are thus granted a free rein of expression that rivals that of the narrator, Penelope. In a comic and consistently satiric voice, the chorus of maids criticize the sexual double standard of a dominant culture that “normalizes” the injustice of their end. This “voice,” Susuki maintains, establishes The Penelopiad as a work of feminist satire. The critical, satiric voice of Atwood’s chorus establishes it as a parody in the traditional style wherein the original is ridiculed and mocked.



Walsh, Richard. “Fictionality and Mimesis: Between Narrativity and Fictional Worlds.” Narrative 11 (2003): 110-121. JSTOR. Web. Through an overview of a variety of critical literary theories, Walsh attempts to examine the rhetorical underpinnings of fiction; in particular, he re-examines the relationship of mimesis to the fictional creative process. His study is based, in part, on a lengthy discussion of the rhetorical distinctions between fiction and non-fiction, which leads to his claim that a definition of “fictionality” must be reliant on its contextual criteria. Consequently, he claims that a key distinction between fiction and non-fiction is the rhetorical purpose of the narrative—audience response and interpretation; he parallels this concept to Gerard Genette’s idea of the “paratext.” Walsh asserts the primacy of cultural context rather than authorial intent and reader response; he maintains that fiction “works” when it is culturally situated. In the past, Walsh declares, the rhetorical concept of mimesis provided a useful platform for articulating the function of cultural context in fiction; however, the focus on mimesis declined with the advent of the structuralist approach to literary criticism. In order to achieve a fuller understanding of the rhetorical implications of fiction, Walsh calls for a reconsideration of the concept of mimesis. Noting flaws in the theories of Erich Auerbach and Georg Lukacs, Walsh identifies Paul Ricoeur’s outline of the three stages of mimesis (“prefiguration,” “configuration,” and “transfiguration”) as the best model for achieving an accurate rhetorical analysis of fiction.

Worth, Sarah E. “Aristotle, Thought, and Mimesis: Our Responses to Fiction.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 58 (2000): 333-339. Print. Worth examines the human response to mimetic literature via a comparison of Aristotle’s theory, as set out in the Poetics, to Noel Carroll’s “thought theory” (The Philosophy of Horror or Paradoxes of the Heart). Her study is prompted by the apparent paradox—an audience that is horrified or disturbed by tragic events in reality, often finds pleasure in art that imitates actual human tragedy (mimesis). Worth parallels Aristotle’s observations regarding the concept of “belief” (poeisis-mimesis-catharsis in the Poetics and rhetoric-proof-persuasion in the Rhetoric) to Carroll’s “thought theory,” which maintains that belief in the reality of a situation is not necessary to generate an emotional response. Carroll asserts that imagining a situation is sufficient to move an audience to experience a valid emotional response. Asserting that mimesis provides a “direct reference” to reality rather than an imitation of it, Worth concludes that Carroll’s theory mirrors Aristotle’s.


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