Abstract

Humpty Dumpty began as a caricature of Charles I, the king toppled by Puritans. Lewis Carroll's better-known version moves the story of regime change to the scene of language, with Humpty's linguistic arrogance pitted against Alice's conventional view of language. Paul Auster recycles both figures, situating the egg in a site-specific American battle between the Puritan dream of a transparent language and the postmodern recognition of its impossibility. New York becomes the contemporary looking-glass stage for an allegorical struggle between incompatible language regimes, which is also a story about the dissolution of the Dumptyesque sovereign subject.

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