Cover

pdf iconDownload PDF
 

Frontmatter

pdf iconDownload PDF
 

Contents

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. v-vi

Illustrations

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. vii-vii

read more

Introduction

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 1-14

Mass MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts, June 2000: in the 300-footlong gallery of a converted textile mill hangs the Überorgan, a combination bagpipe, pipe organ, and player piano “elegantly jury-rigged mostly out of materials you might find at your local Home Depot and RadioShack.” Cardboard ducts wrapped in aluminum foil convey bellows, bleats, and moans...

Part 1: Aesthetics

read more

1. An Interview with William Gaddis, circa 1980

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 17-27

It is somewhat obvious that William Gaddis became very self-conscious in front of a camera,as many photos of the author ¤nd him “posing” (in a fashion), and staring directly at thecamera lens. But as this shot helps to illustrate, LeClair’s hitherto unpublished interview, con-ducted in 1981, captures a rarely seen side of Gaddis, one in which....

read more

2. In the Diaspora of Words: Gaddis, Kierkegaard, and the Art of Recognition(s)

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 28-45

In 1759 the English writer Edward Young published an essay in which he argued that novelty and originality should be the most important categories for evaluating a work of art.1 By valorizing original contributions, rather than the popular, slightly disguised copy of an earlier text, his “Conjectures on Original Composition” paved the way for much of modern discourses on...

read more

3. The Collapse of Everything: William Gaddis and the Encyclopedic Novel

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 46-62

On the night of 26 January 1852, Gustave Flaubert noted that his ambition was to write “a book about nothing,” a book with “almost no subject” that would survive through the internal strength of its own style (Letters 213). For critics who see the development of twentieth-century fiction as a gradual emptying-out of content from the novel, Flaubert’s imagined work may seem...

read more

4. Gaddis Dialogue Questioned

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 63-71

Imagine the film, with all that Gaddis left out of J R put in. Like faces, places, physical presence, gesture as language, collision, body’s collusion with or clothing of the soul, so much else, occluded from the novel not entirely, mind you, but embedded and receding within the impression that hits, surrounds, follows, fills your attention with a present and foreground screen, in fact a...

Part II: Systems

read more

5. The Aesthetics of First- and Second-Order Cyberneticsin William Gaddis’s J R

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 75-89

Throughout William Gaddis’s 1975 novel, J R, musicians, artists, and writers espouse an aesthetics different from the one embodied in the text. Edward Bast, for example, the young composer whose decline the novel traces, conceives of the work of art as an alternative and sheltered world. His model for the ideal composition is Wagner’s Rhinegold, whose opening chord “goes...

read more

6. William Gaddis and the Autopoiesis of American Literature

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 90-117

Gaddis’s last fiction, which is also in some ways a final accounting, brings the author’s own work deliberately into conversation with the work of the dead. The book presents itself in one solid block of text without paragraphs or section breaks, in sentences whose infrequent commas seem only to indicate pauses, or gasps, for breath. A deathbed monologue, the work is nonetheless...

read more

7. Cognitive Gothic: Relevance Theory, Iteration, and Style

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 118-133

In 1995, William Gaddis discussed Carpenter’s Gothic in an interview with Paul Ingendaay, seeming to draw back from it: “I thought to myself, just take these clichés, and keep yourself to the strict unities, don’t break out into the world, but let everything take place on this little stage. I simply wanted to know if I could bring it off. It was really nothing more than a finger exercise” (82)...

Part III: Capital

read more

8. Critical Mimesis: J R’s Transition to Postmodernity

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 137-150

While many discussions of postmodernism focus solely on cultural issues, some of the most influential analyses of the postmodern emphasize the economy and its relation to culture. As one of the most detailed studies of postmodern capitalism, David Harvey’s The Condition of Postmodernity epitomizes this latter critical trend. By identifying connections...

read more

9. Cognitive Map, Aesthetic Object, or National Allegory? Carpenter’s Gothic

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 151-160

Part of the genius of the character J R is that he embodies the innocence of Capital. Unlike the vulgar critique of capitalism, which always ultimately requires a pathological figure at the root of any particular problem—a conspiracy or a corporate monster fully aware of the consequences of his or her actions—J R’s next move is always entirely innocent: any inquiry into his...

read more

10. The End of Agape On the Debates around Gaddis

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 161-181

Published posthumously in 2002, William Gaddis’s Agape Agape displays an aesthetic temperament only hinted at in earlier Gaddis work. In its pages, an unnamed narrator, ravaged by cancer and debt and alone in a room throughout the course of the novel, attempts to get his papers in order and write down his history of the player piano. The narrator slips in and out of hallucinations...

Part IV: Media

read more

11. Writing from between the Gaps: Agape Agape and Twentieth-Century Media Culture

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 185-210

William Gaddis is widely known for not being known better. Despite winning the National Book Award for fiction twice, in 1976 and 1994, he is and has always been, in a contemporary formulation, an absent presence in current curricula and reading lists. Recognized as the brilliant author of gargantuan novels that have redefined the limits of ambitious fiction, he has never...

read more

12. Mark the Music: J R and Agape Agape

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 211-227

“Listen . . . !” Anne in alarm calls to Julia after Coen has left their house on Long Island, his car “burst[ing] out into the world.” The two women follow its noise, deciphering the acoustics of his departure; readers are asked to do the same. That is what this reader will do: trace the music that appears in manifold forms in Gaddis’s 1975 novel and plays such a prominent role in his...

Part V: Biography

read more

13. Valuable Dregs: William Gaddis, the Life of an Artist

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 231-255

In the half century since The Recognitions was published, William Gaddis has yet to take his rightful place among the American literary canon. He has been called “experimental”; critics have incorrectly “demonstrated” his debt to Joyce; and reviewers have proudly proclaimed they could not and would not...

read more

14. The Secret History of Agape Agape

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 256-266

When the obituaries appeared for William Gaddis a week before Christmas 1998, one piece of good news surfaced in those otherwise dismal announcements, namely, that Gaddis had finished a new book shortly before his death. This final book, with the rather ungainly title Agape Agape, is a project he had been working on all his professional life. Perhaps “struggling with” would be...

Works Cited

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 267-276

Contributors

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 277-279

Index

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 281-291