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Federman's Fictions

Innovation, Theory, and the Holocaust

Edited by Jeffrey R. Di Leo

Publication Year: 2011

A comprehensive examination of one of the twentieth century's most innovative writers and critics. This collection of essays offers an authoritative examination and appraisal of the French-American novelist Raymond Federman’s many contributions to humanities scholarship, including Holocaust studies, Beckett studies, translation studies, experimental fiction, postmodernism, and autobiography. Although known primarily as a novelist, Federman (1928–2009) is also the author of numerous books of poetry, essays, translations, and criticism. After emigrating to the United States in 1942 and receiving a Ph.D. in comparative literature at UCLA in 1957, he held professorships in the University at Buffalo’s departments of French and English from 1964 to 1999. Together with Steve Katz and Ronald Sukenick, he was one of the original founders of the Fiction Collective, a nonprofit publishing house dedicated to avant garde, experimental prose. Far too many accounts treat Federman as merely a member of a small group of writers who pioneered “metafictional” or “postmodern” American literature. Federman’s Fiction will introduce (or, for some, reintroduce) to the broader scholarly community a creative and daring thinker whose work is significant not just to considerations of the development of innovative fiction, but to a number of other distinct disciplines and emerging critical discourses.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Cover

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pp. 1-3

Front Matter

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pp. 4-7

CONTENTS

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pp. vii-x

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PREFACE: Some Answers for Raymond Federman

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pp. xi-xii

Fiction is a delusion we use to screen ourselves from reality and real-ity is largely, though not entirely, delusional. This is why Federman is a storyteller and not a novelist. And assuredly not a writer of fi ction.And if he tells the same stories over and again it is because the story is never the same in any telling because, if it were, that would be fi ction. ...

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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pp. xiii-15

My primary debt of gratitude goes out to the contributors to this volume for sharing their thoughts on Raymond Federman. It is my hope that collectively their contributions will open up new lines of conversation about his work, and further establish appreciation for and understanding of it within the In addition, it should be noted that this book would not have been ...

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INTRODUCTION: OTHER VOICES: The Fiction of Raymond Federman

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pp. 1-26

Over the past thirty or so years, the fi ction of Raymond Federman has been the subject of a good deal of scholarship in multiple languages. Numerous critical studies of his work have been published.1 Also, doctoral dissertations2 have been written about him, and several volumes celebrating his achievements3 have come out. This is in addition to the many articles and book ...

PART I: A LIFE IN THE TEXT

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pp. 27-43

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ONE: BECKETT AND BEYOND: Federman the Scholar

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pp. 29-38

Beginning in the 1960s and continuing through the balance of the twentieth century (and reaching into the new one as well), serious American fictionists began coming from a new background. Unlike their predecessors, trained in newsrooms and (before that) in customs houses and at sea, many innovators during this transformative era started out in graduate school, earning PhDs ...

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TWO: HOW, AND HOW NOT, TO BE A PUBLISHED NOVELIST: The Case of Raymond Federman

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pp. 39-50

But there are contemporary reasons for the triumph of the thriller as well. One is the transformation of the book business. Once hailed as a “gentleman’s profession,” publishing today is more like a barroom brawl as corporate takeovers have intensifi ed bottom-line pressures on editors. And the bottom line is that thrillers sell, which means there ...

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THREE: SAMUEL BECKETT AND RAYMOND FEDERMAN: A Bilingual Companionship

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pp. 51-62

I believe that Raymond Federman is one day going to attain the status What would Nabokov’s literary destiny have been, had he not left Russia? Or Beckett’s, had he stayed in Ireland? Or Ionesco’s, had he stayed in Romania? We don’t know. Raymond Federman, who left France for the United States at the age of nineteen, believes that he would have been a ...

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FOUR: FILLING IN THE BLANKS: Raymond Federman, Self-Translator

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pp. 63-76

The fi rst chapter of the very recent Charting the Future of Translation His-tory is entitled “Blank Spaces in Translation History.” According to Julio Caesar Santoyo, the author of that chapter, one of those blank spaces is “self-translation,” an area, he writes, that is “worthy of receiving . . . much more attention than it has so far received” (2006, 25). As far as I know, the ...

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FIVE: RE-DOUBLE OR NOTHING: Federman, Autobiography, and Creative Literary Criticism

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pp. 77-90

Rather than serving as a mirror or redoubling on itself, [criti]fi ction adds itself to the world, creating a meaningful “reality” that did not previously exist. [Criti]Fiction is artifice but not artificial. It seems as pointless to call the creative powers of the mind “fraudulent” as it would to call the procreative powers of the body as such. What we ...

PART II: PHILOSOPHY OF LITERATURE

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pp. 91-107

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SIX: A NARRATIVE POETICS OF RAYMOND FEDERMAN

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pp. 93-108

As everyone knows, postmodernist narrative practice is indebted to theory; it carries out various theoretical agendas; it illustrates theory. Of course, what “everyone knows” is almost invariably wrong, and so it proves to be in this case. The assumption that theory drives practice in postmodernism depends largely on a dubiously casual confl ation of posts. Postmodernism, ...

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SEVEN: SURFICTION, NOT SURE FICTION: Raymond Federman’s Second-Degree Textual Manipulations

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pp. 109-126

And now what do I do? I start inventing a few things. Things should come quickly at first. It’s the rewriting that’s difficult. It’s always the There are two degrees we may identify in the so-called new fiction. The first degree—spatial manipulations on the page—prove more theoretical than effective. And yet the second degree—the deliberately manipulated ...

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EIGHT: RAYMOND FEDERMAN, THE ULTIMATE METAFICTIONEER

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pp. 127-142

Discussions of metafiction tend to be painfully reductive, with critics falling all over each other to fi nd the simplest definition for such a complex issue. The reader will do well to remember that definition is dismissal, and that once anything is defined, it can be placed in a manila folder, put into a metal filing cabinet, and the locked cabinet can then be dropped into the ...

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NINE: FORMULATING YET ANOTHER PARADOX: Raymond Federman’s Real Fictitious Discourses

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pp. 143-158

Paradoxes proliferate in contemporary literatures, pervade theoretical discourses, and metonymically signify the simultaneity of contradictory scraps of reality in the hyper-reality of everyday life at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Paradoxes are only discernible if we see them emerge from the background of some nonparadoxical entity, something that provides the ...

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TEN: THE AGONY OF UNRECOGNITION: Raymond Federman and Postmodern Theory

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pp. 159-190

In “Before Postmodernism and After,” Raymond Federman admits “quite frankly” that he—like virtually all commentators on postmodernism, including fellow fiction writers to whom the “postmodern” tag was applied—“never understood what Postmodernism was,” “what it meant,” or “how it functioned” (1993, 107).1 Federman’s ostensibly limited understanding, however, ...

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ELEVEN: RAYMOND FEDERMAN AND CRITICAL THEORY

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pp. 191-200

Raymond Federman and Critical Theory? If we start from this question, there are at least three problems here. The fi rst is “Critical Theory”: What are we talking about when we use this term in a context of literary criticism? The second is “Raymond Federman”: Are we talking of the novelist, the theoretician, the man, the character, the performer, the jazz musician, ...

PART III: LAUGHTER, HISTORY, AND THE HOLOCAUST

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pp. 201-217

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TWELVE: SURVIVING IN THE CORRIDORS OF HISTORY OR, HISTORY AS DOUBLE OR NOTHING

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pp. 203-214

In Smiles on Washington Square, we are told that Moinous, the protagonist, “makes no distinction, in his mind as well as in his life, between memory and imagination. That is perhaps why he has so little interest in facts” (Federman 1995, 12). In To Whom It May Concern, the letter-writing narrator claims that “historical facts are not important, you know that. Besides, they always fade into...

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THIRTEEN: WHEN POSTMODERN PLAY MEETS SURVIVOR TESTIMONY: Federman and Holocaust Literature

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pp. 215-228

Elie Wiesel and Raymond Federman are almost exactly the same age, born a few months apart in 1928 (Federman in May, Wiesel in November). Both belong to the somewhat loose but increasingly used category of child survivors of the Holocaust, what I have called the “1.5 generation” (Suleiman 2002). Both Wiesel and Federman lost...

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FOURTEEN: “IN BLACK INKBLOOD": Agonistic and Cooperative Authorship in the (Re)Writing of History

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pp. 229-240

Later in The Twofold Vibration (1982), the “old man”—who as a fictionalized Federman figure increasingly resembles the wise, paradoxical, selfcontroverting author at the age of eighty—clarifies the overall intention of the “closet” book he is writing, its celebration of freedom in the face of stark limitations: “[I]t’s precisely the fact of the [enclosed] physical text that promises a potential freedom...

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FIFTEEN: COSMOBABBLE OR, FEDERMAN’S RETURN

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pp. 241-256

Unlike the classics, the moderns suspect that nóstos—Greek for “return” home, to a native space—is a misleading fi ction. Needless to say, we postmoderns are worse, for we insist that nativity, origin, “roots” already mark a point of no return. In other words, there is no place to go back to but a plurality of places, hypothetical and multiple geographies of the mind and soul. Furthermore, it is only in those “other words” that going back can be undertaken—in other images, voices, and...

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SIXTEEN: FEATHERMAN’S BODY LITERATURE OR, THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING

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pp. 257-276

Early in Raymond Federman’s miniscule chef d’oeuvre The Voice in the Closet, the twelve-year-old boy hidden by his parents to escape extermination by the Nazis (and French collaborators) undergoes the well-known rebirth that has animated much of his writing. The traumatic experience of loss of family and self, and the remaking of another self, in the closet-cum-womb, transforms the speechless boy into a verit...

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SEVENTEEN: FEDERMAN’S LAUGHTERATURE

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pp. 277-288

One may think that humor has existed for centuries, but Milan Kundera, in an essay entitled “The Day Panurge No Longer Makes People Laugh,” makes the outlandish claim that humor was invented with the modern novel. Citing Octavio Paz, Kundera notes that “there is no humor in Homer or Virgil; Aristo seems to foreshadow it, but not until Cervantes does humor ...

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AFTERWORD: CRITIFICTIONAL REFLECTIONS ON THE NOVEL TODAY

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pp. 289-304

In Jacques le Fataliste, Diderot creates a space never before seen in the landscape of the novel: a timeless stage without scenery (not unlike that of the novels and plays of Samuel Beckett) where his characters function more as voices than as full-fledged personalities. Listening to Jacques and his Master talk, one always has the feeling that they are talking from inside a book rather than from reality...

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ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

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pp. 305-308

Jan Baetens is professor of cultural studies at the University of Leuven. He has written extensively on minor genres such as the graphic novel and the photonovella and has a strong interest in the theory of photography, mainly Charles Bernstein worked with Raymond Federman as part of the Poetics Program at University at Buffalo, State University of New York in the 1990s. ...

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INDEX

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pp. 309-336

...studies, translation studies, experimental fiction, postmodernism, and autobiog-raphy. Although known primarily as a novelist, Federman (1928–2009) is also the author of numerous books of poetry, essays, translations, and criticism. After immigrating to the United States in 1942 and receiving a PhD in comparative literature at UCLA in 1957, he held professorships in ...


E-ISBN-13: 9781438433837
E-ISBN-10: 1438433832
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438433813
Print-ISBN-10: 1438433816

Page Count: 350
Illustrations: 3 figures
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1

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Subject Headings

  • Criticism -- United States -- History -- 20th century
  • Narration (Rhetoric) -- History -- 20th century.
  • Postmodernism (Literature) -- United States.
  • Experimental fiction, American -- History and criticism.
  • Federman, Raymond -- Knowledge -- Literature.
  • Federman, Raymond -- Criticism and interpretation.
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