The following essay reexamines Saul Bellow's much discussed relationship to Dostoevsky by focussing on the genealogy of boredom, with its dual origins as source of lyrical expression and/or prison of moral ambivalence. Specifically, though Bellow criticism past and present has argued by turns, and sometimes simultaneously, that Bellow is a disciple of Dostoevsky the moralist or of his "polyphonic" art, it finds upon closer inspection that what Bellow truly strives to envisage in/through the glass of Dostoevsky's "Eastern" art is a harmonious resolution to the paradox inherent in this alliance of apparently incompatible ideals—the artist's creed of disinterestedness and the moralist-polemicist's commitment to self-realization through conviction and action. However, where Bellow and his critics see concord, Dostoevsky and his critics see discord. And with reason, since Bellow's desire to reconcile the artist and the moralist in Dostoevsky (and in himself) leads him to ignore boredom's moral-intellectual antecedents in the literature of Western Enlightenment and consequently assert his bias as a "spokesman for our culture . . . a defender of the Western cultural tradition" (Clayton 1979, 3). Conversely, but by the same token, the "constant conflict . . . between the propagandist and creative artist" (Magarshak 1975, 311) enacted in Dostoevsky's oeuvre points to his polemic not only with the West but, of course, with himself.
The importance of the gaze in Rear Window has been appreciated for quite some time, and many interpretations of Hitchcock's film and career note how the framing of multiple narratives implicates the spectator in the ethics of watching. This article draws upon the insights of previous studies of this phenomenon, but it also emphasizes the ways in which seeing and being seen are important reciprocal processes within the social dynamic. Examining the voyeur's resistance to being seen, its impact on his interpersonal relationships, and the implications of that resistance on the structure of urban life, this article's analysis will show how urban spaces are figured as zones of subjectivity and objectification that the voyeur relies on to maintain his privileged position as observer. When he is finally dislodged from his safe position as subject, he is able to overcome his resistance to being seen by others and to be interpersonally connected to others.
William S. Burroughs thematized Maya priests as gods of death in texts from Junky to The Job. Ah Pook Is Here takes its title from a Maya god of the dead, Ah Puch. Burroughs had many valid reasons to cast Maya priests as emblems of control and death even though he contradicted the mid-century archaeological view of the Maya as a benevolent theocracy. In recognizing the violence in Maya culture Burroughs was remarkably prescient. In the mid-1980s, however, came a radical change in archaeological interpretation which contradicts many of Burroughs's Maya appropriations: priests have all but disappeared from the archaeological record to be replaced (ironically) by scribes, the codices are not books of the dead, and hieroglyphic "picture" writing can not circumvent the Word virus. Burroughs's centipede symbol recalls the Senders of Interzone who, like his Maya priests, turn into giant centipedes.
This article offers a definite example of Herman Melville's still widely unacknowledged dependence on French author Honoré de Balzac for devising his narrative structures, ontology, and scheme of characterization. After demonstrating that Melville had ample opportunity to have experienced significant awareness and analysis of Balzac's massive La Comédie humaine by 1857, the author compares specific narrative and linguistic elements between Balzac's "Christ in Flanders" and Melville's The Confidence-Man to demonstrate the extent of this reliance. In the process, the essay offers an explanation for several unanswered questions about the novel, particularly the meaning of the inserted critical chapters on original characters, the ontological nature of the satiric tale, and the ferryboat resetting of what has assumed to have been inspired by an urban incident. The article concludes that it was Balzac's influence and achievement that drove Melville throughout his career to attempt to create a sociological corpus of American literature.
In contrast to the close attention accorded its train and car counterparts, the bus is a neglected site of cultural interpretation in American studies. "John Steinbeck's Sweetheart: The Cosmic American Bus" opens a long overdue discussion about the "meanings" of the bus in American culture. It also offers a new perspective on an overlooked novel, The Wayward Bus. Focusing on issues of gender, race, and class, the essay examines Steinbeck's representation of buses and bus travel in The Wayward Bus and situates it among other bus portrayals. Although often only fleetingly, buses perpetually appear in American literature, music, and film, associated with urban and rural extremes; minutely mapped city spaces and unknowably vast (often western) open ones; working-class transformation and middle-class disorientation. Signifying a nation huge in size but local in character, the bus is a class-loaded symbol of America that at once evokes the mundane and the extraordinary.
When discussing Edith Wharton's ghost stories, scholars tend to emphasize themes of repressed sexuality and gender, in particular the struggles of women to overcome the traditional roles that threaten to imprison them. While sexual and gender politics undoubtedly inhabit the haunted space of Wharton's stories, a remarkable number of the stories also exhibit anxiety over money and class. In some of the ghost stories, this anxiety is plainly visible, reflecting Wharton's sharp critique of the corrupt nouveau riches and the decaying aristocracy. In other tales, however, less noticed ghosts expose the depth of Wharton's anxiety over class power and inherited money, raising uncomfortable questions about the legitimacy of the class system on which Wharton depended for her own wealth. A close examination of the ghost stories reveals Wharton's participation in and response to America's anxious debate over wealth and class during the rapidly changing economic landscape of the early twentieth-century.
In a recent essay, Michael Levenson compellingly claims that A.S. Byatt's novella "Morpho Eugenia" dramatizes the crucial nineteenth-century intellectual debates that anticipate contemporary theory. According to Levenson, Byatt responded to the nineteenth-century crisis in knowledge by constructing a reinvigorated realism, which is based on a fluid theory of language as incarnation. By contrast, I contend that the nineteenth-century crisis led Byatt to distinguish two separate rhetorical stances, one that takes into account the role that anthropomorphism plays in the construction of knowledge, and one that either dismisses or ignores the role of anthropomorphism in the construction of knowledge. For Byatt, since anthropomorphism is inescapable, it is impossible to overcome it. Therefore, instead of trying to overcome anthropomorphism by reinvigorating realism, humans should learn how to interact responsibly with others and the world given the inevitability of the anthropomorphic. Such is the primary lesson to be learned from the nineteenth century crisis in knowledge, according to Byatt.
This essay posits the conceptual rudiments of "rhetoric of narrative." Approaching contemporary narrative theory according to the classical trivium, the essay explores what and how stories mean and argue. It focuses on the relevance and value of the rhetorical tradition for illuminating distinctive features of a "rhetoric of narrative," showing how a "rhetoric" of narrative builds upon a "grammar" and a "logic" of narrative. Ultimately the essay posits that narratives can be positioned at some point along a continuum represented by poles roughly characterized as "aesthetic" and "ideological," with propagandistic argument lying at the latter extreme. The chief literary example for applying the conceptual distinctions emerging from our investigations is George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.