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Book Reviews85 ALAN SINGER. A Metaphorics of Fiction: Discontinuity and Discourse in the Modern Novel. Tallahassee: University Presses of Florida, 1983. 183 p. This is no text for certain readerly or scholarly types. It is no text for those unsympathetic toward dense rhetoric. It is no text for those unsympathetic toward the threatening dissolution of the more traditional modes of novel criticism, particularly those modes claiming adequacy for studies of harmonious and continuous development of character and especially plot in their actualization, in Singer's words, "as organizing a thematic level of readerly interest that expresses the novel's historical and cultural contingency" (4). Nor is it a text for those squeamish about the metaphysical gymnastics of deconstructionisttheorizing. The question thus surfaces: Whom is it a text for? I believe there is an ideal, readerly type who stands an odds-on chance of survival in confrontation with the text. It is a reader who revels in esoteric criticism and who enjoys the pioneering spirit of that criticism which seeks to forge its own path onto new theoretical ground. It may also well be a reader who positively beams at the prospects of sabotaging existing critical dogma and of exploding monuments to literary theory, all the while insouciant at leaving them in bits and pieces while proceeding eyes afire and arms akimbo into the precariousjungle of potential touchstones of new and exciting thought and theory. It is in this respect that I believe Singer's text is most stirring, that is, in its relentless drive to break away from current theory and to forge its own path. Singer's point of departure is deconstructionist theory, particularly as posited by Derrida. But Singer is quick to note that he "will resist the prevailing tide of deconstructions-to-infinity that is sweeping the contemporary scene" (6). He chooses instead to create his own aesthetic model which, though it mirrors the deconstructionist's focus on acts of minds as texts, nonetheless ventures beyond into an elaborative treatment of metaphor and especially catachresis as they elasticize in infinite expansion until the more traditional and formal coherence theories of character and plot are all but forgotten. Singer's model is thus an expansive and far-ranging one for aesthetic appreciation. It is also one which approaches metafigural analysis where the literal-figural dichotomy which governs most rhetorical analysis is subordinated to an outreaching of discontinuity found primarily in the destabilized trope of catachresis. Singer positions metaphor and catachresis as self-sufficient tropes which dominate the structural organization of three innovative novels of the twentieth century: Djuna Barnes' Nightwood, John Hawkes' Second Skin, and Samuel Beckett's How It Is. In the discussion on Nightwood, Singer concentrates on the use of the lie as generating a split telos and acting as a corollary to metaphoric trope. Eventually, he builds a case for metaphor supplanting actions as "the formal arbiter of contextual differences that make narrative movement originally possible" (71). One can discern here the implication that metaphor, as a controlling agent, shall dominate not only plot but character and setting as well in the shaping ofthe literary act. In discussing Second Skin, Singer again builds a case for the disruptive potential of metaphor, a disruptive potential which ultimately is realized and fragments "the standards of representational authenticity" (83). Citing clusters of metaphors, Singer notes their "extravagant extensions" (84) which make "semantic and thematic intelligibility 86Rocky Mountain Review even more inaccessible" (86). In discussing How It Is, he relies on Paul Ricoeur's tenet that metaphor is in itself a discontinuity and that in its discontinuity lies its productive agency. It becomes really a matter of predication (a favorite Singer word) and production served out of difference rather than resemblance. The binding element to the three chapters devoted to these three novels is that metaphor and catachresis are disruptive, discontinuous, and hence productive of meaning in their own right. They may also symbolize authorial presence and freedom or set their own rules for textual coherence. Two chapters elaborating on these possibilities precede the chapters on the novels. Relying upon the likes of Lacan, Ricoeur, Derrida, and de Man, and sweeping away the likes of Booth, Lodge, and Freedman...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-2833
Print ISSN
1948-2825
Pages
pp. 85-86
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-06
Open Access
No
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