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Paracanonic activities : a pragmatics and a poetics Mancini, Donato François William Mancini


Overview: This dissertation proposes that certain texts, positioned para-canonically at ambiguous thresholds of valuation, insistently infract on what Roland Barthes would term the “mythologies” of literary canons. While functioning as paracanonic, texts are anti-emblems of privileged aesthetic certainty, metonymic of the wide range of exclusions (literary and historical) that are the actual social cost of canonic value. Rooted in Dialogism (the Marxist “philosophy of language” of the Bakhtin circle) and materialist assumptions about literary value as a contingent social process and function, Paracanonic Activities draws extensively on findings in current linguistics research centred on of the production, reception and interpretation of speech. This area of empirical inquiry extends, substantiates, and often vindicates, concepts that remain notional in Dialogism; together they provide productive means (concepts and concrete findings) for a fresh investigation into the conditions of literary discourse and the social production of aesthetic value. Method, Outline and Primary Texts: Chapter One: Introduction revisits canon debates since the 1960s, to trace the contour of canon mythology. It then brings forward a pair of contrasting paracanonic case-histories – William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus and Aimé Césaire’s Soleil cou coupé – to inventory some of the necessary-but-insufficient conditions (including social-historical contexts and textual features) that contribute to a text’s positioning as paracanonic. Each substantive chapter applies a frame crucial to both Dialogism and the linguistics of interaction, in order to sift a wide range of intertextually related texts for discourse-effects that are signatures of paracanonic acti vity. Chapter Two, “Anti-languages,” is a dual-language paracanonic case-history of François Villon, traced through literary responses to his core work, and to the attributed poems composed in criminal argot – themselves paracanonic to Villon. Chapter Three, “Ambivalence and Reported Speech,” reads through Titus Andronicus, Ovid, Kathy Acker and Antonin Artaud. Chapter Four, “Unhappy Laughter,” reads through Petronius Arbiter’s Satyrica, C.R. Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer, H.P. Lovecraft’s “In the Walls of Eryx” and Aimé Césaire’s verse-drama Et les chiens se taisaient. Contribution: Paracanonicity, as a value-function, has been attested in various terms before, yet remains otherwise undescribed in its specificity as an “indivisible remainder” of all processes of canon-formation.

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