UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The transformation of the circle : an exploration of the post-encyclopaedic text Wilkins, Peter Duncan


Any text which criticizes, undermines and/or transforms the encyclopaedic ideal of ordering and textualizing the world in a closed, linear fashion can be defined as a post-encyclopaedic text. This thesis explores both theoretical and artistic texts which inhabit the realm of post-encyclopaedism. In the past, critical speculation on encyclopaedism in literature has been concerned with the ways in which artistic texts attempt to live up to the encyclopaedic ideal. In some cases, this effort to establish an identity between the artistic text and the encyclopaedia has led to an ignorance of the disruptive or even deconstructive effects of so-called fictional encyclopaedias. Once we recognize the existence of such effects, we must begin to examine the techniques and possibilities of post-encyclopaedism. Hence we can see post-encyclopaedic qualities in the condensed meta-encyclopaedism of Jorge Luis Borges' "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius", the disrupted quests for encyclopaedic revelation in Herman Melville's Moby Dick and Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, and the principle of textualized world as fugue in Louis Zukofsky's "A"-12. In addition, we can create a theoretical space for the post-encyclopaedic text by weaving together Mikhail Bakhtin'sideas on the novel as opposed to the epic, Michel Foucault's notion of restructuring the closed circle of the text through mirrored writing, Jurij Lotman's theory of internal and external recoding in texts, and Umberto Eco's concept of the open text. By combining an investigation of theoretical and artistic texts which lend themselves to post-encyclopaedism, we can create a generic distinction between texts which attempt to be encyclopaedic in themselves: and texts which disrupt and/or transform the encyclopaedic ideal

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