Dismissing charges : a study of the reception of Willian Gaddis's A Frolic of his own

O'Brien, Fergus E. (1996) Dismissing charges : a study of the reception of Willian Gaddis's A Frolic of his own. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

This thesis explores the reception of William Gaddis's latest novel, A Frolic of His Own (1994), and presents a reading of the novel that is more sympathetic than most tendered to date. By examining the reception of this work, I reveal several patterns of negative criticism that have emerged. Gaddis's novel makes use of innovative narrative techniques in his portrait of American postmodern society. The participatory role of the reader is essential here as Gaddis's fiction tends to be both complex and erudite. -- Chapter One briefly explains the theory of reception put forth by Hans Robert Jauss in his essay "Literary History as a Challenge to Literary Theory." I apply the essential tenets of Jauss's Reception Theory to the many reviews of A Frolic of His Own. The examination of the popular reception of Gaddis's work better enables me to contend with its complexities. -- Chapter Two studies the presence of indeterminacy in the novel. I address the notion of mimesis and the representation of reality in literature in addition to the reader's role in postulating real-world referentiality. My concern here is not to create a more complex text than that suggested by the majority of the novel's reviewers, but merely to demonstrate the utility of ambiguity to the reader of this rich, innovative fiction. -- Chapter Three addresses allusion, a second readerly challenge left virtually unexamined by the reviewers of A Frolic of His Own. By exploring Gaddis's erudite and often obscure references and citations, I develop a strong connection between allusion and humour in the novel. Gaddis's employment of cultural, historical, and literary allusion also adds to the realism of his text. -- This analysis of the novel ultimately reveals both Gaddis's realistic portrayal of late-twentieth-century American society and his reliance upon readerly participation in fiction. Finally, Gaddis's novel calls upon each reader to create a personal fiction. Recognition of gaps left by indeterminacies and allusions can only enhance the myriad hermeneutic possibilities. The insights derived from the reader's collaboration with the text can then be employed in the reader's interactions with his/her own world.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/6569
Item ID: 6569
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves [85]-98.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > English Language and Literature
Date: 1996
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Gaddis, William, 1922-

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