Strategies of Inwardness Narrative Apprehension and the Modernist Quest for the Locus of Authenticity
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Strategies of Inwardness: Narrative Apprehension and the Modernist Quest for the Locus of Authenticity Abstract This dissertation reads together for the first time Heart of Darkness, The Confessions of Zeno, and The Counterfeiters to show how Joseph Conrad, Italo Svevo, and André Gide all treated the act of reading as a site of social and political activity. Each posits a theory of reading in order to make his personal values become larger social values. As forerunners of reader-reception theory, their narrative experiments allowed them to move beyond realism, which they saw as suppressing the dialogical potential of the novel. Instead, their manipulations of the reader's response expose readers to alternate possibilities for creating meaning. The argument uses both reception theory to define the reader-to-text relationship, as well as a narratological approach for in-depth study of the structure and function of discourses of representation. The combination enables me to demonstrate how these texts reform their readers' expectations about historico-notional narratives and amplify the dialogical potential of the novel. These novels all present an unfettered examination of the human conscience based on resistance to authoritative truth. In so doing, they innovatively convey everything as fiction, including the world outside of the text. In the first chapter, Conrad's indefinite significations related to the search for meaning are shown to work in a cyclical fashion with the goal to destroy the collective ethos formulated around iconic historical myths about colonialism. In Chapter two, Svevo's novel reveals how revised significations related to established cultural codes transform the act of reading into a competitive act for interpretive meaning. In the final chapter Gide's novel addresses the problems of misinterpretation by exposing and questioning authorial production. Gide also raises questions about how to achieve artistic perfection in an imperfect world of multiplicity and inevitable reversals. In these novels the spiritual and material are no longer separate and the search for answers, absolutes, and the location of meaning becomes an end in itself. They challenge readers to find the heart of authenticity, no matter how abstract. The visionary nature of their work lies in the sincere attempt never to take interpretation for granted.