The Sense Of A Beginning: Theory Of The Literary Opening

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This dissertation is the first comprehensive study in English of the literary opening and its impact on modern literary criticism. It thus fills an astounding gap in Anglo-American criticism, which has neglected openings and instead focused on endings, as exemplified by Frank Kermode's The Sense of an Ending (1967). Through a study of the constant formal challenges of novelistic openings, primarily during modernism, this dissertation illustrates the significance of the opening in literary creation and in literary criticism. Chapter 1 analyses how openings attempt to lend authority from natural beginnings as well as from cosmologies, which leads to the conclusion that the beginning of a story is also a story of the beginning. Chapter 2 examines literary openings more closely from a formal and narrative point of view, thereby outlining a th eory of openings based on linguistic considerations such as pragmatic conventions and cooperative rules. The chapter establishes a taxonomy of openings based on five -signals[DOUBLE VERTICAL LINE] of the opening. In particular, the chapter develops the concept of -perspectival abruptness[DOUBLE VERTICAL LINE], which is to be differentiated from the temporal abruptness known as in medias res. -Perspectival abruptness[DOUBLE VERTICAL LINE] is presented as a tool for the critic and the literary historian to understand the particular nature of modern fiction. Chapter 3 focuses on the modern opening and literature's higher sense of selfawareness. In particular, through discussions of notably Roland Barthes and Edward Said, the chapter investigates how the modern opening has transformed modern criticism through the concept of intertextuality. In chapter 4, Paul Valéry's mockery of the novelistic opening serves to illustrate more concretely the influence of intertextuality on literary openings. The epilogue expounds on the ideological schism between Anglo-American and French criticism with regard to literary openings. It concludes that openings can only be fully understood in their relations to linguistic and literary conventions. The dissertation includes an appendix that outlines the existing criticism on literary openings until today.

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2012-01-31
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Literary opening; Beginning; Novels
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Culler, Jonathan Dwight
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Klein, Richard Jay
Shaw, Harry Edmund
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Comparative Literature
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Ph. D., Comparative Literature
Degree Level
Doctor of Philosophy
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dissertation or thesis
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