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Beyond Words

The Othering Excursion in Contemporary American Literature

by Wendy Harding Author · Jacky Martin Author


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This is a book about reading, or rather about the moment when the usual frames of interpretation no longer apply. That is where the Othering Excursion begins. Through disruptive forms of rhetoric, writers discard the structures and norms of the cultural system and use the disorders thus created to suggest what lies beyond it. Cultivating distortion, conceptual blocks and chaotic constructions, their texts flout normal processes of interpretation. Whereas traditional approaches often overlook these disorders or treat them as a form of informational noise, in this study they become the basis of critical reflection. Harding and Martin elaborate a critical concept and a range of reading methods to deal with what seem to be zones of obscurity in literary texts. Cutting across boundaries of race, ethnicity and gender, they treat a wide range of poetry and short fiction that challenges traditional interpretations. Giving new readings of canonical texts, the book examines works by American authors that are widely read and taught, like Elizabeth Bishop, A.R. Ammons, Don DeLillo, Leslie Marmon Silko, or Sandra Cisneros. At the same time, it includes studies of emerging writers like Kate Braverman, Dan Chaon, or Chase Twichell. "There is something deeply moving in witnessing the birth of a new concept. And indeed Wendy Harding and Jacky Martin's concept of "Othering" is a welcome addition to an already crowded field, where concepts like "difference", "alterity" or "hybridity" are firmly established. But the new concept is more than an addition, it is more in the nature of a substitution, as it aims to replace the now exhausted concepts, allows the authors to avoid the trivialities of a criticism based on gender and race, and, by focusing on form and language (or style), to recapture the now largely lost intuitions of close reading. This combination of close reading and a firm grasp of theory is one of the attractions of the book. I am impressed by their mastery of the intricacies of theory and the range of their literary corpus (in terms both of genres and texts). I have no doubt that their book will be a major contribution to the renewal of the study of contemporary American literature."—Professor Jean-Jacques Lecercle, University of Nanterre, ParisIn Beyond Words, Wendy Harding and Jacky Martin offer "a new attitude to reading" that approaches true diversity by ignoring trends toward traditional groupings of authors by race and gender and instead examining, democratically, recent American literature in terms of its unique and peculiar achievements. In choosing texts that employ "the rhetoric of the inexpressible," the authors have identified "Othering" as the common thread running through short fiction and poetry by authors as varied as Allen Ginsberg, Raymond Carver, Sandra Cisneros, Adrienne Rich, and Li-Young Lee. In transliterating the language of the ineffable and unspoken, Beyond Words employs its superbly original methodology toward unfolding previously inaccessible layers of meaning and provoking a fuller understanding of the creative process and its cultural milieu.—Michael Waters, Professor of English at Salisbury University, USA"A germinal study from an "other" (in this case, European) perspective of an at once idiosyncratic and indicative range of American texts with a view of how they, themselves, encounter the unexamined and unexpected."—Marilyn Hacker, Professor at City College of New York and CUNY Graduate Center"Invigorating and original, Beyond Words: The Othering Excursion in Contemporary American Literature challenges conventional ways of approaching literary texts. Eschewing binaries, Wendy Harding a…

Publication Details

Cambridge Scholars Publishing
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  • Adobe PDF eBook 1.2 MB

Wendy Harding (Author)

Wendy Harding is currently Professor of English at the University of Toulouse, France, where she is co-director of the North American Research Group (G.E.N.A.). She has published extensively on Medieval English literature and contemporary American...

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