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In the Reading Gaol: Postmodernity, Texts and History
In this critical tour de force, Valentine Cunningham offers a sequence of controversial arguments in favor of the worldly stuff of texts. Animated by the massive ironies he detects within modern critical assumptions, Cunningham begins with a long and searching look at Saussure and his misappropriation by critics to create an a-historical linguistics. He extends his forensic skepticism to expose Derrida and de Man, and almost every form of "critical bandwagonism" known to either gender, from New Historicism to Post-Histoireism, to Cultural Materialism. He concludes by arguing that the deconstructive critical imagination finds its vital (and historical) apotheosis, "its big real meaning", in the parasitical dependence of (post) modernity upon Judaeo-Christian Biblicism and theology, the very kind of historical and ideological relationship it sets itself up to deny. It is this denial, Cunningham claims, that lies at the root of all our recent and current uneasiness with history. In the course of its critique this book inspects, with startling originality, texts from the Bible to Jane Eyre, Hamlet to Batman, Tristram Shandy to Finnegans Wake, concentrating particularly on classic nineteenth-century realist novels such as Emma, Hard Times, Bleak House, Middlemarch, The Trumpet Major and Heart of Darkness, as well as classic twentieth-century novels, including Beckett's Watt and Golding's Rites of Passage.
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