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Carnival of Repetition

Carnival of Repetition
Gaddis's "The Recognitions" and Postmodern Theory

John Johnston

184 pages | 6 x 9
Cloth 1990 | ISBN 9780812281798 | $79.95s | Outside the Americas £64.00
Ebook 2016 | ISBN 9781512806427 | Buy from Combined Academic Publishers £64.00
An Anniversary Collection volume

Although published many decades ago, William Gaddis's The Recognitions is only now beginning to receive the critical attention it deserves. Carnival of Repetition, the first full-length study of the novel, is a sophisticated analysis that places it in a new literary and cultural context .

This novel of the 1950 s is unlike anything else from that decade. It harks back to the works of high modernism (exemplified by Joyce's Ulysses) and looks forward to postmodern fiction (especially as practiced by Barth, Pynchon, and DeLillo). Imitation is its major theme, one that Gaddis pursues on many levels, across several continents, into mazes of arcane knowledge and bogus scholarship, and even into the novel's structure through the repetition of prior texts and the interplay between literal and disguised quotation. Through an endless play of repetition, Gaddis con­founds the reader's recognition of similarity and difference.

Johnston uses the theories of Bakhtin and Deleuze (and others, such as Julia Kristeva) to map out a context for this most unusual and difficult work. From Bakhtin, he appropriates the concepts of "carnivalesque" fiction and dialogism (or a plurality of independent voices, no one more important than another). From Deleuze, he borrows the idea of the simulacrum, a copy that presupposes no original and that becomes meaningful through a process of infinite repetition. With these instruments, Johnston analyzes the labyrinth of copy and counterfeit that Gaddis constructs in his novel.

John Johnston is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Emory University.

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