Monday, December 3, 2012

New Directions Proposal: Text and Paratext in the Literary Hoax

Jeffrey D. Reints will present "Text and Paratext in the Literary Hoax"

Abstract: Can a fake have real value?  Two poetic forgeries appearing in the first half of the twentieth century, the Darkening Ecliptic of Australian prodigy Ern Malley and the avante garde Spectric School of verse, challenge our notions of authenticity by their achievement of literary fame despite their dubious origins.  Often dismissed as “crimes” against literature or pranks at the expense of the reading public, these works call into question the implicit trust in the relationship between author and reader.

This paper proposes the rehabilitation of the literary hoax as a legitimate genre, reclaiming these "phony" texts from the dustbin of history.  Literary hoaxes will be distinguished from the genres they imitate by their unique features, rather than the purported ethical boundaries that are used to distance them from similar works enshrined in the literary canon.  The primary mode of inquiry will be an examination of deployment of prefaces, introductions, and other paratextual elements.  The interaction between poem and preface creates a totality of text that is both fiction and nonfiction, verse and prose, thereby problematizing the relationship between author, reader, and text,

Following Bakhtin's theory of the literary chronotope, I will offer a working definition of the genre of the literary hoax that focuses on this uniquely entangled relationship between text and paratext.  The continuity of the genre will be established by touching upon it roots in ancient pseudoedpigraphia, its prototypes in early first person novels, and the grand literary hoaxes of the late eighteenth century.

Jeff Rients is a master's student in the area of English literature with a focus on the study of hoaxes literary and otherwise.  His interest in this area dates to 2006 when he was the ‘victim’ of a hoax.  Ask him about it some time.  Since then he has been grappling with why hoaxes bother some people (and not others) and why authenticity is so valued in our heavily constructed and mediated culture.

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