By Michael Ragussis
Michael Ragussis re-reads the novelistic culture via arguing the acts of naming--bestowing, revealing, or incomes a reputation; casting off, hiding, or prohibiting a reputation; slandering, or preserving and serving it--lie on the middle of fictional plots from the 18th century to the current. opposed to the history of philosophic ways to naming, Acts of Naming finds the ways that structures of naming are used to acceptable characters in novels as varied as Clarissa, Fanny Hill, Oliver Twist, Pierre, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Remembrance of items earlier, and Lolita, and identifies unnaming and renaming because the locus of strength within the family's plot to regulate the kid, and extra rather, to rape the daughter. His research additionally treats extra works by way of Cooper, Bront?, Hawthorne, Eliot, Twain, Conrad, and Faulkner, extending the concept that of the naming plot to reimagine the traditions of the radical, evaluating American and British plots, male and female plots, inheritance and seduction plots, etc. Acts of Naming ends with a theoretical exploration of the "magical" energy of naming in several eras and in numerous, even competing, kinds of discourse.
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Extra info for Acts of Naming: The Family Plot in Fiction
496) he imagines, he contains this woman's language, assimilates it, engorges it, just as he swallows up the genuine question inside the rhetorical, and the proper name inside the common. Second, by cautiously leaving the seals entire, he is able to mimic this letter from Anna to Clarissa. By crucial omissions and additions of his own he copies Anna's words to use to his own advantage and sends the forgery to Clarissa as if it were Anna Howe's own. He impersonates Anna, steals the words meant for Clarissa, and subtly changes their meaning.
With Oliver as a "living copy" of his dead mother, we come to the idea that charges Oliver Twist with so much of its power: the raising of the dead, the dead coming alive through the living. In Oliver Twist the excitement of fast pursuits and narrow escapes, of living perpetually just this side of death, is counterbalanced by numerous narrative asides and extended meditations on the dead. Such passages of mourning, at once lyrical and discursive, are always retrospective, and seem to retard the otherwise urgent pace of the tale.
And yet it is precisely by plunging the child into the midst of such a world that Oliver Twist becomes a moral fable, as Dickens makes clear in his Preface, when he admits that he sought "among what companions I could try him best" (Ixii). Clarissa and Oliver Twist make extraordinarily clear the way in which certain novels are designed as the moral trial of the child. As if Oliver were the original tabula rasa, the battle to possess him—for this is the central contest in Oliver Twist—proceeds as a struggle to indoctrinate him, to fill the pure blank space that the child is.
Acts of Naming: The Family Plot in Fiction by Michael Ragussis