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Literature as Performance: Founding Spaces for Voice

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Title: Literature as Performance: Founding Spaces for Voice
Author: Clark, Prentiss
Advisor: Zwarg, Christina
Department: Haverford College. Dept. of English
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Issue Date: 2005
Abstract: In the recent history of literary studies, audience-oriented criticism emerges as a dominant trope for understanding the relationships between texts, authors, and readers. Barthes’s reclassification of the reader as a producer, and his elevation of an open, plural, “text” over a “work” that “closes on a signified,” emphasizes modern conceptions of reading as a form of writing. Yet, the specific processes that poststructuralism advances point back to older modes of criticism in an illustration of the dynamic relationship between history and literature. Thus, as Derrida resists logocentrism and dismantles traditional metaphysical hierarchies, viewing writing as both written and spoken language, he reaffirms the necessity of the text. I want to remain in the post-structuralist mode of thinking, allowing for the reader’s interpretive authority, but through that mode of thinking point out the inextricable link to the text itself, which provides the reader with voice. Granting the text performative power allows it to retain prescriptive agency and escape classification as a closed/fixed “work” for consumption. I propose reading the productive collapse of hierarchies such as speech/writing and speech/action in Henry James’s The Bostonians through the lens of performance in order to explicate and expand upon Derrida’s deconstructive practices. Ultimately, through the reverse process of using a text to read theory, rather than theory to read a text, I want to suggest that literature performs what culture has yet to articulate.
Subject: Reader-response criticism
Subject: James, Henry, 1843-1916 -- Criticism and interpretation
Subject: Derrida, Jacques -- Contributions in criticism
Subject: Voice in literature
Subject: James, Henry, 1843-1916. Bostonians
Access Restrictions: Open Access
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Clark, Prentiss. "Literature as Performance: Founding Spaces for Voice". 2005. Available electronically from

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