Transgressions of Reading

Narrative Engagement as Exile and Return

Transgressions of Reading

Post-Contemporary Interventions

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Book Pages: 216 Illustrations: 19 illustrations Published: October 1992

Cultural Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism

It is often claimed that we know ourselves and the world through narratives. In this book, Robert D. Newman portrays narrative engagement as a process grounded in psychoanalytic theory to explain how readers (or listeners or viewers) manage to engage with specific narratives and derive from them a personal experience.
Newman describes this psychodrama of narrative engagement as that of exile and return, an experience in which narrative becomes a type of homeland, beckoning and elusive, endlessly defining and disrupting the borders of a reader's identity. Within this paradigm, he considers a fascinating variety of narrative texts: from the Jim Jones episode in Guyana to Freud's repression of personal history in his story of Moses; from a surrealistic collage novel by Max Ernst to the horror films of Alfred Hitchcock; from the works of James Joyce, Ariel Dorfman, Milan Kundera, and D. M. Thomas to the tales of abjection in pornography.
Transgressions of Reading is itself an engaging work, as interesting for its provocative readings of particular works as for its theoretical insights. It will appeal to readers from all fields in which narrative plays a crucial role, in the study of film and art, modern and contemporary literature, popular culture, and feminist, psychoanalytic, and reader response theory.


“Although the topic of alienation in postmodern criticism has a pedigree that goes back to Nietzsche, Newman revisits this concept and comes away with a fresh if disturbing perspective. With an openness matched by few current critics, he articulates an epistemology that defines the act of reading as a compulsive yet ultimately frustrated gesture. . . . Newman redefines our concepts of a series of works characterizing contemporary narrative.” — Michael Patrick Gillespie, James Joyce Quarterly

"Robert Newman's book offers an impressive range of postmodernist readings on aspects of culture work, from the collage, to horror film, to fictional narrative." — Hortense Spillers, Emory University

"This is one of the more engaging critical works I've picked up in some time. The material on Psycho was terrific, as was the section on Jim Jones, and the discussion of feminist criticism and pornography. The author is breaking new ground, reading unaccustomed but significant material in a shrewd and fresh way." — Mark Edmundson, University of Virginia

"This text has nearly everything one could want in a book of contemporary literary criticism. Newman's overall project is to argue that twentieth-century texts written or inspired by exiles produce in the reader's interpretive experience a similar state, an exile from the sort of narrative expectations that constitute a readerly `home' or site of gratification and interpretive security. He executes this task through a highly interesting list of modern texts" — Margot Norris, University of California, Irvine


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Robert D. Newman, Professor of English at Texas A&M University, is the coeditor of Joyce's Ulysses: The Larger Perspective and author of Understanding Thomas Pynchon.

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-1296-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1280-2
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