On William Gaddis's JR
Patrick J. O'Donnell
University of West Virginia
Copyright © 1991 by Patrick J. O’Donnell,
all rights reserved Postmodern Culture v.1 n.2 (January, 1991)
In William Gaddis’s JR, voice partakes of the
“postmodern condition” where, as Jean Baudrillard says, everything is
constituted by “the force which rules market value: capital must
circulate; gravity and any fixed point must disappear; the chain of
investments and reinvestments must never stop; value must radiate
endlessly and in every direction.” (1)
Gaddis’s unwieldy parody of American capitalism is a 700-plus
page palimpsest of vocal exchanges where the agency of
transmission—telephones, televisions, tape recorders—has, in a sense,
taken over the discourse, so that human commerce and conversation reflect
the nearly total instrumentality of human life and the
“capitalization” of identity in the late twentieth century.
“Voice,” in Gaddis’s novel, has become the cipher for human
exchange, and like surplus capital, inflationary and without content.
In this context, it is appropriate to recall an image produced by
the advertising agencies that Gaddis lampoons in JR while striking
at the wastefulness of their “product” in the piles of junk mail that
the pre-adolescent JR ceaselessly sorts through on his way to the
foundation of a financial empire. One
of the more memorable icons of American culture is the logo of the
Recording Company of America, perhaps most familiar to the generation
which listened to ‘78’s which bore the image of Victor, that patient
canine listening to the speaker of a Victorola phonograph.
The trademark suggests that the quality of the recording is so
faithful to the original that Victor thinks he is hearing “his
master’s voice”—an idea so compelling that RCA protected the phrase
“His Master’s Voice” by registering it as a trademark.
Images like this one, born within the publicity departments of
corporations that make substantial profits from the reproduction of sound,
reveal much about commonly held cultural assumptions regarding voice and
its relation to the projection of identity.
The faithful reproduction of voice is associated with the assertion
of mastery. The “master
recording,” presumably, connects us directly with the origin of an
individual voice. This
concept is revised and repeated in the television advertisements of a
cassette tape manufacturer who employed Ella Fitzgerald to break aglass
with the magnified projections of her real voice; these, recorded and
played back, were used to break another glass, attesting, again, to the
faithfulness of the sound in the attempt to represent the mastery,
originality, and integrity of voice.
As Edward Said suggests, all forms of originality imply “loss, or
else it would be repetition; or we can say that, insofar as it is
apprehended as such, originality is the difference between primordial
vacancy and temporary, sustained repetition” (133).
To hear a recording of the master’s voice—to hear the voice of
mastery—is to hear the same track again as a repetition that fragments
the singularity of the original; indeed, following Walter Benjamin, in
modern technocratic society, the more faithful the recording, the more the
original is, paradoxically, re-presented or copied as it is transformed
from original into simulation. (2)
and transcribed, the strikingly unique voice of Ella Fitzgerald is
converted into a commodity that everyone can own and replay at will.
These remarks on the replication of voice (and in a technocratic
society “voice” inevitably comes to us in the form of replication)
suggest the conflicted position of the so-called “speaking subject” in
postmodern culture and in Gaddis’s novel where the “parent”
organization of a fading financial empire is the “General Roll”
corporation— originally, manufacturers of piano rolls for player pianos.
There are several ways in which this contradictory position might
be described. Translated from
corporeal to legible terms, it is, for example, a commonplace of American
creative writing programs to encourage neophytes to discover a unique,
personal voice, yet it is easily perceivable that this illusory voice,
even if it is found, can only be transmitted through the vehicle of the
reproduction of the text—a text which, in “successful” creative
writing programs, can be eminently transformed into a commodity.
Adorno’s commentary on the speaking subject is pertinent to the
contradictions implicit in the notion of “voice in the marketplace”:
an all-embracing system [such as, for Adorno, that of late capitalist
economies], dialogue becomes ventriloquism.
Everyone is his own Charlie McCarthy; hence his popularity.
Words in their entirety come to resemble the formulae which
formerly were reserved for greeting and leave-taking . . . Such
determination of speech through adaptation, however, is its end: the
relation between matter and expression is severed, and just as the
concepts of the positivists are supposed to be mere counters, so those of
positivistic humanity have become literally coins.
For Adorno, form and content of language in contemporary society
have become so thoroughly severed (in that “content” has virtually
disappeared), and yet so fused together (in that “medium” and
“message” of contemporary speech acts are one) that all forms of
expression are telegraphic ciphers, or traces of some “matter” that
has been debased into coin, commodity.
Hence, the source of this language—the individual
speaker—becomes merely a mouthpiece, a “talking head,” a transmitter
of messages already overheard and delivered; the repetition of these
messages might be thought of as the capitalized surplus of sheer message,
or information for its own sake, in contemporary culture.
This is the view articulated by Gibbs in JR, who serves as
the novel’s heretical voice in continually questioning and parodying the
prevailing discursive orders. To
his class (Gibbs teaches at an “experimental” elementary school which
is attempting to redefine its curriculum for the purposes of conducting
all classes over “closed-circuit” television), Gibbs says, “Since
you’re not here to learn anything, but to be taught so you can pass
these tests, knowledge has to be organized so it can be taught, and it has
to be reduced to information so it can be organized do you follow that?”
(20). But to this “truth”
about information Gibbs adds the kind of heretical remark (he is clearly
veering away from the predetermined class syllabus at this point) that
will lead to his being fired from the school and his self-willed expulsion
from America: “In other words this leads you to assume that organization
is an inherent property of the knowledge itself, and that disorder and
chaos are simply irrelevant forces that threaten it from outside. In
fact it’s exactly the opposite. Order
is simply a thin, perilous condition we try to impose on the basic reality
of chaos . . . “ (20).
Readers of JR will recognize in these illustrations the
dilemma of the subject in this novel.
Any attempt to describe or summarize JR will necessarily
fail, partly because the “plot” of the novel is so minimal as to
provide little help with what JR is “all about,” and partly
because the novel’s complexity resides not in theme, or character, or
symbol, or event but in the twinned questions of “who is speaking?”
and “what is s/he talking about?” at any of a number of points.
Identity and reference may thus be seen as poles between which the
story of an eleven-year-old child’s rise to financial wealth and power
is negotiated. JR Vansant,
the titular protagonist, manages to assimilate a financial empire by
sorting through junk mail and taking advantage of numerous “offers,”
and by employing the offices of his former teacher, Edward Bast, who
unwillingly acts as JR’s adult stand-in at various meetings and business
functions. Largely through a
series of contingencies and accidents that serve to parody any reliance
upon Wall Street securities,” JR succeeds in building a ghost
mega-corporation that exists solely on paper, and then just as easily
loses his empire in a “crash” that only makes him desire to start a
new one. JR’s Horatio Alger
story stands in ironic contrast to that of his “dummy,” Bast, a
would-be artist unwillingly entangled in the momentum of JR’s rise and
fall, and heir to the small remains of the declining General Roll fortune;
in the novel, the Basts are embroiled in a Chancery-like dispute over
their estate, and Edward Bast’s uncertainty as to the identity of his
father and, thus, the origins of his own identity, serves as a foil to
JR’s parodic embodiment of “the self-made man.”
Bast is also Gaddis’s portrait of the artist whose art is foiled
by the consumerism, noise, and entropy of the contemporary environment:
his horizons increasingly diminished (in the beginning of the novel, Bast
plans to write a full-scale opera; by its end, he is planning a short
piece for the unaccompanied cello), Bast is forced to earn his living by
listening to pop radio stations in order to detect if songs not registered
with ASCAP are being played on the air while, headphones in place, he
attempts to write his own music. In
such noisy circumstances, and in the comic and disturbing parallels he
forges between the machinations of Wall Street and the modern educational
methods in the United States, Gaddis insists on portraying the “self”
as a cipher or medium in an endless and monotonous conversation the
subject of which — despite the number of speakers or characters in JR--always focuses around matters of exchange of money, stocks, notes
(musical and otherwise), wills, bodies, or information. (3)
JR consists of dozens of fragmented conversations, usually
joined in progress, between individual speakers upon a variety of
ostensible “topics,” yet the speakers, for the most part, are located
within institutional and communicative confines—the principal’s
office, the boardroom of the corporate headquarters, a telephone booth—
which constrain and define them as the instruments of vast and
intersecting bureaucracies. Through
vocal tics or characteristic expressions, one may come to “know” the
conversationalists of JR, though they are not usually identified by
name, separate speakers and speech acts being marked in the novel not even
by the usual quotation marks, but by dashes.
But, as Marc Chenetier has suggested, so “interrupted” are
these conversations by “[verbal] hiccups, hesitations, digressions . . .
[textual] tears never mended, open parenthesis . . . syntactical
ruptures,” so replete are they with “interjections” from the voices
of overheard radio announcements to citations from its barrage of
advertisements, that any individual voice gradually disappears into the
novel’s overwhelming noise: “Gaddis unhesitatingly plunges us into a
‘universe of discourse’ that does not even bear his name.” (4)
In this way, JR obscures the source or agency of any given
voice in the novel, and makes it seem that all the novel’s speakers
participate in a wholly instrumental “discourse” managed by
corporations and institutions lacking any single “boss,” but, in the
telephonic terms the novel insists upon, comprised of a series of crossed
lines and connections going everywhere and coming from nowhere or no one.
Hence JR might be viewed as the nightmare version of
Bakhtinian heteroglossia. (5) While Bakhtin argues that the disparate and conflicting
voices to be found historically in the novel signified the overturning of
the official discourses of the day and the pluralization of identity—a
pluralization that, as we have seen, troubles the modernist desire to
master the carnivalization of identity, or in Thomas Mann’s phrase, to
act as the “theatre-manager[s] of our own dreams so [that] . . . our
fate may be the product of our inmost selves, of our wills” — Gaddis’s
multi-voiced epic of the corporate world and American education, in a
sundering of “the illusion of unmediated speech,” displays the
incorporation of all voice and language into the paranoid meta-discourse
of “doing business.” (6) This
discursive game is one in which even an eleven-year old child—perhaps,
especially an eleven-year old child raised in the positivist environment
of the American education system—can become a major player.
Yet it is a discourse which no one really masters, both because it
lacks visible source or origin (just as paternal origins are troubled in
the novel for Edward Bast) and because it threatens to consume any
individual who comes into contact with it.
Though widely-varied in their particulars, the vocal exchanges of JR
fall roughly into three categories: monologues that serve to parody the
“specialized” languages of legalese or businessese, phatic
conversations where we hear a speaker on one end of and must imagine what
the other speaker is saying, and fragmented conversations between several
speakers such as those in which an assortment of teachers, administrators,
politicians, and bureaucrats gather periodically in the principal’s
office of the Long Island elementary school JR attends to discuss the
latest developments in education by television.
In the first of these—monologues that unwittingly (as far as the
speaker is concerned) parody discursive systems—signs and codes are
arranged in a self-referential language where words circulate as money
does in the economy, endlessly flowing where they will, merely ciphers of
exchange without matter (or gold) to back them.
Coen, the Bast family lawyer, provides an example of this semiosis
when he discusses the late Thomas Bast’s estate with Anne and Julia near
the beginning of the novel:
--Possibly your testimony
and that of your brother
regarding the period of his cohabitation with the said Nellie before
Edward’s birth, here, yes, that a child born in wedlock is legitimate
where husband and wife had separated and the period of gestation required,
in order that the husband may be the father, while a possible one, is
exceptionally long and contrary to the usual course of nature, you see? Now in bringing a proceeding to establish the right to the
property of a deceased, the burden is on the claimant to show his kinship
with the decedent, where alleged fact that claimant is decedent’s child,
and . . . yes, that while in the first instance, where is it yes, proof of
filiation from which a presumption of legitimacy arises will sustain the
burden and will establish the status of legitimacy and heirship if no
evidence tending to show illegitimacy is introduced, the burden to
establish legitimacy does not shift and claimant must establish his
legitimacy where direct evidence, as well as evidence of potent . . . is
the word potent? potent, yes potent circumstances, tending to disprove his
claim of heirship, is introduced. Now,
regarding competent evidence to prove filiation . . .
--Mister Cohen, I assure you there is no need to go on like this,
if . . .
--Ladies, I have no choice. In
settling an estate of these proportions and this complexity it is my duty
to make every point which may bear upon your nephew’s legal rights
absolutely crystal clear to you and to him.
comically inappropriate, yet legally “correct” rhetoric is tonally
offensive. Not only is it
incomprehensible to the ancient sisters as it is to us in its circularity,
it also embodies a contradictory attempt to establish filiation and Edward
Bast’s origins through a discourse replete with repetition and
tautology: the language clearly lacks the “potent circumstances” it is
attempting to generate through the sheer imposition of scattered and
reiterated legal jargon.
Coen’s “monologue” is typical of many in JR.
It represents a discursive movement where—whether the topic is
stocks and bonds, or wills, or pedagogy—the subject or point of
reference is brought into being and “legitimated,” but only as a
simulation issuing from a nominalist discourse that “names” its
content, whose content is what it names.
linguistic nominalism of JR reaches its absurd limit in the
directions Mr. Davidoff, a corporate public relations executive, gives to
his secretary regarding the travel plans of one of his representatives
aboard military transport: “TC two hundred Indiv placed on TDY as indic
RPSCTDY Eigen, Thomas, GS twelve cerned he won’t need all those, give CG
AMC, Attn: AMCAD-AO, Washington,” etc. (256).
Gaddis is concerned to show in this “acronymic” parody, as he
is throughout the novel, the relation between such instrumentation of
language and the “miltary-industrial complex.”
The identity of “Bast,” in essence, is what can be traced on
paper or what can be read out of a will, just as the identity of JR is
what it is purported to be incontracts, stock issues, business
negotiations. There is no word-magic in JR, no fleshing out of the
language, and Bast, in Coen’s verbiage, is but a blank counter to move
amongst the various acquired accretions of legal language. (7)
When we turn to Gaddis’s conversations, we might expect to
encounter some form of exchange which transcends or alters these hegemonic
circumstances, but indeed we discover that the Gaddisian dialogic is a
contradiction in terms. At
every turn in the novel, we are confronted with telephone conversations
which ostensibly involve two or more speakers, and thus, a dialogue, but
we always hear only one end of the conversation (and have to imagine both
who is speaking and what they are saying at the other end).
We are compelled to hear the voice over the phone as both singular
(it is the only voice we hear) and fragmented, dissolute (interrupted by
the unheard voice of the other); the voice of the “other” is entirely
spectral in these exchanges. Its
material importance in the novel causes us to focus on the instrument
which carries these phatic conversations—the telephone.
As Avital Ronnell has argued, the telephone “destabilizes the
identity of self and other, subject and thing. . . . It is unsure of its
identity as object, thing, piece of equipment, perlocutionary intensity or
artwork (the beginnings of telephony argue for its place as artwork); it
offers itself as instrument of destinal alarm” (Ronell 9).
In JR, the significance of this “destinal alarm” is
highlighted in a number of contexts: “Diamond Cable,” the
mega-corporation with which JR competes (and in whose offices he is
introduced to the world of the stock market on a school field trip) is a
manufacturer of telephone cables; the Bast sisters decide to divest their
portfolio of telephone stocks because they are having their home phone
removed; JR manages to convince the local phone company to install a pay
phone booth at his school so that he can have easy access to his
“office.” This latter
instance provides a comic example of how the telephone severs “voice”
from “signature” or identity. JR
remarks to his friend Hyde, who suggests that JR will get caught for
forging the papers which authorize the installation of the booth: “What
do you mean forgery I just scribbled this here name which it’s
nobody’s down at the bottom where it says arthurized by, I mean you
think the telephone company’s goes around asking everybody is this here
your signature? All they care it says requisition order right here across the
top so they come stick in this here telephone booth” (185).
For fear that he might be recognized as a child in his business
dealings, JR disguises his voice when he talks over the phone by muffling
it with the unfailingly filthy handkerchief that is one of his trademarks.
His creation of an empire via the proxies of the telephone and Bast
is an act of ventriloquy that reveals the wholly instrumental nature of
his language and being. As an
extension of the telephonic instrument—as a form of human prothesis—JR
is merely the garbled voice over the phone making connections between the
disparate elements of his empire, thus acting as a kind of talking
“switchboard”; this radical destabilizing of human agency via the
telephone is perfectly complicit with “doing business” in JR, a
form of labor comprised solely of managing contacts and contracts through
the manipulation of what might be termed discursive “bites” or
received linguistic formulations.
In the following passage, we overhear JR at the height of his
empire, conversing with Bast about various business deals on a public
Bast? Boy I almost
didn’t...no I’m out of breath, I had to stay in at...No but first hey
how come you didn’t call Piscator about this here whole Wonder . . .
what? No but where are you at then, you . . . What? What do
you . . . No but how come you’re at this here hospital . . . Holy . . .
no but holy . . . no but you mean right at that there gala banquet you and
him were . . . No but how was I supposed to know that?
I mean I knew the both of them were old, but holy . . . No but if he had his arm around you singing how come you . .
. You mean right in the middle of the movie?
Holy . . . No but like if, like I mean he’s not going to die or
something is he? Because if
he and his brother don’t sign that stuff Piscator was supposed to get
read we’re really up the . . . What his brother’s there right now you
mean? Can you . . . What,
they already did? Why
didn’t you tell me, I mean if they both signed it everything’s okay we
don’t have anything to . . . No hey I didn’t just mean that Bast, I
mean sure I hope he gets better real soon tell him but . . .
No but wait tell him
he can’t do that hey, it’s . . .
No but if he sold the company it isn’t even a trade secret any
more it’s our hey, I’ll . . . No I’ll bet you a quarter hey, ask
Piscator, he . . . that cobalt in the water puts such a great head on
their beer? did he tell . . . No but see even if this here nurse he’s
whispering it to doesn’t get it see she might just tell somebody which .
. . No but tell him to quit it anyway okay?
So where else did . . . No but see a second, who . . .?
Did he say that, he’s coming there . . .? No but see he’s been calling me and Piscator because he’s
scared this here bunch of Wonder stock this other brother gave him this
loan of to use it like for collateral when this company of his was getting
in this trouble because they used to both play football at some collage,
see so now Mooneyham’s scared that if we gave him a hard time over this
here stock this whole X-L Lithography Comp . . . No but how was I supposed
to know this here other brother had . . . No but what do you expect me to
. . . No okay, okay but. . . . (343)
signature of JR’s voice in this and other “conversations” are the
words “no,” “hey,” and “holy [shit],” which identify and
stabilize an otherwise chaotic speech.
JR’s speech is literally full of holes, and the identity he
projects through these voice signatures is that of denial (“no” to
everything Bast says) and ignorance (he knows nothing), yet this is the
boss speaking. (8) In the
clutch of “deals” that this conversation embraces, JR is attempting to
culminate the takeover of a brewery owned by the brothers he
mentions—one of whom suffers a heart attack at a meeting with JR’s
representative, Bast—by diverting the pension funds of another company
he has bought, Eagle Mills; part of the takeover involves taking advantage
of a selloff of debentures which would give the JR Corporation access to
cobalt mineral rights, the lethal ingredient that will give the beer
produced by the brewery a “great head.” Other aspects of this venture
depend upon equally far-flung negotiations which, together, suggest that
the JR Corporation is like a gigantic machine whose myriad gears
accidentally mesh at certain points in time as JR stumbles upon
connections and potential deals. Though
he “makes” the connection between one strand of enterprise and another
(i.e., using the pension funds from Eagle Mills to buy out the Wonder
Brewery), no one sees or controls the totality of his corporation, which
exists, in fragments, only in his head and in his speech.
Nor is JR capable of assimilating the “content” of what he
negotiates, or its social and political effects: that he gambles with the
pensions of hundreds of workers, that some one has suffered a heart
attack, that the cobalt which goes in the beer may be poisonous to its
drinkers does not enter JR’s consciousness.
JR, then, speaks with the master’s voice, but his overheard
speech is made up of the collected fragments of an atrocious banality,
wholly lacking in integrity and originality.
In this, JR, like his older double, Governor Cates, embodies the
corporate subject that acts as a conduit for the exchange of information
while (as the novel goes on) increasingly losing control over that
exchange. While this loss of
control may portend some resistance to the novel’s overbearing and
interlocking language systems, the infinite replaceability of the
novel’s speakers, whatever their location in the discourse, suggests
Finally, in regarding the types of speech one encounters in JR,
we can consider briefly the so-called conversations that take place
between several speakers: in these instances, the parallels one hears
between discussions in the corporation board rooms and those between
teachers and administrators in the principal’s office suggest the
thoroughgoing instrumentality of language that Gaddis fears pervades every
level of human existence. What
follows is a fragment of a discussion in the office of Whiteback, the
president of a local bank and the principal at JR’s Long Island
elementary school; part of what one hears in the background is the sound
track from a television set tuned to various classes taking place at this
school which is gradually “converting” to instruction by television:
--My wife’s taping something this morning, Mister diCephalis got
in abruptly. A resource program . . . .
[O]n silkworms, she has her own Kashmiri records...
--If your Ring isn’t ready, your Wagner, what is there?
--My Mozart. She hung
up the telephone and dialed again.
--No answer, I’ll call and see if my visuals are ready . . . .
profit on a business was sixty-five hundred dollars a year.
He finds his expenses were twenty-two and one half percent of this
profit. First, can you find
the net profit?
--What’s that? demanded Hyde, transfixed by unseeing eyes
challenging the vacant confine just over his head.
--Sixth grade math. That’s
Glancy . . .
--Try switching to thirty-eight.
cost of the...combustion in these thousands of little cylinders in our
muscle engines. Like all
engines, these tiny combustion engines need a constant supply of fuel, and
we call the fuel that this machine uses, food.
We measure its value...
--Even if the Rhinegold is ready it’s Wagner, isn’t it?
But if the Mozart is scheduled the classroom teachers, they’re
ready with the followup material from their study guides on Mozart.
They can’t just switch to Wagner.
value of the fuel for this engine the same way, by measuring how much heat
we get when it’s burned . . .
--That’s a cute model, it gets the right idea across.
--Vogel. He made it
himself out of old parts.
--Some of them might never even have heard of
--No, the voice.
--That’s Vogel, the coach.
we call energy. Doing a
regular day’s work, this human machine needs enough fuel equal to about
two pounds of sugar...
--If they thought it was Mozart’s Rhinegold and get them all
mixed up, so you can’t really switch.
--He put it together himself out of used parts.
The “model” of discourse we are offered here is one made of
fragments and ellipses that—given over to
instrumentality—simultaneously defy totalization. Gaddis’s discursive enjambments project an entropic world
of “noise” in which its parts or subjects—whether it is Wagner’s
opera, mathematics, the workings of the human body, or silkworms—are
eminently interchangeable, just as someone suggests that “it doesn’t
matter” if it’s Wagner’s Ring or Mozart’s.
As Vogel’s model suggests, the novel insists upon the connection
to be made between speech and corporeal identity as being a collection of
fragments comprised of replaceable parts: near the end of the novel,
Cates, who is in the hospital “just . . . to have a plug changed”
(688), is described by a longtime companion as a lot of old parts stuck
together he doesn’t even exist he started losing things eighty years ago
he lost a thumbnail on the Albany nightboat and that idiot classmate of
his Handler’s been dismantling him ever since, started an appendectomy
punctured the spleen took it out then came the gall bladder that made it
look like appendicitis in the first place now look at him, he’s
listening through somebody else’s inner ears those corneal transplants
God knows whose eyes he’s looking through . . . . (708)
Cates suffers this tirade while attempting to have a phone installed in
his hospital room so he can conduct business even while undergoing an
inner ear transplant, a conduct which involves speaking in a more adult
version of JR’s discourse and forging deals to the detriment of everyone
from Native Americans to the inhabitants of a third-word nation ruled by
the tyrannical Doctor De. And,
the political argument of the novel runs, it is precisely because there is
such a severing of speech from agency in what Baudrillard would refer to
as the contemporary hyperreal”
that business can, in Cates’ and JR’s domain, continue as usual,
regardless of its “contents” and affects.
As is indicated by the lack of syntactical markers in the
description of Cates’ body, the novel’s ongoing, discontinuous
language is without origin or end (one feels that Gaddis could have made
the novel twice as long or half as short), and flows through the
haracters and instruments of JR, allowing them positions of
authority along discursive chains. But
no one is in charge of this system. Here
the link that Gaddis wishes to forge between language and capital is most
strong: both flow through the world as inheritances and mediums of
exchange in what appear to be systems of mastery, but—in the paradox the
novel enforces—systems, like runaway inflation, gone out of control. (9)
In many of these senses, JR might be seen as Gaddis’s Gatsby, a
parody of the self-making impulses played out in the arena of the American
marketplace that made Gatsby “great” in Nick Carraway’s mind; one
essential difference between the two novels resides in the status of the
vocal subject as a kind of cipher or medium in JR, hardly available
to the backfill mythologizing employed in the constructions of Gatsby or
Daisy (whose voice is “full of money,” but who can also stand as the
romanticized object of desire). In
JR the illusion of voice as the vehicle or medium of interiority is
thoroughly dissolved; rather, voice, like everything in the novel, becomes
a commodity. In a
conversation between Bast and Gibbs, who, after being fired as a teacher,
attempts to take up his long languishing book-in-progress on the social
history of the mechanization of the arts, there emerges a figure
representing the nature of voice in the novel:
--Problem writing an opera Bast you’re up against the worst God
damned instrument ever invented [i.e., the human throat] . . . .—Asked
me to tell you about Johannes Muller didn’t you?
Told you you’re not listening I’m talking about Johannes
Muller, nineteenth-century German anatomist Johannes Muller took a human
larynx fitted it up with strings and weights to replace the muscles tried
to get a melody by blowing through it how’s that.
--Yes it sounds quite...
--Thought opera companies could buy dead singers’ larynxes fit
them up to sing arias save fees that way get the God damned artist out of
the arts all at once, long as he’s there destroying everything in their
God damned path what the arts are all about, Bast?
(288) Like Vogel’s model of human muscular action, Muller’s
experiment attempts to transform the instrument of human voice into a
machine that (like the phonograph) will reproduce the same voice through
the ages, thereby fulfilling the aesthetic dream of permanence but
eliminating the need for the human agent in the process.
On the one hand, Muller’s preposterous experiment, if successful,
would fulfill the modernist dream of authorial distancing in ways that
Joyce had never thought possible, but the paradox of that desire
(detachment accompanied by increased, totalizing control over the elements
and relations of the created “world”) is sundered in JR by its
complicity with the commodification of art.
If the source or origin of the singer’s voice could be removed,
so Gibbs’ parodic argument runs, and a way could be found to reproduce
that voice on command for the listening audience, then money could be made
since it is less expensive to own or display a reproduction than an
original. In fact, Muller’s
zany idea has come to pass in the “age of mechanical reproduction,”
where the detachment of the art from the artist and its mass
replication—its sheer reproducibility—determines its nature.
“Voice” fulfills these conditions in JR.
In one of the novel’s more fantastic sequences, Muller’s
Frankensteinian experiment is renewed by Vogel himself in the invention of
the “Frigicom” process which is described in one of Davidoff’s press
releases (read over the phone to a secretary):
New York, Frigicom, comma, a process now being developed to solve the
noise pollution problem comma may one day take the place of records comma
books comma even personal letters in our daily lives comma, according to a
report released jointly today by the Department of Defense and Ray hyphen
X Corporation comma member of the caps J R Family of Companies period new
paragraph. The still secret
Frigicom process is attracting the attention of our major cities as the
latest scientific breakthrough promising noise elimination by the
placement of absorbent screens at what are called quote shard intervals
unquote in noise polluted areas period operating at faster hyphen than
hyphen sound speeds a complex process employing liquid nitrogen will be
used to convert the noise shards comma as they are known comma at
temperatures so low they may be handled with comparative ease by trained
personnel immediately upon emission before the noise element is released
into the atmosphere period the shards will then be collected and disposed
of in remote areas or at see comma where the disturbance caused by their
thawing will be make that where no one will be disturbed by their impact
upon thawing period new paragraph. While
development of the Frigicom process is going forward under contract to the
cap Defense cap Department comma the colorful new head of research and
development at the recently revitalized Ray hyphen X Corp Mister make that
Doctor Vogel declined to discuss the project exclusively in terms of its
military ramifications comma comparing it instead to a two hyphen edged
sword forged by the alliance of free enterprise and modern technology
which promises to sever both military and artistic barriers at one fell
swoop in the cause of human betterment period.
literalization of Pater’s “frozen music” (as
notes)--the spatialization of Venetian beauty—is but the most extreme
example of the novel’s pervasive utilitarianism, where everything is
made available to commodification in Gaddis’s terms: dislocated,
unoriginal (that is, separated from the point or source of origin),
infinitely repeatable. The
Frigicom process promises a kind of vocal dystopia characteristic of the
“hi-tech” excesses of postmodern culture that Gaddis satirizes in this
absurd invention. If it could work, the “noise pollution” of busy freeways,
office buildings, shopping malls can be frozen and carted off to sea, but
like so many contemporary technological “advances,” it creates more
problems than it solves: how will the noise affect the ecology in those
remote areas where it is dumped? Will
the reduction in noise pollution serve to convey the illusion that
“progress” is being made with the more serious problem of air
pollution? Since the military
is, inevitably, involved, how will this “two-edged sword” which
promises to homogenize culture to the extent that “military and artistic
barriers” can be severed (a process already under way, in Gaddis’s
mind, as art becomes increasingly commodified and, thus, increasingly a
subset of the “miltary-industrial complex”) be used for destructive
“non-polluting” noise bomb? Perhaps
the idea is not so fictive in a society that can seriously pursue the
manufacture of a neutron bomb that will kill people but preserve
architecture—“frozen music,” indeed.
The figure of voice generated by Davidoff’s summary of the
Frigicom process suggests that contemporary technocracies are “closed
loops,” circular and tautological in nature. Davidoff reads a press release into the phone while a
secretary transcribes his remarks on the other end of the line: writing is
thus converted by voice into writing again in a complex and circular
series of exchanges wherein “voice” becomes, merely, the
ventriloquizing of the already-written, just as Davidoff is merely the
mouthpiece for organizational propaganda.
If “voice,” this last illusory vestige of singularity or
alterity, can be figured so, then what, if anything, does Gaddis leave us
with? Is there any
“escape” from the novel’s closed systems of commodification and
Interestingly, in a Paris Review interview, Gaddis
in response to readers like John Gardner who see the novel as a chronicle
of “the dedicated artist crushed by commerce,” that JR does
contain “a note of hope”:
starts with great confidence. He’s
going to write a grand opera. And
gradually, if you noticed his ambitions shrink. The grand opera becomes a cantata where we have the orchestra
and the voices. Then it
becomes a piece for orchestra, then a piece for small orchestra, and
finally at the end he’s writing a piece for unaccompanied cello, his own
that is to say, one small voice trying to rescue it all and say, “Yes,
there is hope.” Again, like Wyatt, living it through, and in his adventure
with JR having lived through all the nonsense he will rescue this one
small hard gem-like flame, if you like.
clearly intends Bast in JR, like Wyatt in _The Recognitions_, to be
a portrait of the artist as one who achieves a minimalist redemption by
withstanding the pressures of utilitarianism and capitalism in order to
produce, in a post-romantic, post-modern gesture, not a self-generated
cosmos to place over against the material universe, but merely a “small
piece.” It is curious that
the author casts this redemption in terms of “a small voice,” a
“hard gem-like flame” not so different, imagistically at least, from
the “noise shards” of the Frigicom process: like the Frigicom process,
in the writing of JR Gaddis takes noise and voice from the welter
of everyday life, “freezes” it into inscription, then “dumps” it
into the separated confines of the book where it dispersed to the reader.
Writing and voice are thus often conflated in Gaddis’s fiction,
so that the figures of voice that appear there may be also taken for
figurations of writing. For Gaddis to insist that Bast has a voice of his
own—however small—is a contradiction in a novel where voice has been
so thoroughly transmuted and dispossessed.
This irony is compounded by the fact that Bast’s “small
voice” is preserved (if it is preserved) within—or transmitted
by—such a noisy, massive novel which itself, in its bulk and (to use
LeClair’s phrase again) excessiveness, stands as a production of and
within late capitalist culture. In essence, Gaddis’s medium confutes the intended message:
it articulates the small voice of artistic individualism promised for Bast
in a figure at least once remove from the novel itself.
There are, of course, those instances—particularly in the more
manic moments of Bast’s or Gibbs’s speech—where it appears that
there is a rupture in the overarching, interloc[ked]utory discursive
orders of the novel. The novel as a whole may be taken as “commentary” on
these orders, as most of the language issuing from them bears clearly
parodic intonations; yet it may be argued that the parody of, for example,
legalese in Coen’s speeches both undercuts the authenticity of his
circular discourse as well as it is born of it.
Gaddis’s parody is so systematic in its encyclopedic
anatomization of capitalist society in JR that it becomes a
discursive, parasitic “order” that replicates, in part, what it
parodies: as Michel Serres has argued, “the strategy of criticism is
located in the object of criticism,” or, to revise this slightly for
Gaddis, the strategies of parody are located in and reproduce the object
of parody (Serres 38). The
parody of “voice” in Gaddis takes place in a kind of “hermeneutic
circle” where parodic intonation occurs not as a deconstruction or
transcension of a given discursive arrangement, but as a fractured
repetition (an echoing) of that arrangement.
Thus, even in those moments of “madness” entertained variously
by Bast and Gibbs—moments in which we might expect some note of alterity
to emerge from the welter of words—we hear, in a sense, “the same.”
Emerging from his musician’s workroom after making love to his
cousin Stella, Edward Bast, angry at the discovery that Stella is trying
to use him and that the workroom has been vandalized, launches into a
--Kids...the policeman nodded past his elbow,--who else would shit
in your piano.
--You, you never can tell...he stared for an instant [. . . then]
turned with one step, and another as vague, to reach and tap a high C, and
then far enough to fit his hand to an octave and falter a dissonant chord,
again, and again, before he corrected it and looked up, --right?
Believing and shitting are two very different things?
--Never have to clean your toilet bowl again...he recovered the
dissonant chord, --right? [. . . Kids that’s all! a generation in heat
that’s all...he pounded two chords against each other’s unrest—no
subject is taboo, no act is forbidden that’s all...!
and he struck into the sailor’s chorus from Dido and Aeneas,
--you’ll never, no never, have to clean your [. . .] Rift the hills and
roll the waters! flash the lightnings...he pounded chords,--the pulsating
moment of climax playing teedle leedle leedle right inside your head...he
found a tremolo far up the keyboard.
[ . . . ] he hunched over the keys to echo the Ring motif in
sinister pianissimo, --he will hold the something better than his dog, a
little dearer than [ . . . ] --Rain or hail! or fire...he slammed another
chord, stood there, and tapped C.—Master tunesmith wait...he dug in his
pocket, --make a clean breast of the whole....
Edward’s is a patchwork of “motifs” and received linguistic
fragments, from popular advertising slogans (“You’ll never have to
clean your bowl again”) to phrases from the libretto of Wagner’s Ring.
The shattering of context and compression that occurs in such a
passage takes place as a reorchestration of the already-said.
Similarly, when Gibbs, who at one moment suggests to his lover, Amy
Joubert, that one needs to “change contexts” in order to break down
the homogenous nature of reality, but at the same time tells her that
“all I’ve ever done my whole God damned life spent it preparing, time
comes all I’ve got is seven kinds of fine God damned handwriting only
God damned thing they’re good for is misquoting other people’s . .
.” (487), we are led to question the effectiveness of shifting context,
fragmentation, and parodic quotation (those postmodern standbys) as
“responses” to JR’s monolithic discursive orders.
Rather, these instances suggest that such responses are all too
easily reincorporated into the systems of vocal and monetary exchange that
make up the “work” of the novel.
The problem, for Gaddis, may be that “voice” itself is “phallocentric,”
that is partaking of a discursive arrangement that Irigaray defines as the
reigning linguistic and philosophical paradigm of Western culture, in
which systematicity, logic, linearity, and dichotomizing join with systems
of economic exchange (actually serving, as in JR, as the language
of those systems) to produce a “male” order that is both
epistemological and social in its hierarchies (see Irigaray 68-85).
Gaddis comically hints at such a deterministic (and gendered)
possibility when he portrays diCephalis’ daughter, who has been secretly
reading her mother’s books on sexual practices in India, eating tongue
for dinner and commenting that it “looks like lingham” (312), that is,
a Hindu phallus worshipped in Shiva cults.
If the tongue, the instrument of voice, is thus connected to the
phallus, then it would seem that all “voicings” in JR may be
seen as falling within the closed circle of phallocentric discourse.
Yet there is, finally, something else — something “other” than
the unheard “small voice” of Bast or parodic vocal collage — that
exceeds voice in JR, even if it does not exceed the processes of
representation that legitimate the novel’s pernicious economies.
I refer to those brief respites from all the novel’s talk, those
small descriptive passages that serve as segues between one conversation
and another. Many of these contain lyrical descriptions of nature in
contrast to the entropic remnants of the American junkyard landscape, thus
reflecting one of Gaddis’s familiar themes: the destruction of “the
primitive” in modern technocratic culture.
These passages come as intermissions between conversations, and
while they serve to conduct the reader from one noisy venue to another,
they also act, in some sense, as “silences” or diegetic gaps in the
narrative. Among the most
important of these gaps are those containing descriptions of bodies
merging and in collision, for in such descriptions we may see in the
body—though always through the construction of figure and representation
which, as “writing,” is a form of disembodiment—an “alternative”
Gaddis describes one of Gibbs’s and Amy Joubert’s marathon
lovemaking sessions in this way:
his her own hand came, measuring down firmness of bone brushed past its
prey to stroke at distances, to climb back still more slowly, fingertips
gone in hollows, fingers paused weighing shapes that slipped from their
inquiry before they rose confirming where already they could not envelop
but simply cling there fleshing end to end, until their reach was gone
with him coming up to a knee, to his knees over her back, hands running to
the spill of hair over her face in the pillow and down to declivities and
down, cleaving where his breath came suddenly close enough to find its
warmth reflected, tongue to pierce puckered heat lingering on to depths
coming wide to its promise, rising wide to the streak of its touch,
gorging its stabs of entrance aswim to its passage rising still further to
threats of its loss suddenly real, left high agape to the mere onslaught
of his gaze knees locked to knees thrust deep in that full symmetry surged
back against all her eloquent blood spoke in her cheeks till he came down
full weight upon her, face gone over her shoulder seeking hers in the
pillow’s muffling sounds of wonder until they both went still, until a
slow turn to her side she gave him up and ran raised lips on the wet
surface of his mouth. (490)
This passage portrays a simultaneous mingling and separation of
bodies—both lyrical and violent—that at once infers and sunders what I
would term the “originary,” in the sense of the references to the
Empedoclean myths of origin that Gaddis scatters throughout the novel.
According to Gibbs, in a fragment from the second generation of
Empedocles’ cosmogony, “limbs and parts of bodies were wandering
around everywhere separately heads without necks, arms without shoulders,
unmatched eyes looking for foreheads . . . these parts are joining up by
chance, form creatures with countless heads, faces looking in different
directions” (45). This
second generation of chance assemblage and multiple body parts, I would
argue, represents an (as yet) voiceless, embodied response to the
commodified generation of which Gaddis writes; it is either regressive or
futurist, and Gibbs and Amy’s lovemaking is but a momentary enactment of
it. These are bodies not yet
formed into identities voicing commodified desires; they are pre-subjectival
in the Kristevan sense—neither the mass subject of late capitalist
economy, nor the nostalgically romanticized “individual.” (10)
These bodies are, at once, hetereogeneous and in conflict, and at
the same time, in a characteristic pun, they are mutually incorporative,
participating in communion: Amy’s (what? the specific body part is
indeterminate in the clutter of limbs) is “left high agape to the mere
onslaught of his gaze.” The
play on the word “agape” reveals the contradictions of these bodily
entanglements, for it suggests both “a gap” or a vacancy, a form of
separation (just as it suggests that Amy is detached and objectified
through Gibbs’s male gaze), and “agape,” or communion, a rite of
bodily incorporation; perhaps it is revealing of the paradox of this
bodily state in JR that Gibbs’s treatise on the social history of
the mechanization of the arts bears the word “agape” in its title.
These may be united bodies that represent a “corporate”
condition beyond or before “voice,” or they may be bodies in pieces in
a double-edged sense, both “before” capitalized subjectivity and
“after” it, that is, after the nostalgic, humanistic subject has
disappeared into the mass, technologized subject of postmodern
culture — save that Gaddis makes it clear that these are bodies, flesh and
blood, in conflict or communion.
Collectively, the bodies of JR may be perceived as the
“body without organs” described by Deleuze and Guattari as that which
exists beyond or before writing, voice, the formation of the body proper
and organization of identity, the negotiating of all our economies.
In _A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia_, Deleuze and
Guattari write that the body without organs is made in such a way that it
can be occupied, populated only by intensities.
Only intensities pass and circulate.
Still the BwO [the body without organs] is not a scene, a place, or
even a support upon which something comes to pass.
It has nothing to do with phantasy, there is nothing to interpret.
The BwO causes intensities to pass; it produces and distributes
them in a spatium that is itself intensive, lacking extension.
It is not space, nor is it in space; it is matter that occupies
space to a given degree—to the degree corresponding to the intensities
produced. It is nonstratified,
unformed, intense matter, the matrix of intensity, intensity = 0; but
there is nothing negative about that zero, there are no negative or
opposite intensities. Matter
equals energy. Production of
the real as an intensive magnitude starting at zero.
That is why we treat the BwO as the full egg before the extension
of the organism and the organization of the organs, before the formation
of the strata; as the intense egg defined by axes and vectors, gradients
and thresholds, by dynamic tendencies involving energy transformation and
kinematic movements involving group displacement, by migrations: all
independent of accessory forms because the organs appear and function here
only as pure intensities. (11)
Guattari and Deleuze, the “body without organs” is a condition of
being that follows after the dissolution of identity that the progression
from modernism to postmodernism portends, where the foundations of
“selfhood” in a singular or integral consiousness somehow separated
from the “lines of force” which signify the conflation of historical
and corporeal energies are questioned and sundered.
The body without organs is “deterritorialized,” in that it
represents a (non)-identity where the “self” is an intersection of
energies and intensities not distinguishable from each other in terms of
coming from within or coming from without, as belonging either to the body
or to the world.
The “body without organs” is, of course, yet another figure, a
prosopopoeia that provides us with “face” (the body) to peer through
to that which has neither shape nor substance—what Deleuze and Guattari
term “intensity”—but which provides the energy for life proper: in a
novel where all systems are unfailingly entropic, such bodily intensities
matter. This “source
matter” or intensity is non-hierarchical, ungendered, non-dichotomous,
and always in motion, yet, because the body without organs is both
unformed and allows this intensity to pass through it, “lead you to your
death,” in the sense that this “version” of the body (a version
enacted in Amy’s and Gibbs’s intercourse) lacks the systems and
structures (the organs) that direct and sustain “intensities.”
Hence, this figure of the body is both a figure of life and death,
both the unoriginary catalyst of “life” and its entropic
de-organization; in JR, it is a paradox set over against
“voice,” which issues from the organ of the larynx, and signifies the
insertion of the speaking subject into the discursive orders of Gaddis’s
technocracy. (12) Yet as a
“figure of speech,” that is, as a figure that appears in and through
writing (both Guattari and Deleuze’s theoretical fiction, and Gaddis’s
portrayal of Amy and Gibbs’s bodies), it inevitably partakes of those
orders, as much as it speaks outside of them.
In JR, Gaddis delineates the plight of the commodified
postmodern identity trapped, as it were, in the American marketplace: his
novel is clearly political in its concerns, in that it suggests an
inevitable complicity with thanatopic, bureaucratic systems — orders that
the novel both mocks and projects. Yet
in the novel’s contradictory figures of voice and the body, its
labyrinthine assemblage of “connections,” and its distended and
fractured conversations, there is the presence of “Gaddis,” who has
orchestrated the novel’s many voices, languages, and discourses into the
monolithic commodity that bears the title JR. In this, we confront a final paradox that Gaddis neither
resolves nor avoids. This
paradox can be stated as a skepticism regarding the foundational nature of
identity matched by corresponding desire to locate the “origins” of
identity, if not in voice, then in the body.
Here, the crucial task of figuring or disfiguring voice — of
representing the vocal projection of identity (or its discontents) as a
figure of speech — is carried out. It
is a task, or project, paradoxical in its own nature, for this figuring
and projection of voice generates a recognition of its own figurality, its
masking of the non-existent or pre-subjectival, even as it involves the
formation of an authorial “purpose” (the construction of this figure),
and, thus, an authorial identity. In JR identity is founded upon its own deformation,
and nowhere is this contradiction more apparent than in the up-surgings of
the “semiotic,” in those pressure points where the language breaks
down, where voice breaks up, and where coporeality intrudes; it is at
those points that the figurations of both are simultaneously made and
unmade. In JR, Gaddis
makes it clear, what follows after words or voice can only be expressed as
a sporadic and temporary intensification of life in the face of language.
Jean Baudrillard, 25, says that this “compulsion toward liquidity”
marks the capitalization of the human body, thus setting him at odds with
Irigaray, for whom “fluidity” is a mark of the radical otherness of
the feminine. This is a
“debate” carried on, to some extent, within the terms of Gaddis’s
See Walter Benjamin, 217-52. Benjamin
alternates between nostalgia for the lost authenticity of the truly
original work before the onset of technocratic era, and recognition of the
power of mechanical processes of reproduction to break through certain
barriers separating art from history and the public.
The contradictions of Benjamin’s position are replicated, I would
argue, in Gaddis’s fiction, particularly in The Recognitions and JR,
where “originality” is both parodied and made the subject of nostalgic
Tom LeClair notes the crucial connections between education and the
business world in JR: “They [JR and Governor Cates, the latter
the head of a huge conglomerate which subsumes the JR Corporation at the
end of the novel] are the Horatio Alger story at its two extremes — ragged
youth and old age — and the book moves to this rhythm.
JR shifts from the school, where J.R. is trained to profit,
to the adult corporate world, and concludes in a hospital [where Cates is
a patient] where the aged and the prematurely wasted have their end”
Marc Chenetier, 357; my translation.
Chenetier’s wide-ranging discussion of “voice” in
contemporary American fiction contained in his chapter, “La bouche et
l’oreille” (321-64) is an invaluable resource, and has been essential
to my understanding of voice in Gaddis and in postmodern literature.
Alan Singer has suggested how Gaddis’s Carpenter’s Gothic
as a critique of Bakhtin’s notions of subject and agency, as well as
participating in Bakhtinian “heteroglossia.” See Singer’s “The
Ventriloquism of History: Voice, Parody, Dialogue.”
Mann’s phrase occurs in “Psychoanalysis, the Lived Myth, and
Fiction,” in The Modern Tradition: Backgrounds of Modern Literature,
672; LeClair’s comments on Gaddis’s deconstructions of vocal immediacy
appear in _The Art of Excess_, 90.
For important discussions of the “paper empires” of JR and
their homologous relation to acts of writing and the exchanging of signs
see Steven Weisenburger and Joel Dana Black in In Recognition of
William Gaddis, 147-61 and 162-73 respectively.
For a discussion of the connections between language and excrement in JR,
see Stephen Moore, 76-80.
LeClair, in The Art of Excess, provides important commentary on
mastery in JR; cf. 87-105. LeClair’s
sense of “mastery” in the novel is somewhat different from that in
which I am using the term here: for LeClair, “mastery” resides in
Gaddis’s ability to provide an encyclopedic encompassing of the
excessive, noisy, interlocking discourses of contemporary reality.
My approach focuses on the lack of mastery at the
“micropolitical” or “microlinguistic” level, where individual
speakers in the novel give voice to a connective semiosis whose totality
(if it exists) is only partially available to them; more precisely, I
would argue, they speak as if a non-existent totality were theirs to
impose or deploy; therein lies the delusion of mastery in the novel.
Stephen Matanle discusses the fragmentation of bodies in JR in
light of the Empedoclean themes of “love” and “strife,” the novel
representing the contentions extreme of competition, dissociation,
discord. Our readings vary
significantly in my viewing Matanle’s (or Empedocles’) “strife” as
the upsurging of the “semiotic.”
Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, 153.
I am indebted here to John Johnston’s Carnival of Repetition:
The Recognitions and Postmodern Theory
Gaddis’s The Recognitions and Postmodern Theoryfor his compelling discussions of Deleuze and Guattari in relation to Gaddis’s first novel.
In Versions of Pygmalion (Cambridge: Harvard University Press,
1990), J. Hillis Miller writes evocatively of the “work” of
prosopopoeia and its paradoxical masking and projection of death.
See especially his chapter, “Death Mask: Blanchot’s L’arret
de mort,” 179-210.
Jean. Forget Foucault.
New York: Semiotext(e), 1987.
New York: Semiotext(e), 1987.
Walter. “The Work of Art in
the Age of Mechanical
Hannah Arendt. New York: Shocken, 1969.
Hannah Arendt. New York: Shocken, 1969.
Joel Dana. “The Paper
Empires and Empirical Fictions of William Gaddis.”
In Recognition of William Gaddis. Ed.
John Kuehl and Steven Moore. Syracuse,
NY: Syracuse UP, 1984. 162-73.
Marc. Au-dela du soupcon: La
nouvelle fiction americaine de 1960 a nos jours.
Paris: Seuil, 1989.
Giles and Felix Guattari. A
Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia.
Trans. Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1987.
Zolt n Ab. “The Art of
Fiction CI: William Gaddis.” Paris
Review (1988): 71-2.
1975. New York:
Luce. “The Power of
Discourse and the Subordination of the Feminine.”
This Sex Which is Not One. Trans.
Catherine Porter. Ithaca:
Cornell UP, 1985. 68-85.
John. Carnival of
Repetition: Gaddis’s The Recognitions and Postmodern Theory.
Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1990.
Tom. The Art of Excess:
Mastery in Contemporary American Fiction.
Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1989.
Stephen. “Love and Strife
in William Gaddis’s JR.”
In Recognition of William Gaddis. 106-18.
Steven. William Gaddis.
Boston: Twayne, 1989.
Vincent. Self and Form in
Modern Narrative. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1989.
Avital. The Telephone Book:
Technology, Schizophrenia, Electric Speech.
Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1989.
Edward W. “On
Originality.” The World,
The Text, and the Critic. Cambridge:
Harvard UP, 1983. 133.
Michel. “Michelet: The
Soup.” Hermes: Literature,
Science, Philosophy. Ed.
Josue V. Harari and David F. Bell. Johns
Hopkins UP, 1982. 38.
Alan. “The Ventriloquism of
History: Voice, Parody,
Dialogue.” _Intertextuality and Contemporary American
Ed. Richard Ellmann and Charles Feidelson, Jr.
New York: Oxford UP, 1965.
Steven. “Paper Currencies:
Reading William Gaddis.” In
Recognition of William Gaddis. 147-61.
|Copyright © 1991 by Patrick J. O’Donnell, all rights reserved. Postmodern Culture v.1 n.2 (January, 1991)|