His Master's Voice: 
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)

from: http://jefferson.village.virginia.edu/pmc/text-only/issue.191/odonne-1.191

  [1]       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. 

[2]       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.

[3]       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)  Recorded and transcribed, the strikingly unique voice of Ella Fitzgerald is converted into a commodity that everyone can own and replay at will.

[4]       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”:

In 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.  (Pecora 27)

[5]       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).

[6]       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) 

[7]       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.

 [8]       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

James 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.  (10)

Coen’s 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.

[9]       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.

The 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)

[10]      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.

[11]      In the following passage, we overhear JR at the height of his empire, conversing with Bast about various business deals on a public telephone:         

--Hello 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)

The 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 otherwise.

[12]      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 . . . .

----gross 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.

----original 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.

----the 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.  Whose voice?

               --Vogel.  He made it himself out of old parts.



               --Some of them might never even have heard of

Wagner yet.

               --No, the voice.

               --That’s Vogel, the coach.

----that 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.  (28-29)

[13]      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.

[14]      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)

 Revealingly, 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)

 [15]      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.  Bast?

               --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.

[16]      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):

Dateline 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.  (527)

This literalization of Pater’s “frozen music” (as

Davidoff 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 purposes?  A “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 exchange?

[17]      Interestingly, in a Paris Review interview, Gaddis

suggests, 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”:

Bast 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.  (Di-Nagy 71-72)

Gaddis 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.

[18]      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.

[19]      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 high-pitched diatribe:

               --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....  (141-42)

[20]      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.

[21]      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” to voice.

[22]      Gaddis describes one of Gibbs’s and Amy Joubert’s marathon lovemaking sessions in this way:

From 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)

[23]      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.

[24]      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)

For 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.

[25]      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.

[26]      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.



(1)   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 novel.

(2)   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 longing.

(3)  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” (97).

(4) 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.

(5)  Alan Singer has suggested how Gaddis’s  Carpenter’s Gothic  can serve 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.”

(6)  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.

(7)  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.

(8)  For a discussion of the connections between language and excrement in JR, see Stephen Moore, 76-80.

(9)  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.

(10)  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.”

 (11)  Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, 153.  I am indebted here to John Johnston’s Carnival of Repetition: Gaddis’s The Recognitions and Postmodern Theory  for his compelling discussions of Deleuze and Guattari in relation to Gaddis’s first novel.

(12)  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.


 Works Cited

Baudrillard, Jean.  Forget Foucault.  Trans. Nicole Dufresne.  New York: Semiotext(e), 1987.

Benjamin, Walter.  “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.”  Illuminations.  Ed. Hannah Arendt. New York: Shocken, 1969.  217-52.

Black, 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.

Chenetier, Marc.  Au-dela du soupcon: La nouvelle fiction americaine de 1960 a nos jours.  Paris: Seuil, 1989.

Deleuze, Giles and Felix Guattari.  A Thousand Plateaus:   Capitalism and Schizophrenia.  Trans. Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1987.

Di-Nagy, Zolt n Ab.  “The Art of Fiction CI: William Gaddis.”  Paris Review (1988): 71-2.

Gaddis, William.  JR.  1975.  New York: Penguin, 1985.

Irigaray, 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.

Johnston, John.  Carnival of Repetition: Gaddis’s The Recognitions and Postmodern Theory.  Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1990.

LeClair, Tom.  The Art of Excess: Mastery in Contemporary American Fiction.  Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1989.

Matanle, Stephen.  “Love and Strife in William Gaddis’s JR.”  In Recognition of William Gaddis.  106-18.

Moore, Steven.  William Gaddis.  Boston: Twayne, 1989.

Pecora, Vincent.  Self and Form in Modern Narrative. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1989.

Ronell, Avital.  The Telephone Book: Technology, Schizophrenia, Electric Speech.  Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1989.

Said, Edward W.  “On Originality.”  The World, The Text, and the Critic.  Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1983.  133.

Serres, Michel.  “Michelet: The Soup.”  Hermes: Literature, Science, Philosophy.  Ed. Josue V. Harari and David F. Bell.  Johns Hopkins UP, 1982.  38.

Singer, Alan.  “The Ventriloquism of History: Voice, Parody,

Dialogue.” _Intertextuality and Contemporary American Fiction.  Ed. Richard Ellmann and Charles Feidelson, Jr.  New York: Oxford UP, 1965.

Weisenburger, 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)

back to Critical & Interpretative Essays index page

index || introductory & general || site search || Gaddis news
The Recognitions || J R || Carpenter's Gothic || A Frolic of his Own || Agapē Agape

All contents © 2000-2005 by the Gaddis Annotations site and the original authors, contributors, publishers, and publications.