Interpreting Radical Metaphor in the Novel Experimental Fictions of Donald Barthelme, Thomas Pynchon, and Kathy Acker

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This study argues that the often-noted resistance to interpretation by these authors’ experimental fiction has to do with the radical functioning of metaphor in their texts. After an introductory discussion about the contemporary debates about metaphor and narrative, she examines each author’s work in various theoretical contexts such as cognitivist models, deconstruction, modernism and post-modernism, concentrating on a number of narrative strategies which she groups under the term piracy. The conclusion situates the metaphoric narrative in relation to the competing literary critical paradigms of postmodernist fiction.


“I want to applaud this study for the way it successfully resists the tendency to make these texts sound like the same (postmodern) text. . . . it is good to be reminded that fiction has much too much site-specific noise for that deconstructive insight to remain the principal goal of critical reading. . . the strength of this study is that de Zwaan recognizes how the fiction of each of these writers offers us a fascinating game, but one that must be played on its own terms. De Zwaan demonstrates for her readers some new strategies for those games, and she exhibits some fine moves of her own.” – Russell Brown

Table of Contents

Table of contents (main headings):
Preface; Foreword
1. Introduction: The Metaphoric Narrative
2. Not Waiting for Godot in America: The Beckett Signature; Barthelme’s Narrative Poetics (Snow White; The Dead Father; The King); Barthelme’s Metaphoric Narratives
3. Pynchon’s Asymmetrical Four
4. Acker’s Strategy of Plagiarism
5. Situating the Metaphoric Narrative
Bibliography; Index

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