The Formal Center in Literature
Title Details

204 Pages

22.8 x 15.2 cm

Series: Studies in English and American Literature and Culture

Imprint: Camden House

The Formal Center in Literature

Explorations from Poe to the Present

by Richard Kopley

  • Description
  • Contents
  • Author
  • Reviews
An investigation of the phenomenon of the framed formal center in literature of the last 180 years, illuminating both the works and correspondences among works of different genres, periods, and nations.
This book concerns the framed center in selected literary works of the 19th to 21st centuries. Such a center involves a critical passage bracketed by two halves of a text that feature language and/or plot that mirror each other. Recognizing the author's formal emphasis on the critical central passage encourages a thoughtful attention to it. Like other literary techniques, including allegory and metaphor, the framed center does not provide a single meaning, but rather makes possible varied meanings depending on the work. And often it features other literary patterns, including parallelism, chiasmus, mise en abyme, and allusion. There have been book-length studies of the framed center in literary works from the Bible through Tristram Shandy, but no such studies have addressed more recent literature. This book's analysis of the framed center in literature of the last 180 years - in works by Poe, Hawthorne, Melville, Thoreau, Carroll, Joyce, Anderson, Hemingway, Hammett, Chandler, Highsmith, Oates, and Zadie Smith - advances interpretation of the design itself and of the individual works, yielding critical breakthroughs. It alsoreveals hitherto unknown correspondences among works of different genres, periods, and nations. This book is a work of practical criticism with substantial interpretive consequences, and it is accessible to a broad audience.
Introduction
"Mournful and Never-Ending Remembrance" in Edgar Allan Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym
Retracing Our Steps in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Man of the Crowd"
"Scrutinizing the Parchment More Closely": The Form of "The Gold-Bug" and Its Relationship to That of the Dupin Tales
Form and Reform in Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Earth's Holocaust"
The Circle and Its Center in Herman Melville's "Bartleby, the Scrivener"
Chiasmus in Henry David Thoreau's Walden
The Mythological Centers of Lewis Carroll's Alice Books
Table as Text in James Joyce's "The Dead"
The Structure of Sherwood Anderson's "Hands"
The Architecture of Ernest Hemingway's "The Three-Day Blow"
Balance in Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon
Framing Caesar in Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep
The Ridge of the Domino in Patricia Highsmith's Strangers on a Train
The "X in the Air" in Joyce Carol Oates's "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?"
The Hybrid Center of Zadie Smith's White Teeth
Notes
Bibliography
Index

RICHARD KOPLEY is Distinguished Professor of English, Emeritus, Penn State University DuBois. He has published two monographs on Poe and has been editor of Resources for American Literary Study since 1992.

"[O]riginating mostly in the classroom, many of Kopley's chapters would furnish excellent texts to teach in combination with their primary materials, as they alert students to the formal aspects of literary writing. The historic and thematic breadth of the texts under discussion also adds to the persuasiveness of Kopley's argument for the relevance of the center, opening up intriguing possibilities for further chapters in the cultural history of the literary center. [...] [I]n drawing attention to a still strangely underdiscussed aspect of form, Kopley's ideas deserve to be in our center of attention." American Studies Quarterly
"Richard Kopley's The Formal Center in Literature presents a stimulating example of (very) close reading. [...] The rhetorical approach (along with close reading itself ) is worth promoting in an era of mass theory often divorced from actual texts. In the end, Kopley's intellectual game encourages its players to search for literary buried treasure. But finding the formal centre of texts has a more profound dimension: it offers general readers and students a new critical tool to develop their own skills of reading and analysis." Modern Language Review
"The Formal Center in Literature is a lively read that returns a consideration of form to the center of the reader's attention." Edgar Allan Poe Review

Hardcover

9781640140325

September 2018

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9781787443501

September 2018

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Title Details

204 Pages

2.28 x 1.52 cm

Series: Studies in English and American Literature and Culture

Imprint: Camden House