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||The Frame of the Critic: Poe, Borges, and the Detective Story|
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Edgar Allan Poe
Jorge Luis Borges
Paul de Man
||At the present time, we still find that the status of literary study remains in question. In comparison with natural sciences and social sciences, literary study is somehow unable to justify itself as a profession with a systematic methodology or a direct contribution to the world. Then how should a literary critic react to this situation, and how should literary study sustain itself in the present day? This essay is to reconsider these questions through reading the detective stories by Edgar Allan Poe and Jorge Luis Borges. While it reintroduces Paul de Man¡¦s ¡§The Rhetoric of the Blindness¡¨ into the discussion of the detective story, it touches on the problem of the detective story as a literary genre, and by doing so it will help us to reflect on the challenge brought by literature and the critic¡¦s role in the present context of literary study. |
In ¡§The Rhetoric of Blindness,¡¨ de Man demonstrates how literature challenges the critic: on one hand, the rhetoricity of literary text inevitably causes misreading; on the other hand, the critic¡¦s inevitable misreading reaffirms the mutual dependence between the literary text and the critic. Through reading the detective stories written by Poe and Borges, I suggest that the detective story is unique in presenting the detective¡¦s method and his success, and this genre also challenges its reader: in the case of Poe, the rhetoricity of the detective story revealed through the detective¡¦s method and the detective¡¦s success again makes the story potentially misread. Nonetheless, Borges¡¦s ¡§Death and the Compass¡¨ prefigures the relationship between literary text and the critic through the timeless rivalry between the detective and the criminal. However, through reexamining the intertextual relationship of these detective stories, I show that misreading is inevitable both to the text and the critic. Therefore, reintroducing de Man into the discussion of the detective story explains further the implication of the relationship between literary text and the critic. Since the critic¡¦s misreading is also a challenge to literature, the critic¡¦s inevitable dependence on literature should not be taken as the end of literary criticism but rather be very basis of the critic¡¦s work. Literary critics, in this manner, should seriously consider the implication of the challenge brought by literature, which may suggest some problem about the critical reading. It is this act of the reflection that will justify the critic¡¦s work, the text he reads, and literary study as well.
|Table of Content
||Introduction: The Abyss and the Ground|
Chapter 1 The Frame of the Critic
Chapter 2 The Frame of the Detective
Chapter 3 The Play of the Detective Story
A Closing Remark: Nothing Succeeds Like a Success
||Borges, Jorge Luis. ¡§Death and the Compass.¡¨ Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings. Ed. Donald A. Yates & James E. Irby. NY: A New Direction Book, 1964. 76-87. |
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