An enlightening study of three writers, Flaubert, Joyce and Beckett: The Stoic Comedians begins with an explanation of the effect of the printing press on books. The "book as book" has been removed from the oral tradition by such features...
An enlightening study of three writers, Flaubert, Joyce and Beckett: The Stoic Comedians begins with an explanation of the effect of the printing press on books. The "book as book" has been removed from the oral tradition by such features as prefaces, footnotes, and indexes. Books have become voiceless in some sense—they are to be read silently, not recited aloud. How this mechanical change affected the possibilities of fiction is Kenner's subject.
Each of the three featured authors approached this situation in a unique, yet connected way: Flaubert as the "Comedian of the Enlightenment," categorizing man's intellectual follies; Joyce as the "Comedian of the Inventory," with his meticulously constructed lists; and Beckett as the "Comedian of the Impasse," eliminating facts and writing novels about a man alone writing.
Hugh Kenner (1923-2003) was perhaps the greatest Anglophone literary critic of the 20th century: no other figure has been so instrumental in our understanding of modernism and its key figures, or so crucial to the development of new ways to think about new literature. He was that rare thing, a critic whose writing is so deft and mind so vivid that his criticism attains the condition of poetry; in that sense, he must be ranked beside Benjamin, Coleridge, and Goethe. He also wrote a book-length study of Chuck Jones cartoons, an introduction to geodesic math, and one of the first user's manuals for personal computing. Kenner taught at UC Santa Barbara, Johns Hopkins, and the University of Georgia.