Undoing 'you': blindness and second sight in the second-person novel

White, Kristian (2016) Undoing 'you': blindness and second sight in the second-person novel. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Wayne C. Booth’s famous claim in The Rhetoric of Fiction (1967) that “efforts to use the second person have never been very successful” is widely considered outdated in light of the many theoretical publications about second-person narrative that followed. What critics tend to overlook when dismissing Booth is that although shorter works of second-person narrative are relatively abundant and ever more frequently occurring, novels written entirely in second-person number only a few and, of these, only Michel Butor’s La Modification and Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City might be described as having wider literary appeal or success.
My ‘Creative and Critical’ project is an innovative way of thinking about what it is that gives the second-person novel its peculiar appeal and makes it so difficult to write. In turn, my observations from this research contribute to the understanding of second-person narrative as a whole. My research consists of two mutually informative parts: a novel entirely in second-person and a critical thesis that seeks to provide a different history of second-person narrative. By reading a range of second-person texts in conjunction with Sigmund Freud’s Some Remarks on a Case of Obsessive-Compulsive Neurosis: the ‘Rat Man’, Paul de Man’s Blindness and Insight, and other key works, I argue that what gives a novel like Butor’s or McInerney’s its appeal is a narrative strategy of ‘undoing’: set in motion by a moment of self-blinding, that instant where you realise that ‘you’ are not who you think you are, the second-person novel moves through a point of view of second sight, where you experience a world that derealises and denarrates all boundaries of conventional thinking.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0045 Theory. Philosophy. Esthetics > PN0045.5 Relation to and treatment of special elements, problems, and subjects
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 14 Nov 2016 15:22
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2019 09:28
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/65451

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