Fictional encyclopaedism in James Joyce, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Roberto Bolaño: towards a theory of literary totality

Ward, Kiron (2017) Fictional encyclopaedism in James Joyce, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Roberto Bolaño: towards a theory of literary totality. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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This thesis makes an intervention in the recent proliferation of work on encyclopaedism in
fiction. By taking James Joyce’s Ulysses, Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead, and
Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 as its case studies, the project proposes that fictional encyclopaedism
can be read through the responses authors make to the diverse forms that encyclopaedic
thought and practice has taken throughout history. In this, I contend, ‘encyclopaedism’ can
be dissociated from its commonplace conflation with ‘great white male’ theories of literature,
and refigured as a literary category with the potential to restructure, or decolonise, both our
sense of ‘greatness’ and ‘mastery’ in fiction and our idea of the world as a complete and
coherent totality.

The project is divided into five sections. The introduction establishes the relationship
between encyclopaedism and totality through a reading of the Encyclopaedia Britannica’s ‘Great
American Indian Leaders’ exhibition in the 1980s, drawing particularly on the theoretical
work of Gerald Vizenor and Walter D. Mignolo and on historians of encyclopaedism. The
first and second chapters look to the ways Joyce and Silko, respectively, critique and re-tool
specific forms of encyclopaedism, with Ulysses focusing on the Britannica and Almanac of the
Dead reaching back to the encyclopaedic practices that gave epistemic shape to the European
‘conquest,’ or invasion, of the Americas (particularly those of Bartolomé de Las Casas). Both
authors, I propose, imagine new, radical, decolonial encyclopaedisms that work by opening
themselves up to their own productive failures. The third chapter explores how Bolaño uses
2666 to identify potential encyclopaedisms immanent to the contemporary, particularly
through his dialogue with Julio Cortázar’s Hopscotch. The conclusion synthesises the three
authors’ forms of fictional encyclopaedism into the beginnings of a theory of literary totality
as ‘totality-without-totality,’ along the lines of Jacques Derrida’s ‘messianism-without-messianicity.’

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN3311 Prose. Prose fiction > PN3338 Relation to and treatment of special subjects > PN3352 Other special, A-Z > PN3352.K56 Knowledge
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 03 Jul 2017 12:49
Last Modified: 06 Aug 2018 07:04

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