Figural Language in the Novel: The Flowers of Speech from Cervantes to Joyce

Saldívar shows that deconstructive readings of novels remind us that we do not apprehend the world directly but through interpretive codes.

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This work draws an analogy between the problem of all authors of prose fiction and that of Ishmael, the narrator of Moby-Dick, who despairs of putting the circumstances of the hunt – “so mystical and well nigh ineffable” – in comprehensible form. Ramón Saldívar contends that a narrator’s initial task is to formulate a grammar and a syntax for the communication of the mystical, as well as the “everyday,” experience. Tracing this central undertaking in close readings from Cervantes, Stendhal, Melville, Hardy, and Joyce, he shows how modern narratives create an epistemological ground for coherent versions of the world.

Novels affirm the power of fiction to portray the horizons of knowledge and to dramatize the ways that the truths of human existence are created and preserved. Saldívar shows that deconstructive readings of novels remind us that we do not apprehend the world directly but through interpretive codes.

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