11.10.12

Samuel Frederick, Narratives Unsettled: Digression in Robert Walser, Thomas Bernhard, and Adalbert Stifter

Jen Craig assesses a new literary study

Jen Craig (Being in Lieu):
It is appropriate that I should first write about Samuel Frederick’s new book, Narratives Unsettled: Digression in Robert Walser, Thomas Bernhard, and Adalbert Stifter, on this blog, which itself is nothing but a collection of many digressive acts. In fact, I'll start with one: The Oxford English Dictionary credits Chaucer with being the first to use the term in English, in the sense of ‘[d]eparture or deviation from the subject in discourse or writing’: ‘It were a long disgression Fro my matere’, Troilus & Criseyde i. 87 (143). Almost from the very beginning of vernacular English fiction, then, the digressive possibility is noted and taken up in the very same breath: ah, the delight of breaking the fine crystal of one narrative illusion just as you are spinning the glass of another; the joy of fashioning a story from nothing more than a narrative voice. Of course digression is not exclusive to English and, as Frederick points out, neither it is confined to any particular literary period. In his Introduction, in an evocation of a small shuffling (digressive) dance, he describes the way his study has been organised to cover the work of three writers in their three distinct but not sequentially arranged moments in Germanic language literary history. [Read More]
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