Generic engineering : a study of parody in selected works of Oscar Wilde, James Joyce and Tom Stoppard

Van der Merwe, Stephen Gareth (2004-04)

Thesis (MA)-- Stellenbosch University, 2004.

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Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The following thesis develops a theory of parody as a multifunctional practice in relation to selected works of Oscar Wilde, James Joyce and Tom Stoppard. The study discusses parody as a mode of generic engineering (rather than a genre itself) with ideological ramifications. Based on an understanding of literary and non-literary genres as social institutions, this thesis describes the practice of parody as one of engineering generic or discursive incongruity with a particular cultural purpose in mind. In refiguring generic conventions, the parodist simultaneously reworks their implicit ideological premises. Parody hence comes to serve as a means of negotiating with "the world" through generic modification, and the notions of parodic social agency and cultural work are consequently central to this thesis. Focusing on The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest respectively, Chapters Two and Three discuss Wilde's use of parody, and especially parodic "word-masks", for subverting the aesthetic and social conventions of Victorian England, and covertly propagating a gay subculture through parodic injokes. Word-masks - central to Wildean parody - entail the duplicitous use of an object text / genre as a cover under which a parodist hides other meanings. If Wildean parody might be described as claiming a covert agency, Joycean parody must, in contrast, be acknowledged as expressing deep-seated political ambivalence. Chapters Four and Five of this thesis discuss Joyce's Ulysses with specific reference to his use of parody to conflate, relativize and problematize the dominant aesthetic and Irish nationalist discourses of the early twentieth-century. Joycean parody also demonstrates parodic ambivalence and this is especially evident in what might be called his "parodic patriotism". In contrast to Wilde's and Joyce's use of parody for the expression of subversive or progressive political views, Stoppard's parodies confirm conservative English values not only in their reification of the English canon but also in terms of the ideological premises with which they invest their hypotexts. Chapters Six and Seven examine how parody can serve as one of the ways in which modem artists have managed to come to terms with tradition. Focusing on Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and Travesties respectively, these chapters explore parody's capacity to function as tribute or homage to the writers of the past being parodied. Ultimately this thesis aims to demonstrate the continuum of parodic cultural work or effects of which parody, as a mode of generic engineering, is capable.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: In hierdie tesis word daar - met verwysing na geselekteerde werke van Oscar Wilde, James Joyce en Tom Stoppard - 'n teorie van parodie as multi-funktionele praktyk ontwikkel. Parodie word bespreek as 'n vorm van generiese manipulasie (eerder as 'n genre op sigself) met ideologiese implikasies. Op die basis van 'n vertolking van literêre en nie-literêre genres as sosiale instellings, beskryf hierdie tesis die praktyk van parodie as die bewerkstelling van generiese en diskursiewe ongelyksoortigheid met 'n besondere kulturele oogmerk in gedagte. In die herfigurering van generiese konvensies is die beoefenaar van parodie terselfdertyd besig om hulle geïmpliseerde ideologiese aannames te herbewerk. Parodie word dus 'n metode om met behulp van generiese modifikasie in omgang met "die wêreld" te verkeer; en die idee van die sosiale agentskap en kulturele aksie van parodie staan dus ook sentraal tot hierdie tesis. Hoofstukke Twee en Drie fokus onderskeidelik op The Picture of Dorian Gray en The Importance of Being Earnest. In hierdie twee hoofstukke word Wilde se gebruik van parodie bespreek, met besondere aandag aan sy parodiese "woordmaskers" om die estetiese en sosiale konvensies van Victoriaanse Engeland te ondermyn, asook sy bedekte propagering - deur middel van parodiese binne-grappe -- van 'n gay subkultuur. Sentraal tot Wilde se parodie is woordmaskers wat 'n dubbelsinnige gebruik van teks en genre inspan as 'n dekmantel waaronder die beoefenaar van parodie ander betekenisse verskuil hou. As Wilde se parodie beskryfkan word as bedekte bemiddeling oftussenkoms (covert agency), moet Joyce se parodie - as teenstelling - identifiseer word as 'n uitdrukking van diepliggende politiese ambivalensie. In Hoofstukke Vier en Vyf word Joyce se Ulysses bespreek met spesifieke verwysing na sy gebruik van parodie om dominante estetiese en Ierse nasionalistiese diskoerse van die vroeë twintigste eeu saam te voeg, te relativiseer en te bevraagteken.. Joyce se parodie illustreer ook parodiese ambivalensie - 'n aspek wat duidelik blyk uit wat sy "parodiese patriotisme" genoem kon word. In teenstelling met Wilde en Joyce se gebruik van parodie as uitdrukking van ondermynende of pregressiewe gesigspunte, bevestig Stoppard se parodie konserwatiewe Engelse waardes nie net in hulle vergestalting van Engelse kanoniese tekste nie, maar ook in terme van die ideologiese aannames wat hulle aan hul hipotekste toeskryf. Hoofstukke Ses en Sewe ondersoek hoe parodie kan dien as een van die weë waarlangs moderne kunstenaars daarin geslaag het om hulleself te versoen met tradiese. In Hoofstukke Ses en Sewe - waar daar onderskeidelik op Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead en Travesties gefokus word - word ook aandag geskenk aan die vermoë van parodie om te funksioneer as huldeblyk of eerbetoon aan skrywers wie se werke geparodieer word. Hierdie tesis poog om die kontinuum van parodiese kulturele werk te illustreer waartoe parodie, as 'n vorm van generiese manipulasie, in staat is.

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