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Attending DaedalusGene Wolfe, Artifice and the Reader$
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Peter Wright

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780853238188

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9780853238188.001.0001

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‘How the Whip Came Back’: Directing Reader Response1

‘How the Whip Came Back’: Directing Reader Response1

Chapter:
(p.104) 7. ‘How the Whip Came Back’: Directing Reader Response1
Source:
Attending Daedalus
Author(s):

Peter Wright

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.5949/liverpool/9780853238188.003.0007

Continuing the exploration of the literary game Wolfe plays with his reader, this chapter examines how Wolfe's subversion of the apparently reliable first person narrative form, the literary conventions of the autobiography, and the quest narrative may also serve as playful means of encouraging misinterpretation. Using close textual analysis and the work of Aleksandr Romanovich Luria, it exposes how Wolfe conceals the inherent unreliability of his narrator by providing him with an eidetic memory. This unreliability, it argues, is obscured further by The Urth Cycle's presentation as memoir-novel, a form which encourages an intimate reader-identification that opposes suspicion and scepticism. Nevertheless, it suggests, Wolfe provides sufficient textual clues to indicate his narrator's untrustworthiness, thereby elaborating the interpretative game played with the reader. This game, the chapter contends, is complicated further by the texts’ monomythic structure, which implies that The Urth Cycle is a genuine narrative of transcendence rather than an act of manipulative mythopoesis both within the storyworld and the reader's reception of the text. It concludes by arguing that The Urth Cycle is, in part, an appeal to the reader's scepticism, intended to overturn reader expectations and habitual literary suppositions.

Keywords:   Gene Wolfe, Urth Cycle, Aleksandr Romanovich Luria, Unreliable memory, Mnemonist, Eidetic memory, Autobiography, Quest, Monomyth, Scepticism

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