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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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‘Cues’: The Function of Unfamiliar Diction

‘Cues’: The Function of Unfamiliar Diction

(p.126) 8. ‘Cues’: The Function of Unfamiliar Diction
Attending Daedalus

Peter Wright


Focussing on Wolfe's use of eclectic and archaic vocabulary and nomenclature throughout The Urth Cycle, this chapter argues that such diction establishes a shifting kaleidoscope of adumbration and revelation that confronts the reader with the problem of determining when Wolfe's vocabulary serves to reveal and develop the texts’ themes and when it functions deflectively. It explores how Wolfe's replacement of sf's more usual neologistic experimentation with archaic reappropriations functions analogically, allusively, and thematically. Drawing on the work of Barthes and Iser, the chapter acknowledges that The Urth Cycle appears to be a writerly text par excellence yet rejects this easy conclusion by arguing that the texts’ obscure diction in an explosive textual strategy that leads the reader further from the reality of the narrative's cosmological structure and the god-game played by the Hierogrammates. It argues for a ‘literal’, or ‘vulgar’ (in Shoshana Felman's terms), reading of the texts’ obscure diction rather than an embracing of its discursive effects. It concludes by emphasising that the agents in Wolfe's storyworld act in context, in harmony with their own nature, regardless of their name or title.

Keywords:   Gene Wolfe, Urth cycle, Nomenclature, Language, Indeterminism, Gap theory, Writerly, Roland Barthes, Wolfgang Iser, Shoshana Felman

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