Performing the Novel: Vocal Poetics of Novelistic Discourse
Ledford, Julian Ainsworth
This dissertation aims to study the effect that poetics of voice—as relative to vocal performance within the realm of opera—have on the reception of novelistic discourse. Inspired by research done on plurivocality, plurilingualism, and musicality of novelistic discourse, I argue that the reception of novels is so greatly dependent on notions of voice and performance, that a comparative study of opera and the novel would reveal ways in which the reception of both genres could be theorized using similar critical tools. By conceptualizing the historicity of novelistic discourse, with performance and voice as its main markers, I discovered that, though seemingly disparate in their ilk and reception, the opera and the novel—because of their inheritance from oral performance, and the continued inclusion of remnants of this oral past in their separate discourses—allow themselves to be treated along similar lines of critical enquiry. Furthermore, it was discovered that the disappearance of the orator at the site of the early novel coincided with the explosion of literary writing in the nineteenth century. From these discoveries, I concluded that the reader of novelistic discourse plays the defunct role of “orator,” and is to be considered a paradoxical reader, as s/he who performs the text is also s/he who experiences the plural effects of the text’s reception.