Literary hoax as transgressive subtextual criticism: paratext and the epitextual milieu in the Floupette, Spectra and Ern Malley controversies

2017-03-01T02:42:07Z (GMT) by Philton
This hitherto unattended comparative study of three literary hoaxes (Floupette, Spectra, Malley) provides original contributions to scholarship of fake literature encapsulated by Ruthven (2000). ‘Transgressively-authored’ satire is distinguished from orthodox forms by its use of customised paratext, including fabricated personas, ‘transgressive’ defined as attributional modes which subvert conventional notions of authorship. The more specific ‘criticism hoax’ is identified as having been established by the reactions to Modernism of the three case-study hoaxes. The primary texts and their paratexts illustrate integration of the literary and fakery at the compositional level, and provide efficacious perspectives regarding tensions traditionally encountered in literature − between authorship and authenticity, text and author, text and paratext, text and reader − and those significant to Modernism − mimesis and non-representational form, interpretive standards and ideoculture, craft versus spontaneous writing. The methodology adapts Genette’s foundational work on paratext (1987) and its primary divisions of peritext (‘appendages’ to published texts such as title pages, promotional blurbs, author information, forewords) and epitext (promotion originating from the publisher, author, agents direct and indirect). To address the criticism-hoax purpose of targeting literary fashions, ‘epitext’ is extended to ‘epitextual milieu’ − the grouping of writers, publishers and readers who engage a particular vogue – which illustrates surprisingly elaborate undercover initiatives. Another synergistic adaption divides peritext into ‘packaging peritext’ − ‘outwardly facing’ items such as author, publisher, place of publication − and ‘prefatory peritext’ which includes dedications, forewords and introductions. The methodology also extends Wellek and Warren’s (1948) two principles of aesthetic-literary evaluation (sensibility and ratiocinative judgements) to include: paratext, the expitextual milieu, socio-cultural contexts, and the hoaxers’ dual role as critics and creative writers. Each hoax persona is identified switching between ‘multiple creative modes’: orthodox satire commensurate with the hoax intention; experimental writing that the real authors do not produce, targeted to the hoax purpose; conventional satire focused on targets different to the hoax purpose; experimental satire focused on matters different to the hoax purpose; experimentation with a spontaneous sensibility for which there is no readily discernible meaning; passages and complete poems which are non-satirical writing. The value of transgressive works to criticism, especially for ‘New Aestheticism’ and similar approaches, is also demonstrated. Case-study deliberations contribute to their respective fields (including original identification of considerable allusions and sources – e.g. Floupette’s multiple use of Rimbaud’s dragonfly imagery, the significance of the Spectric reference to ‘poet-reviewers’, the influence of Basho and the political dimension in Malley’s poetry) and illustrate similarities and differences within key thesis components: primary-text close readings; packaging peritext and prefatory peritext; epitext and prior epitext; each epitextual milieu (including developments beyond hoaxer control); community responses to the hoax texts and their ‘exposures’; respective places within their national literatures including influence on subsequent works. Distinctive features of the Malley Hoax that developed an ongoing mythology with international influence, a factor absent from the Floupette and Spectra legacies, are identified. Benefits (and weaknesses) of considering author-generated paratext are demonstrated: e.g. a Floupette manuscript which revealed the hoaxers’ use of a title from another’s manuscript obtained before the latter’s publication, an ‘inside’ glimpse of intertextuality; and commentaries from Spectra and Malley authors regarding poïesis which facilitate synergistic interpretations or illuminate idiosyncratic creativity. Also highlighted is the significance of less attended factors including: metaparody; transgressive collaborative writing; reader considerations of a text’s quality compared to what the work represents for them; and literary fashion as a phenomenon rather than separate vogues. Chronologies for each hoax, previously unattended, are included.