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Title: The perfectly happy castrato and the negative mirror : claircognoscence and reader sympathy
Author: Sargent, Colin W.
Awarding Body: Lancaster University
Current Institution: Lancaster University
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis consists of my novel and reflections on how it works, presented as an 80/20 split. The Perfectly Happy Castrato imagines the life and times of the last singer on earth to be dismembered in the name of beauty. How can Raffi Peach, an anomaly in the Roaring Twenties, discover meaning in a world that shuns him, and with whom will he find it? The companion piece is "The Negative Mirror: Claircognoscence and Reader Sympathy." It ponders why we, as readers, might be drawn into this figure's situation on the deepest levels of self-interrogation. Together, they are a response to my belief that cultural castration, or the sense of being marooned by society, is a trait readers unconsciously desire in a main character with whom they identify. My exegesis will demonstrate this fascination in the canon and suggest that, post-Freud and pre-Freud, because we all feel we're missing something on an ontological level, we will voyeuristically project ourselves even unto the fortunes of a wretch who is ennobled by his or her struggle to this extreme. Next, this thesis will demonstrate that, as a gentleman from a subliminal Indiana, Raffi Peach can most artistically stand in for a contemporary reader if the story is a variation on a Menippean or Varronian satire. To the degree that Raffi Peach succeeds as a "metasemiotic vehicle" (see footnote #14) without sexual eclat-viz. "with that special nothing"-he'll have embodied Keats's notion of negative capability as a figure for the reader and explored not just the "indeterminate middle ground ... between the [polar] extremes of gender" (see footnote # 14) but the shadow land unfolding between the story and the reader himself. I will then consider the harmony between the myopic "modernity" of Raffi's xenophobic Boston and psychosexually disturbing events in the 21st century and reflect on how these intentional resonances deepen my project. Further, I will isolate elements of the dynamic sublime that are so palpable in Raffi's cognitive universe that buildings crowd their sails and rush toward him. In this sense, setting is character. iii Finally, we will slip inside the negative mirror, enter the text, account for the "rosy sadism" (see footnote #30) of a reader's intruding upon a character's private thoughts (as Althusser writes, "no reader is innocent"- see footnote #31), and consider how Raffi's gift for seeing "into the present" can best be revealed with a third-person claircognoscent point of view. Considering the mystical implications of his referred omniscience, he verges on being the reader himself.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available