AbstractsLanguage, Literature & Linguistics


Borges saw narrative as the bearer of universally re-combinable elements. Although these elements seem sequential, their essential formal integrity guarantees their rearrangement to generate new narratives. The ficción lives beyond its author. However, Borges’ ontological anxieties also have a life of their own that undermines the ficción’s assimilative potential. By developing poetic and linguistic insights Borges creates immortal text through the construction of a symbolic repertoire. Each element of the repertoire has its genesis in the author’s personal development. This history is archaeologised in the early poetry and mediated through a theory of metaphor and the reader’s interaction with the text. Borges sees no need for a Freudian reading theory. Instead he develops an antipsychological poetics. He enlists the reader as a willing participant in the text by a dual strategy of symbolic incorporation. Firstly, readers identify with characters through vicarious emotional prediction. Secondly, he refreshes the reader’s participation by presenting emblematic devices serving as sub-text to enhance symbolic participation. Together these strategies constitute a ‘magic causality’ of negotiated textual interpretation continually operating in his narratives. But the discipline of magic causality also conceals a rhetoric of presence establishing counter-motivational effects to disturb symbolic incorporation at the level of genre. The dissertation extracts key features for scrutiny from Borges’ early literary theory and criticism, elaborating them into a general aesthetic programme. It examines biographical influences in shaping his critical and creative work. It problematises his texts from the point of view of his ideas about linguistics, their identity as contributions to the genre of the ficción, and the centrality of metaphor and analogy as interpretative strategies. I use a number of approaches for this enterprise, including biographical criticism (ontological preoccupations), substitutional analysis (temporal subjectivity), linguistic interpretation (theory of metaphor), literary criticism (readerly reception), structuralism (readerly incorporation), and deconstruction (rhetoric of suppression). The dissertation pragmatically investigates, and contests, Borges’ assimilative poetics of textual presence.