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Journal of English Philology

Ed. by Kornexl, Lucia / Lenker, Ursula / Middeke, Martin / Rippl, Gabriele / Stein, Daniel Thomas

CiteScore 2018: 0.22

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.130
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.336

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Volume 130, Issue 3


“Language is the only thing that lies”: linguistic scepticism in Rebecca Brown’s reinvention of literary minimalism

Lies Xhonneux
Published Online: 2012-10-19 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ang-2012-0503


When we talk about minimalism, we mainly talk about its two most canonical forms as embodied by Ernest Hemingway and Raymond Carver. Yet a discussion of the oeuvre of Rebecca Brown, a less familiar American author, offers one of the most interesting contemporary dialogues with this minimalist tradition, particularly in the context of linguistic scepticism. An awareness of the inaptness of language can be said to have instigated Hemingway’s formally sparse mode, while Carver too distrusted the abstract and abstracting language at his disposal. Although it would obviously be an anachronistic overstatement to ascribe a postmodern awareness of a compromised linguistic referentiality to Hemingway, reading his and Carver’s suspicion of language in tandem with Brown’s more clearly postmodern linguistic scepticism reveals minimalism as anything but a straightforward return to conventional realism, contrary to what many of its detractors maintain. Brown’s oeuvre, moreover, grants a central position to the postmodern practices of metafiction and irony. Thus it serves as an important complement to the minimalist tradition which, especially in its 1980s guise spearheaded by Carver, started precisely as a rejection of such narrative devices. By discussing and dramatizing the limits of language, Brown, as a lesbian writer, also creates an awareness of the heightened challenge the topic of representation presents for silenced ‘nonsubjects’.

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Published Online: 2012-10-19

Published in Print: 2012-10-01

Citation Information: Anglia - Zeitschrift für englische Philologie, Volume 130, Issue 3, Pages 378–400, ISSN (Online) 1865-8938, ISSN (Print) 0340-5222, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ang-2012-0503.

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