Character as a Vanishing Point in American Experimental Fiction

Open access


My paper discusses the construction of character in some American experimental narratives within the optical paradigm of the vanishing point. In a first part the investment of the pictorial notion of the vanishing point in Faulkner’s Light in August will be discussed as an instance of the occasional confrontation in Modernist fiction of the limits of literary representation, even if the pictorial category is adapted (and so limited) to the specific issue of biracial identity. In a second part, William Gass’s short story “Mrs. Mean” and Paul Auster’s The Locked Room will be examined as instances of a sustained critical recasting of the very concept of character. The trope of the vanishing point is consciously deployed in both texts to reinvent fictional character within the challenging scope of borderlines between presence and absence, the life-like (mimetic) and the purely verbal.

  • Auster, Paul. The Locked Room. [1986] The New York Trilogy. London: Penguin Books, 1990. 233-371.

  • Alford, Steven E. “Mirrors of Madness: Paul Auster’s The New York Trilogy.” Critique XXXVII, n°1 (Fall 1995): 17-33.

  • Babb, Genie. “Where the Bodies are Buried: Cartesian Dispositions in Narrative Theories of Character.” Narrative 10, n°3 (October 2002): 195-221.

  • Faulkner, William. Light in August [1932]. Middlesex & New York: Penguin Books in association with Chatto & Windus, 1983.

  • Gass, William. “Mrs. Mean.” In the Heart of the Heart of the Country and OtherStories. New York: Harper & Row, 1958. 80-119.

  • Hoffmann, Gerhard. From Modernism to Postmodernism. Concepts andStrategies of Postmodern American Fiction. New York & Admsterdam: Rodopi, 2005.

  • Kunin, Aaron. “Character Lounge.” Modern Language Quarterly 70, n°3 (September 2009): 291-317.

  • Lam, Bethany L. “Light in August in Light of Foucault: Reexamining the Biracial Experience.” Arizona Quarterly 64, n°4 (Winter 2008): 49- 68.

  • Lyotard, Jean François. “Answering the Question: What is Postmodernism?” Modernism/Postmodernism. Ed. by Peter Brooks. London & New York: Longman, 1992.

  • Phillips, Brian. “Character in Contemporary Fiction.” The Hudson Review 56, n°4 (Winter 2004): 629- 642.

  • Schwerdtfeger, Barbara. Ethics in Postmodern Fiction. Donald Barthelme andWilliam Gass. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2005.

  • Sorensen, Roy. “The Vanishing Point: A Model of the Self as Absence.” TheMonist 90, n°3 (2007): 432- 456.

  • Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1969.

American, British and Canadian Studies

The Journal of Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu

Journal Information


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 28 28 20
PDF Downloads 7 7 3