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Discrepant SolaceContemporary Literature and the Work of Consolation$
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David James

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198789758

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198789758.001.0001

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Description as Redress

Description as Redress

(p.65) 2 Description as Redress
Discrepant Solace

David James

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the poetics and ethics of literary description as mode of redress in traumatic fictions that evoke seemingly indescribable circumstances. It discusses the affective energy of style as it counterpoints catastrophe and suffering in the work of Cormac McCarthy and W. G. Sebald. In so doing, the chapter poses larger questions that establish some of the book’s principal interpretive coordinates. Namely, can expression compensate for plot? What ethical implications does the brilliant description of devastation in The Road (2006) and Austerlitz (2001) magnify, when athletic acts of depiction counterweigh the material or mental damage they elegantly convey? Behaving as such, how does literary style probe as much as it affirms its own consolatory affordances? Over the course the chapter, description emerges as a form of narration in its own right. And the importance of reading for description highlights the need to distinguish this kind of analytical attention from the proposed aims of so-called ‘descriptive reading’.

Keywords:   description, trauma, style, Cormac McCarthy, W. G. Sebald

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