Character as a Vanishing Point in American Experimental Fiction


University of Sousse


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.

Keywords: Modernism, Postmodernism, characterization and character in fiction, pictorial language, vanishing point, literary representation, William Faulkner, Paul Auster, William Gass