The aim of all hermeneutic criticism, whether derived from formal- ism or cultural studies, is to find and place the author; the incessant efforts of Twain's critics are especially striking, pressing as they do on questions of whether he "belongs" in the canon or in libraries, or whether his books can be made to "work" in the classroom.1 Still, readers of Twain's earliest stories might be forgiven for wondering whether these continuing quests to fix might have been anticipated and allegorized in Twain's fiction all along - for example, in the frustration of the unnamed listener/narrator of "Jumping Frog" at being suckered by the elusive tale-teller Simon Wheeler. In particular, Morgan's encounter with medievalism dramatizes the struggle to recognize what Derrida calls the tout autre; his experiences show us that he is just as incapable of doing that as the listener/narrator of Jumping Frog or any of the 'Twains of the travel books and novels.6 Like them, Morgan relies upon an Enlightenment hermeneutics whose failures leave him and the reader in a textualized world of unattached signs, a Derridean postal world far more disorienting than Berkeleyan idealism or solipsism, since even the idea of the self is deprived of authenticity.7 The Bullet-Hole in the Armor: Or, Narrative Nothingness A Connecticut Yankee opens with Twain the tourist and surrogate for the reader examining a hole in chain-mail armor.
The Deconstruction of the Enlightenment in Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889) By Christopher D. Morris Criticism of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court has always rec- ognized some insoluble contradiction in its theme. For example, Lee Clark Mitchell sees “clashes of large binary oppositions” that arise from “incon- sistencies in the narrative strategy” (232); Derek Parker Royal sees a di- alectic between democracy and capitalism that “refuses a synthesis” (15). These studies are hermeneutic in their attribution of a contradiction to the novel’s author, Clemens or Twain; their readings discover different forms of authorial incoherence as that is measured by the formalist criteria each brings to bear—for example, that oppositions should have syntheses or narrative strategies should be consistent. Such condescensions to the writer have been characteristic of Twain studies from the beginning, gain- ing impetus from the controversy surrounding the ending of Huckleberry Finn. The aim of all hermeneutic criticism, whether derived from formal- ism or cultural studies, is to ﬁnd and place the author; the incessant efforts of Twain’s critics are especially striking, pressing as they do on questions of whether he “belongs” in the canon or in libraries, or whether his books can be made to “work” in the classroom.1 Still, readers of Twain’s earliest stories might be forgiven for wondering whether these continuing quests to ﬁx might have been anticipated and allegorized in Twain’s ﬁction all JNT: Journal of Narrative Theory 39.2 (Summer 2009): 159–185. Copyright © 2009 by JNT: Journal of Narrative Theory. 160 J N T along—for example, in the frustration of the unnamed listener/narrator of “Jumping Frog” at being suckered by the elusive tale-teller Simon Wheeler. Recognizing his credulity—his “being sold,” Twain calls it on other occasions—the narrator ﬁnally refuses to hear another tale about being suckered, but it’s too late: he can do so only after having been suck- ered. This exposure of delusion in listening or reading can be written off as laughable until readers see that we, too, couldn’t have grasped our blindness unless we had ﬁrst been suckered. It does not take Paul de Man to understand Twain’s work as allegorizing hermeneutic self-deception in reading and writing: the invention of Mark Twain, as of Kierkegaard’s pseud
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