Picaresque Fiction Today

The Trickster in Contemporary Anglophone and Italian Literature

Series:

In Picaresque Fiction Today Luigi Gussago examines the development of the picaresque in contemporary Anglophone and Italian fiction. Far from being an extinct narrative form, confined to the pages of its original Spanish sources or their later British imitators, the tale of roguery has been revisited through the centuries from a host of disparate angles. Throughout their wanderings, picaresque antiheroes are dragged into debates on the credibility of historical facts, gender mystifications, rational thinking, or any simplistic definition of the outcast.
Referring to a corpus of eight contemporary novels, the author retraces a textual legacy linking the traditional picaresque to its recent descendants, with the main purpose of identifying the way picaresque novels offer a privileged insight into our sceptical times.

Cover illustration by Eugene Ivanov "Night Airing", 2007.
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Biographical Note

Luigi Gussago, Ph.D. (2014), La Trobe University, Melbourne, is a researcher and archive curator at the Italian Australian Institute at that university. He has published articles and book chapters on comparative literature and on individual authors including Peter Carey, Martin Amis and Primo Levi.

Table of contents

Acknowledgements

Introduction: A Journey around the Picaresque Novel


Chapter 1
History through Roguish Eyes

Foreword
History and picaresque fiction
Meaning and significance in historical fiction
The pícaro and history
Dual sign irony
‘Historical’ irony
Deictic markers of time and space
Polemical use of the allocutive pronoun ‘you’
Metonymy
Markers of ‘being’ and ‘seeming’
Otto, Baudolino, Niketas: three portraits of the Emperor
The death of two obsessions


Chapter 2
Alienation and Counter-Culture

Foreword
The picaresque counter-culture
What happens at the boundary?
The stranger, der Fremde, l’estraneo
Mirror symmetry and alienation
Mythological and metadescriptive consciousness
Homonyms/synonyms
Circumlocution
Euphemism
Synecdoche
Acting vs improvising
Rhetorical questions
Odilo’s private holocaust


Chapter 3
Women on the Edge: Sexuality and Gender Dissent

Foreword
Platonic love and the pícara
Cupid, Psyche and curiosity
The constraints of nature
Procreation
Parenthood
The constraints of society
Demystified women
Religion
Sentimental love
Primeval innocence
Literature, ambition and transcendence in Vendita galline km 2
King Lear’s pasteboard crown


Chapter 4
Humour and the Muffled Voice of Reason
Foreword
Varieties of humour in the picaresque
Irony
Irony in the picaresque: Benni and Doyle
Contradiction
Self-irony
Summary
Satire
Self-satire
Parody
The enlightened grin
The Enlightenment watershed
Individualism, common good and general will
Experience and causation
The question of happiness
God’s laughter in Saltatempo


Concluding Remarks


Bibliography

Readership

All interested in comparative European literature and culture, and anyone concerned with the comic-picaresque. Academic libraries, specialists, postgraduate and graduate students are ideal readers.