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''The Terrible Power of Metaphor''. The Performativity of Language in Salman Rushdie

In this thesis two novels by Salman Rushdie, "Midnight’s Children" and "The Satanic Verses", as well as some essays contained in "Imaginary Homelands" and "Step Across This Line" are analyzed starting from the concept of performativity as expressed in the works of Austin and Derrida, de Man and Wittgenstein. Starting from the linguistic concept of Austin, performativity enlarged so to include the creative power of language. Moreover, the problems deriving from the lack of a complete control of the outcomes of language are underlined. In his essays Rushdie expresses his awareness of the power of literature to create and reveal the truth, and the connection between literature and otherness is to be considered as a central theme in his production and an important key to interpret his works.
"Midnight’s Children" reveals the dilemma of communication which is always linked to the possibility of misunderstanding. Moreover, a strong accent is posed on the influence of communication in shaping the characters' identities. "The Satanic Verses" tells instead the differences and similarities among different kinds of language creation: thoughts, utterances and texts. Several characters are in the effects words have on their identities and personal history, but also as metaphors and metonymies of greater realities.

Mostra/Nascondi contenuto.
Introduction i Introduction According to Austin, performative speech acts in literature can only be “infelicitous”, since the subject (“I”), in this case the author, is not talking seriously. To have a happy performative, in fact, in which what I state is what I do, “I must not be joking, for example, or writing a poem” (9). Works of fiction, as novels, are fictional as the word itself suggests. Yet they do: they in fact create a new world, verisimilar or not: fictional characters, names, history, places, relations... Moreover, their are worlds that necessitate of at least two people to be real: the author and the reader, both of them bound by language and its rules. Yet if language does create a parallel reality based upon an interactional act, can we really assume the rules of language do not belong to the fictional reality as well? This thesis is based upon the assumption that the realm of literature and that of reality, literature and literalism, are not so different: reality can in fact be taken as a performance and literature can have literary effects. In this perspective, the work of Hillis Miller has been fundamental. Salman Rushdie’s works was chosen as the subject of this thesis because they question the authorship which is based on words. In so doing they unveil the fact that words do not only show, but also hide. They do not always create, but also destruct. They do not have just one, but multiple meanings. “The terrible power of metaphor”, the title of this thesis, is a quotation from The Satanic Verses and it can be interpreted in different ways. In this first meaning, it underlines the fact that metaphors, normally not included among the performative element since they transpose the meaning from one object to the other, do have power. They reveal what Bhabha calls the “third space” but also the “foreignness” present in the language: the meanings of words change from sender to receiver. As far as the adjective “terrible” concerns, this is particularly true for the effects Salman Rushdie’s characters undergo, which are exposed to both the creative and destructive power of language. But it also refers to the fact that the effects of words are almost never predictable. According to Aravamudan, he himself quoting Derrida:

Tesi di Laurea Magistrale

Facoltà: Lingue e Letterature Straniere

Autore: Martina Bertazzon Contatta »

Composta da 72 pagine.

 

Questa tesi ha raggiunto 197 click dal 03/08/2011.

Disponibile in PDF, la consultazione è esclusivamente in formato digitale.