Quarter After Eight is an annual literary journal devoted to the exploration of experimental writing in all its permutations. We celebrate work that directly challenges the conventions of language, style, voice, or idea in literary form. This blog is a place to engage in conversations about the work we publish, as well as the work that inspires us.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Confessions of a Justified Sinner

The deadline to submit proposals for our conference, "Defining the New: Experiments and Innovations in English Studies" is coming up. We've already accepted some exciting work and we're sharing a taste of what's to come this October 22-23 here on the blog. To start us off, Jayme Russell explores experimental moves from the sinfully delightful nineteenth century novel, Confessions of a Justified Sinner:
With the first page of James Hogg’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner, readers are unwittingly thrust into the role of the grave raiding archeologist closely examining the disparate parts of the text to unlock a deeper significance. To learn anything from the clues we are given, we must act as interdisciplinary scientists, using knowledge of linguistics, archaeology, and anatomy. By following clues located inside of the grave, the reader can find references relating to Egyptology that suggest Robert Wringhim is a man caught in a state between life and death. This shifting state works with the fragmented pieces of the text to prevent the reader from pinning down solid answers to the questions that arise. This allows Hogg to show that there is no one objective truth, but many subjective perspectives of the same story.
The doubling and then tripling of the text, like the text on the Rosetta Stone, creates an uneasy familiarity for the reader and also points of comparison. Reading different scenes told in different ways, such as the two main death scenes, creates an uncanny effect. The parts that the reader has already examined, in a way, turn into prophesized events. The places where the text matches with other areas of the text also suggests a blurring of events. This sense of the uncanny is also felt when a reader expects something to happen that doesn’t or if small details do not match up, for example the hair color of the body in the grave does not match the hair color of the body in Hogg’s letter. Although we seem to be experiencing the narrative chronologically, we are in reality experiencing these things in cycles. We experience the life, and then we experience it again, and again. There is not one beginning and an end, but a circling back over and over to mimic a life relived...

 You can hear this paper in its entirety at the conference this fall. In the meantime, what are your favorite nineteenth century experiments in literature?

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