Grace Before the Fall is an annotated novel that follows a flaneuse on her journey toward love and social activism. It is set in a pre-9/11 New York City, during a week in the summer of 1980.
Geri Lipschultz, in her critical introduction, confronts both the instability and the virtual death of a text (drawing on Robert Scholes and Gayatri Spivak), as well as its revival in the hands of a contemporary reader. Lipschultz positions herself as a new reader in her revision/revival/revitalization of an old text—whose title, contents, and structure have been altered from their original construction thirty years past. She documents her course of revision, which begins with a rupture, itself a consequence of her impulse to investigate the etymology of selected words. Part of her work is an interrogation of the nature of revision itself, which might boil down to the adage offered by Heraclitus: You cannot step into the same river twice.
Lipschultz observes that her novel's initial modernist influences, namely Joyce and Nabokov, have been decentered by the ethos of the postcolonial/postmodern novel, given her changing reading preferences. Her introduction invokes both a personal and a civic history. It introduces the reader not only to the text but also to a paratext that resembles storytelling at times, offering knowledge gleaned only after the fact—for example the way AIDS was ravaging New York without its having a name—and investigates how that retrospective knowledge positions itself for any reader. The revisions within the text, she writes, have provided portal-like openings for character and setting, much as do architectural renovations. The paratext offers historiographic, geographic, and etymological asides—and memoir—whose purpose is to document the passage of time and the metamorphosis of a city. Lipschultz paints these changes with nostalgia and a sense of loss.
She argues that the annotations are not essential. They are there at the reader's discretion—placed as endnotes—as the novel, now situated within a magical realist context, articulates its theme of love and nature in conflict with the powers that be.
|Commitee:||Butler Holm, Janis, Gradin, Sherrie, Moore, Dinty, Shadis, Miriam|
|School Location:||United States -- Ohio|
|Source:||DAI-A 78/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Keywords:||Activism, Annotations, Fiction, Flaneuse, Hybridity, Novel|
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