English, Department of


Date of this Version

April 2006


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Major: English. Under the Supervision of Professor Robert F. Bergstrom. Lincoln, Nebraska, May, 2006. Copyright 2006 Kynan D. Connor.


James Joyce in his novel Dubliners conducts a series of narrative experiments with allusion, and in doing so suggests a new literary criticism based upon the allusive process. This new criticism of allusive mechanics considers the text in terms of its allusive potential for character—that is, the character is treated as capable of signification. Because Joyce can mimic the process of signification, it repositions the author to the act of writing and the reader to the act of reading. Character is greatly expanded through allusive mechanics because narrative elements like allusion in a text are treated as having a character-oriented value, thus repositioning the reader to both character and the text, enriching the entire reading experience.

As a mode of interpretation, allusive mechanics organizes a text from the point of view of character. In Joyce’s "The Dead" allusive mechanics reveals that Gabriel Conroy, emerging from loneliness and self-absorption, can use allusion as a vehicle to understand and value the people and the world around him; in effect, to manage his own mind. In Melville’s "Benito Cereno" allusive mechanics focuses on the judgment of Amasa Delano and his personal allusion of blackness and the role they play in the formation and maintenance of slavery. In Cather’s The Song of the Lark allusive mechanics reveals how Thea Kronborg uses the unifying power of allusion to bring together the people and places into the creation of art, allusion being a container. In Fauset’s Plum Bun allusive mechanics traces how Angela Murray uses the allusion of blackness to first "pass" as white and then construct a viable identity in a racist, class-conscious, and gender-based world. Finally, in Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 allusive mechanics reveals how the allusive process and the act of reading can become pitfalls of thought, imprisoning readers within the act of signification.

Adviser: Robert F. Bergstrom