Joel Fineman was considered one of the most brilliant literary critics of his generation, gifted in doing what the Russian formalists called "making strange." His essays are among the strongest demonstrations of how structures—whether linguistic, visual, or architectural—generate large and elaborate systems of meaning. Using examples drawn from literature—Chaucer, Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde—Fineman creates parables of how language has come to constitute the modern subject (ourselves) as a set of its "effects."
Combining formidable learning with theoretical sophistication that is at once philosophical, linguistic, and psychoanalytical, Fineman draws from the most familiar work verbal details that lead to startling new interpretations, challenging Freud or making original applications of Lacan. The repercussion of his writings on theory and on nonliterary discourse is considerable, particularly among critics engaged in showing how artistic practice can be understood, structurally, to signify.
The Essays: The Structure of Allegorical Desire. The Significance of Literature: The Importance of Being Earnest. "The Pas de Calais": Freud, the Transference, and the Sense of Woman's Humor. The History of the Anecdote: Fiction and Fiction. Shakespeare's "Perjur'd Eye". The Turn of the Shrew. The Sound of 0 in Othello: The Real of the Tragedy of Desire. Shakespeare's Will: The Temporality of Rape. Shakespeare's Ear.
About the Author
Joel Fineman was Professor of English Literature at the University of California at Berkeley.
"Joel Fineman's writing amuses, fascinates, alarms, and at times outrages me, makes me nervous, forces me to think about familiar texts in unfamiliar ways, at once illuminates and darkens the literary tradition it addresses. There was, quite simply, no one like him, and his death is an absolute loss. But the essays collected here continue to function as provocative anecdotes, introducing unsettling openings into our comfortable narrations."
—Stephen Greenblatt, University of California, Berkeley