March 12, 2007

The (Not-so) Mysterious World of Cereno

"Here we can see how appropriate the form of 'Benito Cereno' is for the theme: the problem of duplicity, of false meanings, of masks accompanied by the threat of hidden violence is precisely the problem that the mystery story needs and addresses" (Swann 322).

Oh, this poor poor story. We (the literary world) keeps beating the thing to death. And Swann's "Whodunnit? Or, Who Did What? 'Benito Cereno' and the Politics of Narrative Structure" attempts to make his own case for yet another new reading of "Benito Cereno". But to shelf it, categorize it, and place it in a genre?

Sadly, as much as I want to disagree with Swann's huge article, he does make an appropriate case for "Benito Cereno" being a mystery story- at least in regards to an intertextual reading where it follows the literary (say it with me now) conventions of the mystery genre. Against all appearances one may discredit this reading but, when looked at against other mystery stories, "Benito Cereno" does correspond- if you hold the same conventions of a mystery story as Swann. Personally, I look for a few other things when categorizing, so does that mean that I either am not following the understood traditional conventions or have I just not read enough to examine the story fully? That's what seems to make intertextuality so subjective- my ideas and my conventions may not hold up against others. Or I may see something in one work that appears to be similar in another and examine them together, when someone else may discredit the idea. Ah creative liberties.

Swann, ''Whodunnit? Or, Who Did What? 'Benito Cereno' and the Politics of Narrative Structure'' -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

Posted by VanessaKolberg at March 12, 2007 9:52 PM | TrackBack

After reading this essay, I understood intertextuality a bit better. Defending WHY a story is a particular genre seems a lot like the first critical reading we did on canon. I understand that very well, actually.

Unless I'm off completely--then I don't understand at all.

Swann does give a provoking analysis of why BC is a mystery. He used, not so much examples of other texts (while he did use some) but instead texts that prove the genre and worked them in to his advantage by finding where each happens in BC.

Posted by: Valerie Masciarelli at March 15, 2007 10:56 AM
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