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The Tumble of Reason

The Tumble of Reason: Alice Munro's Discourse of Absence

Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 210
  • Book Info
    The Tumble of Reason
    Book Description:

    Heble offers both a careful reading of Munro's stories and a theoretical framework for reading meanings in absence. His book extends recent revisionist analysis and makes a valuable and original contribution to the criticism on Munro.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8247-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction: The Disruption of Writing
    (pp. 3-18)

    Over the years, Alice Munro′s art has been stretched to accommodate various trends in literary studies. It is perhaps not surprising that much of the criticism which has evolved around her writing has, at least until fairly recently, sought to situate her work within a realist tradition. ¹ Munro′s fiction invites such categorization because it is rife with surface details, because it faithfully explores a world of social relationships and inner experiences. But, as Munro′s later critics are fond of suggesting, this realistic dimension in her work usually operates in a qualified manner. These critics thus speak of the ways...

  5. 1 Early ʹSigns of Invasionʹ: Dance of the Happy Shades
    (pp. 19-42)

    Munro′s first published collection of stories,Dance of the Happy Shades, introduces to the reader many of the central concerns which are developed in her later work. Although an initial reading might suggest thatDance of the Happy Shadeshas little to do with the theoretical framework that I have sketched in the introduction, a careful investigation of some of the stories in this volume reveals the extent to whichDanceis not such an unlikely candidate for a discussion of paradigmatic discourse as it may at first appear. While the stories here are more accessible, more conventional than the...

  6. 2 ʹSo Many Created Worldsʹ: Lives of Girls and Women
    (pp. 43-73)

    There is something particularly problematic about a fiction which proposes to call itselfReal Life. Far from simply appealing to and consolidating a kind of transparent reality, Munro′s initial title forLives of Girls and Womenalso announces a hesitation that runs throughout the course of her fiction. The titleReal Lifeposes difficulties because it simultaneously effaces and calls attention to the textual dimension of Munro′s art. Such a title confirms the mimetic tradition, but it does so only by challenging it, by reminding us, as readers, of the fact that what we are reading is, in fact, a...

  7. 3 The Politics of Deferral: Power and Suspicion in Something Iʹve Been Meaning to Tell You
    (pp. 74-95)

    Something I′ve Been Meaning to Tell Youis a collection of seemingly unrelated stories which both develops and breaks with the central preoccupations of Munro′s previous volumes.¹ The collection bears witness to a development in Munro′s prose, a development that arises out of a deeper interaction between Munro′s predominant narrative concerns and her manipulation of narrative technique. Although Munro has, from her first volume, evinced an interest in the limits of representation, although she has always been fascinated by the strategies people use in their attempts to recover the past, new to this collection is an explicit interest in the...

  8. 4 Acknowledging the Nether Voices: Signs of Instability in Who Do You Think You Are?
    (pp. 96-121)

    WithWho Do You Think You Are?, Munro returns to the story-cycle format she employed inLives of Girls and Women.¹ Despite oft-noted similarities in both structure and theme, however, many of the central issues inLivesare now altered as a result of Munro′s increasing involvement with a poetics of uncertainty and a rhetoric of mistrust. Several of the familiar motifs are here - the protagonist′s fascination with what goes on below the surface, her interest in things that remain untold, her inability to reconcile incompatible tendencies - but Munro reworks these motifs in an effort to emphasize both...

  9. 5 Towards a Poetics of Surprise: ʹChange and Possibilityʹ in The Moons of Jupiter
    (pp. 122-142)

    From the publication of her first volume of stories, Munro has been fascinated by the unpredictability of everyday life. InThe Moons of Jupiter, this fascination continues, but the level at which the tension between the unforeseen and the expected - between the alien and the proper - is played out, suggests that Munro may now be formulating her interest with an eye to developing what I shall tentatively call a poetics of surprise. ′Surprise,′ as Jerome Bruner tells us, ′is a response to violated presupposition′ (46). Munro′s fiction, as I have tried to show in the preceding chapters, invites...

  10. 6 ʹItʹs What I Believeʹ: Patterns of Complicity in The Progress of Love
    (pp. 143-168)

    The stories in>The Progress of Loveplay out what perhaps is Alice Munro′s most cogent challenge to the tradition of realist fiction. Although the pieces collected in this volume are not, for the most part, overtly metafictional, although they do not engage in the kind of self-consciousness that one finds, for example, in ′The Ottawa Valley,′ ′Winter Wind,′ and ′Home,′ they do nevertheless render problematic our ability to keep apart experience and narration. Like so many of Munro′s stories, these pieces promote and undo reality at one and the same time; they tease us with expectations of accuracy, objectivity,...

  11. 7 (Re)construction and/as Deception in Friend of My Youth
    (pp. 169-184)

    InFriend of My Youth, perhaps more so than in her previous collections, Alice Munro presents us with characters who, in various ways, insist on the value of what might be called a discourse of dissimulation. While patterns of deception have provided Munro with points of departure for stories in her earlier volumes¹ - most notably inThe Progress of Love- here these patterns re-emerge as part of an intricate network of disjunctions and resistances which subtly interrogate the admittedly complex relationship between autobiography, history, and story. Of the ten pieces collected inFriend of My Youth, only two...

  12. Conclusion: The Problem of an Ending
    (pp. 185-188)

    To conclude a study on a writer very much in mid-career, a writer whose latest story may well be seeing its way to publication inThe New Yorkerat the moment that I put down these sentences, whose new collection of stories might, in fact, arrive in the bookstores before the publication of this book, is a difficult, if not impossible, task. Like several of Munro′s narrators, who come to recognize that they cannot properly finish the stories they are telling, I too am tempted to confess:I don′t know how to end this.

    But this, of course, is something...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 189-200)
  14. Works Consulted
    (pp. 201-206)
  15. Index
    (pp. 207-210)