Metalepsis and readerly investment in fictional characters: reflections on apostrophic reading

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Abstract

This chapter is a critical discussion of the metaleptic phenomenon of apostrophizing fictional and/or long-dead characters. It asks what model of engagement with fiction emerges if one takes the gesture of speaking to a fictional character literally, not merely as a rhetorical trope but a meaningful speech act. In this mode of reading, modelled by an apostrophizing author as first reader of their own text, apostrophe suggests that characters are, somehow, still available to be interacted with. Apostrophe therefore serves as an invitation for readers to invest in characters and form relationships with them, for instance loving them or mourning for them. By discussing four rather different examples—Homeric epic, Sapphic lyric, a bucolic poem by Theocritus, and a progymnasma by Musonius Rufus—the chapter argues that apostrophe not only repays reading as a model of how readers engage with fiction, but that each text offers its own version of this engagement.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMetalepsis
Subtitle of host publicationAncient Texts, New Perspectives
EditorsSebastian Matzner, Gail Trimble
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Chapter3
Pages59-78
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9780198846987
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes

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