In “DissemiNation,” Homi Bhabha argues that the nation form is composed of two distinct and often antithetical temporalities. It is my argument here that the American twentieth century can best be understood as a compromise formation between the temporality of the novel and the temporality of jazz or, more specifically, between prolepsis and parabasis. My essay looks at Paul de Man's and Georg Lukács's assertions that the novel is an essentially proleptic form and argues that the specific form of prolepsis it brings with it from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is out of step with the temporal imperatives of the twentieth century. Turning to the temporality of jazz form, the essay then shows how the novel reshapes its mode of prolepsis to accommodate itself to the changing temporal landscape of the twentieth century. The figure I use for the interaction between jazz temporality and novelistic temporality is parabasis, the punctual interruption of the distinction between the time of narration and the time of the narrative. Building on Samuel Floyd's theorization of jazz temporality, I limn the outlines of jazz's distinct form of parabasis and use de Man's theorization of it to read the exchange between, and imbrication of, jazz and the novel.
Bruce Barnhart; Prolepsis and Parabasis: Jazz and the Novel. Novel 1 August 2009; 42 (2): 216–222. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-2009-007
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