Of all the terms literary critics regularly rely upon, “character” is perhaps the most heavily used and the least examined. Criticism often presumes that there exists a consensus about what a character is, about what we speak of when we say the names “Hamlet,” “Emma Woodhouse,” or “Don Draper.” But apply the slightest critical touch to the concept of character and out tumble a set of puzzling ontological and epistemological questions: What, exactly, is a character? Where do literary characters begin and end? With the text? In our imagination? How do we know we are in the presence of a fictional character? What is the difference between persons in our memory and the characters who populate our fictions? What is the relationship between characters and real-world people? John Frow's Character and Person confronts these and other queries about character with remarkable lucidity....
Bodies of Literature
jamie parra is assistant professor of English at Skidmore College. He is working on a book project titled “Prisoners of Style: Slavery, Ethics, and the Lives of American Literary Characters,” a portion of which appeared in J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists.
Jamie Parra; Bodies of Literature. Novel 1 November 2016; 49 (3): 542–545. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-3651436
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