Certain members of the Oulipo, notably Raymond Queneau and Georges Perec, have used constraints to encode meanings as well as to structure and generate their works. Such formal encoding recruits and trains a readership prone to paranoid interpretation, a tendency opposed in recent years by Umberto Eco and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. This article reviews the arguments put forward by those theorists and offers three additional reasons for resisting form-focused paranoid reading: (1) such reading skews interpretation toward puzzle solving, (2) it tends to produce progressively weaker confirmations of previous readings, and (3) it is liable to impoverish the context of interpretation. Form-focused paranoid reading has proved to be a productive theme for the writers of the Oulipo. In their novels, Queneau and Perec use parables to warn against such reading, which limits the mobility and range of the reader's attention and tries to demote the use to which the text is put, in favor of an interpretation entirely oriented by the text.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.