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Forging the PastSeth and the Art of Memory$
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Daniel Marrone

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781496807311

Published to University Press of Mississippi: September 2017

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781496807311.001.0001

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date: 20 January 2019

The Rhetoric of Failure

The Rhetoric of Failure

(p.79) 4 The Rhetoric of Failure
Forging the Past

Daniel Marrone

University Press of Mississippi

This chapter considers the frequent revaluation of success and failure in Seth’s narratives, placing him in a Chekhovian tradition of storytelling that is characterized by “the irony of unfulfillment.” An examination of the “rhetoric of failure” – which David M. Ball identifies in the work of cartoonist Chris Ware – is framed by a critical approach that borrows from Francesco Orlando’s study of obsolete objects in literature. For Orlando, the failure of the obsolete body is the failure to function, a failure which is directly related to the passage of time. Many of Seth’s characters value objects precisely because of their age. The twilight, in-between tone of Seth’s work is accompanied by a strong impulse to save. Seth’s work repeatedly depicts an uncertain transmutation: failure develops in the direction of ambivalence, until it ultimately coincides with its opposite. Though such inversions are not stable, failures and obsolete objects are briefly redeemed.

Keywords:   Failure, Rhetoric, Irony, Inversion, Obsolete

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