Performative Criticism

Experiments in Reader Response

By Gerry Brenner

Subjects: Narrative
Paperback : 9780791459447, 244 pages, February 2004
Hardcover : 9780791459430, 244 pages, February 2004

Table of contents



An Interview with Biblical Ruth

A Dialogue of the Dead: Sir Gawain to the Childe Roland Came

The Widow's Epistle: To Tom Jones's Historian, Henry Fielding, Esq.

A Dialogue of the Dead: Fagin and Ralph Nickleby

A Rejection Letter—and More—for Melville's "The Bell-Tower"

Edward Hyde's Full Statement of the Case

A Letter to "De Ole True Huck"

Jordan Baker's Letter to Nick Carraway: A Half Century After Gatsby

Hammett's Refeathered Maltese Falcon

Once A Rabbit, Always? A Feminist Interview with Hemingway's María

Manolin on Hemingway's Santiago: A Fictive Interview

Psychoanalytic Training Report #3: The Patient Meursault



Genre-bending experiments that appropriate, impersonate, and speak through already-created literary characters in order to offer fresh interpretations of well-known literary works.


In these inventive and genre-bending critical essays, Gerry Brenner provides fresh interpretations of classic literary works by empowering significant characters to represent themselves as legitimate readers with strong responses. Through imaginary interviews, letters, "dialogues of the dead," a revised ending, and a training report, he gives voice to characters from the biblical Book of Ruth, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby, The Maltese Falcon, and others. Instead of asking readers to read his interpretation of a text (i. e., a critic's interpretation from the outside), Brenner asks them to read a character's or historical or imagined person's interpretation (a reader-response interpretation from the inside). Challenging the long-dominant depersonalization of literary criticism, Brenner enlivens the effect, value, and significance of scholarly and critical writing.

Gerry Brenner is Professor Emeritus of English at The University of Montana. His most recent book is A Comprehensive Companion to Hemingway's A Moveable Feast: Annotation to Interpretation.