«Reader! Bruder!»: The Rhetoric of Narration and the Rhetoric of Reading

Federico Bertoni


The paper deals with the relation of power established by narrative texts, exploring the many-sided field of articulation among the related subjects: the narrator as a subject of power, the text as a rhetorical device, and the reader as an ultimate guarantor of meaning. After a brief introduction on the “rebirth of rhetoric” in the second half of the Twentieth century, drawing attention to its links with Reader-response criticism, the paper  focuses on the “power of words” and analyzes three case-studies: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (1955), Money by Martin Amis (1984) and The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell (2006). These novels depend for their rhetorical effect on the invention of a special narrating voice and on the relationship that it establishes with the reader – an odd mixture of antagonism and complicity, seduction and persuasion. The reader is thus invoked as a brother, but an ambiguous and untrustworthy one, as archetypally described in last verse of the opening poem from Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal: «hypocrite lecteur – mon semblable, mon frère».



Rhetoric; Narration; Reading; Reader-response criticism; Nabokov; Amis; Littell

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13125/2039-6597/1196

NBN: http://nbn.depositolegale.it/urn%3Anbn%3Ait%3Aunica-17083

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