The canon of memory and rhetoric as a way of knowing in selected Miranda stories of Katherine Anne Porter

Date

2000-08-30

Authors

McBee, Melinda Williams

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Abstract

As Katherine Anne Porter notes in many of her essays and interviews, memory informs her fiction to such an extent that it becomes a controlling metaphor. Although numerous critics point to Porter's use of memory and its importance in her fiction, they acknowledge her usage of memory as a creative strategy, not a rhetorical strategy. Porter's multi-faceted, rhetorical use of memory proves central in a number of instances in her Miranda short story cycle. For example, her sense of memory adheres to the philosopher Henri Bergson's concept of time as pure duration. Bergson defines time as a state in which the present is not separated from the past or the future and one in which time is not set up in any particular order. In the Miranda stories, Porter consistently shows Miranda's functioning in a Bergsonian realm of time, as past, present, and future converge through the vehicle of memory.

Amid the blending of memory and time which informs the Miranda short story cycle, Porter also rhetorically merges Miranda's self-realization and knowledge with silence. The rhetorical use of silence brings Miranda to knowledge and ultimately to truth, a form of rhetorical theory explored specifically by I. A. Richards and Michel Foucault. Foucault's concept of epistemes, which controls both knowledge and utterances that are acceptable in any given historical period, is examined in the Miranda stories as well.

The first part of the dissertation provides background information pertaining to the canon of memory, Bergson's concept of time and pure duration, Richards' and Foucault's concepts of rhetoric as a way of knowing, and silence as a rhetorical strategy. The ensuing chapters provide an analysis of “The Old Order” sketches and the short story “Old Mortality,” applying the rhetorical ideas as outlined in the introduction. The final chapter concludes the findings of the study, showing the extent to which Porter emphasizes the canon of memory and other rhetorical strategies in her writing.

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Keywords

Language, literature, and linguistics, Memory, Miranda stories, Porter, Katherine Anne, Rhetoric

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