John Frow, Character and Person (Oxford UP 2014)

  • 9780198704515_140The first systematic study of character of this depth and scope
  • Offers interdisciplinary range, covering literary theory, cultural studies, anthropology, law, art history, linguistics, cognitive science, and philosophy
  • Shows theoretical depth, offering a rigorously theorized account of fictional character and of social personhood
  • Includes a range of case studies with wide historical and cultural scope, from Hellenistic Greece through to the contemporary digital world

Fictional character is an ontologically ambivalent category — at once a formal construct and a quasi-person — which lies at the heart of the life of textual fictions of all kinds. Character and Person explores that ambivalence by investigating not only the kinds of thing that character is but how it works to engage readers and the range of typologies through which it has been constructed in very different periods, media, and genres. John Frow seeks to explore the ways in which character is person-like, and through that the question of what it means to be a social person. His focus is thus on the interaction between its two major categories, and its method involves a constant play back and forth between them: from philosophical theories of face to an account of the mask in the New Comedy; from an exploration of medieval beliefs about the body’s existence in the afterlife to a reading of Dante’s Purgatorio; from the history of humoral medicine to the figure of the melancholic in Jacobean drama; and from Proust and Pessoa to cognitive science. What develops from this methodological commitment to fusing the categories of character and person is an extended analysis of the schemata that underpin each of them in their distinct but mutually constitutive spheres of operation.

John Frow is currently Professor of English at the University of Sydney and an Australian Research Council Professorial Fellow; he was previously Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Melbourne and the Regius Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature at the University of Edinburgh, and has held visiting professorships at the University of Minnesota, the University of Michigan, Wesleyan University, the University of Chicago, New York University, and Goldsmiths College London. He is the author of Marxism and Literary History(1986), Cultural Studies and Cultural Value (1995), Time and Commodity Culture (1997), Accounting for Tastes: Australian Everyday Cultures (with Tony Bennett and Michael Emmison, 1999), Genre (2006), and The Practice of Value (2013). He edited Australian Cultural Studies: A Reader with Meaghan Morris (1993), and with Tony Bennett he Sage Handbook of Cultural Analysis (2008).

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