Language: English

Pages: 308

ISBN: 0226768449

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Patricia Spacks explores the nature, morality, and aesthetics of gossip, examines gossip in history and the psychology of gossip, and analyzes gossip--as subject and literary technique--in plays, letters, biographies, and novels

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honesty and emotional involvement: the Fair runs on appearances. Gossip assigns meaning to appearances in relation to wealth and status. Becky, valuing wealth and status at least as much as any of her fellow inhabitants, accordingly through most of her career fares better than Amelia in the world’s discussion of character. Gossip provides social orientation. When Amelia joins her husband in his army assignment, the major’s wife immediately pours out “a thousand particulars” (263) about the

re-articulates the problem of gossip’s meanings in diachronic rather than synchronic terms. As a mode of interpretation, gossip, like psychoanalysis, helps people make sense of the past in the light of the present, and of the present in relation to the past. A simple literary example is the detective story, in which the detective uses hearsay and gossip to construct retrospective explanation. Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple provides a remarkably pure case in point. Old and more or less immobilized,

retribution. Repudiating the meagerness of his everyday world, the Tocoan [resident of a settlement in northeastern Trinidad] draws on tradition and wit to fill a canvas with more than life-size figures—and always there is the humorous detail, the grotesque situation, the incisive comment.6 Most groups demonstrate the same collective capacity to lend “texture” to the commonplace by placing it in a context of past happenings literal or imagined—or literal touched by imagination. Such

a center for such talk; gossip radiates from him. The chorus of onlookers with whom Ratliff talks express themselves mainly by questions, drifting to the veranda of the hotel to discuss the village’s events, taking their time to arrive at judgments. Varner’s hiring of a clerk demands adjudication. “This evening they were gathered even before the sun was completely gone, looking now and then toward the dark front of Varner’s store as people will gather to look quietly at the cold embers of a

about Lily Bart exclude the young woman from the social group to which she aspires, punishing her for deviation from restrictive norms. The tales spun by the gossips of The School for Scandal, riotous explosions of fancy, indices of desire, also express communal conviction about how people should and should not behave. As The Country Wife most richly illustrates, gossip possesses a double valence: enemy and agent of desire. One explanation for gossip’s two faces, and for its importance as

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