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The Journal of English Language and Literature , Vol.64, No.1, 25 ~ 38, 2018
Swerve, Trope, Peripety: Turning Points in Criticism and Theory
Robert T. Tally Jr.
The turning point is one of the more evocative concepts in the critic’s arsenal, as it is equally suited to the evaluation and analysis of a given moment in one’s day as to those of a historical event. But how does one recognize a turning point? As we find ourselves always “in the middest,” both spatially and temporally, we inhabit sites that may be points at which many things may be seen to turn. Indeed, it is usually only possible to identify a turning point, as it were, from a distance, from the remove of space and time which allows for a sense of recognition, based in part on original context and in part of perceived effects. In this article, Robert T. Tally Jr. argues that the apprehension and interpretation of a turning point involves a fundamentally critical activity. Examining three models by which to understand the concept of the turning point―the swerve, the trope, and peripety (or the dialectical reversal) ―Tally demonstrates how each represents a different way of seeing the turning point and its effects. Thus, the swerve is associated with a point of departure for a critical project; the trope is connected to continuous and sustained critical activity in the moment, and peripety enables a retrospective vision that, in turn, inform future research. Tally argues for the significance of the turning point in literary and cultural theory, and concludes that the identification, analysis, and interpretation of turning points is crucial to the project of criticism today.
Key Words
turning points, criticism, literary theory, narrative, tropes
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