Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




David Clark




The purpose of this thesis is to examine the notion of parenthetical discourse, which I here define as the discourse excluded fran contributing to the unity of a text. The three main exanples of parenthetical discourse that I examine are the parenthesis, the pseudonym, and the appended letter, all of which I find in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. To supplenent my reading, I turn to the texts of Jacques Derrida, the poststructuralist thinker whose concept of the p:lrergon--the frame around an ergon or work--provides me with a theoretical rrodel for understanding the relation between p:lrenthetical discourse and the text proper. Generally regarded as subordinate and exterior to the literary work, p:lrenthetical discourse nevertheless is a necessary condition of all literature in that it defines what literature is not and, in doing so, defines what literature is. Parenthetical discourse is the repressed difference or opposition against which a literary work forms its boundaries.

And yet I also discover that the p:lrenthetical devices in Alice in Wonderland occupy ether FOsitions with regard to the text, positions which displace their status as extra-textual. They may be said to rest not only on the border between literature and the outside, but also inside that actual border. Hence, the p:lrenthetical is just as nuch a p:lrt of the text as the narrative; the an:ended letter, the pseudonym, and the parenthesis mirror the text proper by throwing into relief the difficulty in dete~ning the nature of genres, as if both the inside and the outside were themselves unsure of what constitutes the inside and the outside. In the end, my examination corroborates Derrida's claim that there is a concept of the frame, but no actual frames--s~ly because the frame itself puts into question the whole notion of a stable center surrounded by fixed margins.

McMaster University Library

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