CityofGlassessay - 11 March 2008 Professor Jacobs ENG...

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11 March 2008 Professor Jacobs ENG 3116-002 Peter Stillman’s Subversion of the Linguistic Paradigm Paul Auster’s graphic novel, City of Glass offers a lens into the diachronically reversed vision of language and its need for reformation through the destruction of the current system and rebuilding an ideal version, a pure form of communication. The character Peter Stillman Sr. views the “collapse” of semiotics and meaning dated back to the story of Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis . Stillman proposes an idealized version of communication where words “revealed the essence of things”(38) as they did when Adam first began to relate words to images in a purely innocent state. Stillman’s language would be free from a “severance”(39) from God similar to St. Thomas Aquinas’s views of epistemology in Summa Theologica . Aquinas believed creation of a new language is contingent upon divine inspiration and thus Stillman proposes building a “New Babel”(43) in America. Stillman feels ordained by God and must serve humanity through his reconstruction of the tower of Babel and uniting humankind under one language. Stillman’s view of linguistics is part of his own mental construction which he believes can translate into a physical space, offering a place for the purest form of linguistics, and he attempts to make psychological connections with his audience through presenting his argument in a written form. Stillman moves through several spaces both tangible and intangible. The flaw of his “reconstructed Babel” remains that he must 1
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argue his discourse through the medium of the vernacular language he writes in. In order to create a new paradigm, he draws from the established conventions of communication to discuss his proposed vision of unadulterated language. The protagonist, Daniel Quinn is a writer who assumes the identity of one of his fictional characters, detective Max Work. Quinn inhabits the space of his book through identifying with his character. Quinn is called by a distressed woman begging for him to help her husband, Peter Stillman’s son. She somehow knows the identity of Quinn and has mistaken someone else’s detective work for his own. Nevertheless, Quinn takes the call and comes to her aid. She relays the story of Peter Stillman and how he must be investigated for the wrongs he has committed on her husband. At a very young age, Peter Stillman Jr. was locked in his room with the windows covered for nine years and was sent to jail for his injustice to his son. He had been incarcerated until Mrs. Stillman called and was due to be released the day after Quinn’s call to Mrs. Stillman’s house. She explained Peter Stillman Sr., his past as a professor at Harvard in religion and
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CityofGlassessay - 11 March 2008 Professor Jacobs ENG...

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