DOI: 10.1215/03335372-10938631 ISSN: 0333-5372

Reversing the Oedipal Reading Practice: Interpellation, Enigmas of Reading, and John Barth's The Floating Opera

Chen Edelsburg
  • Literature and Literary Theory


This article examines the author-reader relationship as it is shaped by an “enigma of reading.” Evident in texts that directly address their readers, this enigma attempts to interpellate those readers into a specific role. Using two different models of interpellation created by Slavoj Žižek and Eyal Dotan, this article describes the shift from modern to postmodern texts in terms of reading enigmas. The author's particular case study focuses on the narrator's addresses in John Barth's Floating Opera. These addresses reveal how the narrative oscillates between interpellations that encourage a paranoid reading stance, stemming from an “enigma of desire” (as in Žižek's model) and interpellations that discourage this position, derived from an “enigma of addresser” (as in Dotan's model). Ultimately, readers are left feeling confused, without a stable reading position, and are forced to apply a “flickering” reading practice. This kind of practice rejects the oedipal role of the author as a father, in the Lacanian sense, who is the absolute subject responsible for constructing meaning and forming the law of the text.