Research article
Issue: № 3 (3), 2015


The article proposes to apply the term "bilingual epigraph", considering "author-epigraph-narrative-reader" relationship in the poetics of the novel, preceded by numerous epigraphs from more than 80 languages over the world. Bilingual epigraphs are unique because they are able to develop new and nonlinear subtext associations. The intellectual reader that can value bilingual epigraph gets involved into manyleveled relations not only of the events portrayed, he also enters new cultural reality, where the bilingual epigraph becomes a key, an allusion. Epigraph together with a reader start to create new levels of reading, they both develop extra locuses within the artistic space of the work. Thus, bilingual epigraphs containing foreign-language elements, perform the function of reference (a footnote) developing hypertextual relationship. This article investigates the novel "The Gilded Age, a tale of today" (1873) by Mark Twain (S. Klemens) and Ch.D.Worren as one of the first works in which multiple bilingual epigrafs developed Hypertextual relations, in the modern sense of hypertext as a nonlinear narrative.

This article investigates bilingual interrelations between narratives and their epigraphs, as well as between epigraphs and foreign expressions incorporated into them. Bilingual statements in epigraphs have already become peculiar signs of intellectual writing. We find bilingual epigraphs in the works by A. Akhmatova, Th. S. Eliot, I. Brodsky, J. Joyce and J. Updike, and many other great writers all over the world. Bilingual epigraph originates from two languages and cultures simultaneously, besides, it ordinates from the primary text. Therefore it has a twice double nature. For such epigraphs comprising foreign segments the term ‘bilingual epigraph’ is proposed [L.Kazakova]. Being textual components and interrelating with allusions and associations, bilingual epigraphs develop numerous interrelations: intertextual as well as paratextual and subtextual too. Besides, having extralinguistic function, they serve as linking elements or doors into the new cultural worlds. So, bilingual epigraphs functioning simultaneously inside different cultural backgrounds and having a deliberate nature transform narrative into a hypertext where they serve as footnotes, references that allow a reader to transform narrative into a new deliberate structure depending on reader’s intellect and way of thinking.

Hypertext is a usual thing in our XXI century reality. This term was first applied by American sociologist and philosopher Ted Nelson in 1965 to characterize virtual nonlinear text growing and mixing with the other texts by one click of a reader. But much earlier hypertext effect appeared in the artistic world of literature. Really, hypertext in its literature variant didn’t’ appear first in J. Foer’s novel “Tree of Codes” (2010). The first try was made much earlier by other great Americans S. Clemens and Ch. D. Warner in their novel “The Gilded Age, a tale of today” (1873). This book became the first experience of making hypertext developed by numerous epigraphs to this novel. They were collected from about 80 languages, every chapter of this novel is preceded by one or more epigraphs given in their mother tongues. This complex collage of epigraphs becomes a visual metaphor to heterogeneous multicultural reality of the Earth, where epigraphs serve as crossing bridges uniting distanced realities, languages, and cultures. As the allusions to the source texts and cultures, these bilingual epigraphs develop intricate non-linear relations with their old and new narratives, writers and readers. This novel was written as a great painting about 60-70s of the XIX century, during two hard post Civil War decades, also known as Grunder or Classic Liberal Period. Irony and mystification are the key devices in its poetics. They ‘grow up’ from the preface and epigraph. In the preface the writers mention that “in a state where there is no fever of speculation, no inflamed desire for sudden wealth, …there are necessarily no materials for such a history as we have constructed out of an ideal commonwealth”. So, satire, parody and irony compose pathos of this novel. Mystifications start from recollection about German composer R. Vagner, who in fact wrote nothing about epigraphs. Epigraphs start every chapter. Whimsical mottoes written in various living and dead languages all over the world were selected by American philologist James H. Trumbull. Starting the whole novel epigraph tells an old Chinese proverb: Hie li shán ching yŭ: tung sin ní pien kin/By combined strength, a mountain becomes gems: by united hearts, mud turns to gold. Writers’ joke paraphrase follows it: a maxim often painted on the door-posts of a Chinese firm which may be freely translated: two heads, working together, out of commonplace materials, bring THE GILDED AGE. Writers describe gilded reality, not gold. So, they express their critical attitude and genre characteristic of the novel in the epigraph, that is a true password to the novel based on ironical paraphrase as a key narrative strategy. Other numerous mottoes starting every chapter are paraphrased Biblical statements, folk legends, proverbs and literature texts. Some chapters have two and even more epigraphs. Total collage composes a complex metaphor of gilded age as an illusion of brightness, wealth and happiness. This image became more visual in the first edition of the novel that comprised original epigraphs without their translations.

Some mottos are sharply satirical. For example, a quote from “The Pilgrim’s Progress” (1678-1684) by English writer J. Bunyan (1628 – 1688) W. M. Thackeray used as a title for his novel “Vanity Fair” (1848). Developing satirical tradition, the XXVI chapter of Gilded Age starts the following phrase from J. Bunyan’s novel [Osipova, 2013, 234]. Described in the novel, swindles represent ‘great’ financial projects of the time. Critics said that this book was “as topical as a daily newspaper”. In 1874 it was translated into Russian and edited in “Motherland Notes” under the title “Tinsel Age”.

Jed Perl, a regular observer of The Baffler magazine compares situation in American XXI century national art with a huge mystification, he names modern art strategy “laissez-faire aesthetics, cash-and-carry Aesthetics”: “O’kay, the art world is now a variety show, a great show”, [Baffler, 2012, p.18]. Untrue substitution, “high and low” vibrations make thoughts unclear, terms ‘trash’ and ‘meta-trash’ became very popular in modern reviews. In fact, J. Perl has precisely caught the most crucial tendencies that are common for many countries. Some of them were predicted by M. Twain and Ch. D. Warner. Modern critics trouble that our spectators and readers consider the best work of art as vibrant, like an exciting mosaic, not more. To go out of this “shotgun marriage of high and low” [Baffler, 2012, p.16], critics propose to develop critical thinking in public.

Some epigraphs in The Gilded Age parody romantic pathos. So, chapters VII–VIII are about Washington Hawkins visit to Hawkeye, “a pretty large town for interior Missouri”, his discussing Colonel Seller’s financial plans. The VIIth chapter’s epigraph is a verse fragment from English romantically oriented poet Benjamin Jonson (1572 – 1637): “Via, Pecunia! when she's run and gone And fled, and dead, then will I fetch her again With aqua vita, out of an old hogshead! While there are lees of wine, or dregs of beer, I'll never want her! Coin her out of cobwebs, Dust, but I'll have her! raise wool upon egg-shells, Sir, and make grass grow out of marrow-bones, To make her come!” (B. Jonson). In Russian translation by L.V. Hvostenko only one of two Latin sayings has left making high romantic pathos weaker, low colloquial words develop the same tendency and strengthen parody style. Сombination of titles (“Colonel Sellers Makes Known His Magnificent Speculation Schemes and Astonishes Washington Hawkins”) and epigraphs where Latin phrases are central to realize verbal irony, expressing both high and low pathos.

Bilingual epigraphs become true magnetic centers of their aesthetic realities. They comprise segments from foreign languages, being simultaneously a quote, an allusion on primary narrative, they awoke additional indirect and nonverbal associations and ideas. Thus, they become phenomenal energy centers or crossing bridges to link different historical epochs, societies, their cultures and languages. Being textual components and interrelating with allusions and associations, they develop intertextual relations (paratextual) and subtextual. Really, they serve as doors into the new artistic worlds. Bilingual epigraphs transform narrative into a hypertext, functioning simultaneously inside different cultural backgrounds and therefore having a double nature. The higher intellectual level of a reader the more powerful bilingual epigraphs become. Finally, their power and energy depend on both writer’s and reader’s minds, and therefore bilingual epigraphs serve as links between them, becoming essential components of receptive theory. Any preceding narrative literature epigraph is polyfunctional. It is topical to research interrelations between the narrative and its epigraph as well as between the author, his narrative, epigraph and the reader. Any epigraph is phenomenal because it isn’t a sum of letters or words, but a cluster of ideas, images and associations. Being a wisdom or a joke, a paraphrase or an allegory epigraph participates in different levels of poetics, develops various relations simultaneously. Bilingual epigraphs make up complex in structure metaphorical image of art as a diverse mosaic that may be very convenient to mask hypocritical values and ideas. In our contemporary reality “The Guilded Age” becomes a true warning to prove an idea that art and literature should be read and analyzed deeply. Bilingual epigraphs make novel structure grow like a tree with thick leaves and numerous branches. Artistic space becomes an easy moving and many leveled world that is very sensitive to reader’s association and allusion being able to change and grow with its reader.


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