Enigmas and Riddles in Literature

Enigmas and Riddles in Literature

by Eleanor Cook
Pub. Date:
Cambridge University Press
Select a Purchase Option (New Edition)
  • purchase options
  • purchase options


Enigmas and Riddles in Literature

How do enigmas and riddles work in literature? This benchmark study investigates the literary trope of the riddle, and its relation to the broader term 'enigma', including enigma as large masterplot. Cook argues for a revival of the old figure of speech known as 'enigma' from Aristotle to the seventeenth century by demonstrating its usefulness. The opening chapter surveys 'enigma personified' as sphinx and griffin, resuscitating a lost Graeco-Latin pun on 'griffin' used by Lewis Carroll. The history and functions of enigma draw on classical and biblical through to modern writing. Wide-ranging examples concentrate on literature in English, especially modern poetry, with three detailed case studies on Dante, Lewis Carroll, and Wallace Stevens. An important contribution to studies of poetic thought and metaphor, this anatomy of the riddle will appeal particularly to readers and scholars of poetry, modern American and comparative literatures, rhetoric, and folk-riddles.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780521119894
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Publication date: 09/17/2009
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 312
Product dimensions: 5.98(w) x 9.02(h) x 0.71(d)

Table of Contents

Introduction; 1. Enigma personified: the riddling beasts, Sphinx and griffin; 2. Enigma as trope: history, function, fortunes; 3. What is the shape of the riddle? Enigma as masterplot; 4. Case study I. Enigma in Dante's Eden (Purgatorio 27-33); 5. Questions of riddle and genre; 6. Riddle as scheme: a case for a new griph-class; 7. Case study II. Mapping riddles: Lewis Carroll and the Alice books; 8. Figures for enigma; 9. Case study III. The structure of reality: enigma in Wallace Steven's later work; 10. From protection to innocent amusement: some other functions of enigma; Afterword: enigma, the boundary figure; Appendix: Enigma, riddle and friends among the lexicographers.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews