“A Poet May Not Exist”: Mock-Hoaxes and the Construction of National Identity

In memory of Armand Schwerner (1927–99)
  • Brian McHale


Let me begin by describing two recent acts of literary impersonation, and their respective receptions.


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  1. 1.
    Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha (New York: Random House, 1997).Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    see Tosa Motokiyu, Ojiu Norinaga, and Okura Kyojin (trans, and eds.), Doubled Flowering: From the Notebooks of Araki Yasusada (New York: Roof Books, 1997).Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    John Solt, professor of Japanese culture at Amherst College, quoted by Emily Nussbaum, “Turning Japanese: The Hiroshima Poetry Hoax,” Lingua Franca 6(7) (November 1996), 1.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    John Burnham Schwartz, “Masked Memoir,” The New Yorker (29 September 1997), 82.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    On the Wilkomirski case, see Philip Gourevitch, “The Memory Thief,” The New Yorker (14 June 1999), 48–68.Google Scholar
  6. 12.
    For Sokal’s hoax, see Alan D. Sokal, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,” Social Text 46/47(1–2) (Spring/Summer 1996), 217–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. for the hoax’s exposure and its repercussions, see Alan Sokal, “A Physicist Experiments with Cultural Studies,” Lingua Franca (May/June 1996), 62–4, andGoogle Scholar
  8. “Forum: Mystery Science Theater,” Lingua Franca (July/August 1996), 54–64.Google Scholar
  9. See also Steven Weinberg, “Sokal’s Hoax,” The New York Review of Books 43(13) (8 August 1996), 11–15.Google Scholar
  10. 14.
    See Ian Haywood, The Making of History: A Study of the Literary Forgeries of James Macpherson and Thomas Chatterton in Relation to Eighteenth-Century Ideas of History and Fiction (Rutherford, Madison and Teaneck, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press/London and Toronto: Associated University Presses, 1986).Google Scholar
  11. 20.
    On Macpherson, see Robert Folkenflik, “Macpherson, Chatterton, Blake and the Great Age of Literary Forgeries,” Centennial Review 15(4) (Fall 1974), 378–91Google Scholar
  12. 21.
    Susan Stewart, “Scandals of the Ballad,” in Crimes of Writing: Problems in the Containment of Representation (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 131.Google Scholar
  13. 22.
    See Juha Y. Pentikäinen, Kalevala Mythology, trans. and ed. by Ritva Poom (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1989), xv.Google Scholar
  14. 32.
    Quoted in Finkelstein’s Not One of Them in Place: Modern Poetry and Jewish American Identity (Albany: SUNY Press, 2001), 115–16.Google Scholar
  15. 33.
    See Boris de Rachewiltz, “Pagan and Magic Elements in Ezra Pound’s Works,” in New Approaches to Ezra Pound: A Co-Ordinated Investigation of Pound’s Poetry and Ideas, ed. Eva Hesse (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1969), 187–9.Google Scholar
  16. 34.
    L.A. Waddell, The Makers of Civilization in Race and History: Showing the Rise of the Aryans or Sumerians, Their Origination and Propagation of Civilization, Their Extensions of It to Egypt and Crete, Personalities and Achievements of Their Kings, Historical Originals of Mythic Gods and Heroes with Dates from the Rise of Civilization about 3380 B.c., Reconstructed from Babylonian, Egyptian, Hittite, Indian and Gothic Sources (London: Luzac & Co., 1929), 517.Google Scholar
  17. 36.
    Charles Olson, “Mayan Letters,” in Selected Writings, ed. Robert Creeley (New York: New Directions, 1966), 97–8; double parentheses are Olson’s.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Robert J. Griffin 2003

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  • Brian McHale

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