a reply to Prof Wilmot

An anti-wednesday experiment in discourse

paperExplanation: What follows is an attempt at reaching a fuller understanding of anti-tale through a rigid form of process argumentation that I made up.

Beginning with a query and a tentative conclusion, usually arising from a text by significant scholar in the discipline, the argument suggests a series of theses that argue with and nuance the tentative conclusion. Each thesis is supported by an Argument, or evidence from a relevant text, and a Corollary, which usually contains the logic necessary to build one thesis on another.

Hopefully, this experiment will help illumine still further our understanding not only of anti-tale, but of tale and narration, particularly in regards the literature of mythopoeia.

For my query, I’ve chosen to examine E. A. Wilmot’s theory of anti-tale for reasons which should become obvious. The experiment begins below the jump.


Does Wilmot’s concept of the anti-tale as a self-referentially metafictional form inferior to imaginative realism prove self-validating?

Proof Text:

The restructuring principle behind the verisimilitude required by the apprehension of the symbolic leitmotifs within Anti-märchen requires contradistinction between the basis of the primary principle, that of diffusion, with the secondary, that of predilection; the result will be either the tragic fallacy, as in the works of Norbert and Gissing, or the modified first principle, found chiefly in the archetype of the Kings of the East and the works of Heraclitus. In other words, the refutation of mimesis through the embrace of the subgenre of Anti-märchen distorts, refutes, and questions the Derridean anti-thesis of parallel tragedy, exhuming the irenic comedy into the dissolution of the metafictional narrative—and thus mythogogic—self-reflecting (faux) structure.

E. A. Wilmot, Dying Gods and the Interior Cult of the Narrative West: Spenser, Marx, and the Poesis of Radical Marchen (SAUP, 1947), 51-52.

Tentative Conclusion:
Wilmot’s argument remains unconvincing.


Thesis #1: Anti-tale is a structure which seems possibly to exist. (Cf. Frye, Anatomy, 51-52.)

“In fact I didn’t,” he said.
“But you ought to have. It was what was expected.”
“No one is worth expecting if they’re going to be as oblique as all that.”
“Is that what you say? It’s what you shouldn’t say, and that’s really the honest truth for you.”
“I thought from the beginning you’d be predisposed to that this view.”
“You thought? You never had a thought in your life.”
“In have I have,” he said.

Esme J. Wharburn, The Perplexity of Dr. Semio and His Remarkable Flying Apparatus (Julian Tree, 2007), 147.

Applying Frye to Wharburn, the dream erupts into the ritual of the mundane, creating a tension that contradicts the progress of narrative, thus creating anti-tale.


Thesis #2: Anti-tale, when it does exist, does not exist in isolation. (Cf. Frazer, 347.)

‘Elsewhere, however, being just where I wasn’t, I had no option but to grapple with this midnight marauder, and when I did so I was glad to find that he was apparently one who had stunted his growth by smoking as a boy. There was a shrimplike quality about him which I found most encouraging. It seemed to me that it would be an easy task to throttle him into submission, and I was getting down to it with a hearty goodwill when my hand touched what were plainly spectacles and at the same moment a stifled “Hey, look out for my glasses!” told me my diagnosis had been all wrong. This was no thief in the night but an old crony with whom in boyhood days I had often shared my last bar of milk chocolate.

“Oh, hullo, Gussie,” I said. “Is that you? I thought you were a burglar.”

There was a touch of asperity in his voice as he replied, “Well, I wasn’t.”’

P. G. Wodehouse, Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, 1963 (Harper&Row, 1990), 72.

In view of Bertie Wooster’s archetypal characterization as the dying king, it seems necessary to conclude that Gussie was not a burglar.


Thesis #3: Anti-tale, preferring as it does good company and a nice sing-song, is often found in company with storytellers. (Ratzinger, 42, 67.)

‘“This is a party,” said Albert.
“Indeed. I see you are standing upright.”
“Indeed. So are you, I see.”
“Indeed. Indeed. On that subject, I notice many others who are doing the same thing.”
“Which is not to say that the horizontal position does not have its merits when it comes to, for example, sleeping,” said Albert.
“Quite so. Obviously that would not be done here.”
“Oh, indeed. Indeed.”’

Terry Pratchett, Night Watch (Corgi, 2003), 395-396.

The intertexuality suggested by the linear metafictional theories requires the dissolution of the anti-tale only insofar as that engenders a dark poetics of imaginative theory.


Thesis #4: Storytellers are dead. (Benjamin, 152; contra Weatherwax, 1.)

‘And if another voice were given
To raise the sullen silence of the skies
Upon a roar that shook the bars of heaven
And made the crimson angels blink their eyes—’

Edmund Sylvio, ‘To a Mirror’ (1847): 45.

As storytellers are necessary to the telling to stories, they being mostly dead, stories would seem of necessity not to exist. The anti-tale therefore exists alone; however, it cannot exist in isolation, and therefore it does not exist.


Thesis #5: Nothing you’ve read really exists, and you probably don’t either. (QED)

‘“I still say you didn’t.”
“I say I did.”
“Do you really expect me to believe that? You, with that cat on your shoulder and duck in your hair? Do you know what you haven’t done?”
“Indeed I didn’t,” said Albert.’

Benyamin Nevis, Mesmered (Scylla, 1995), 42.



Despite the erudition of Wilmot’s scholarship, and despite its relevance for the study of the Derridean tragic fallacy, he can neither demonstrate nor avoid demonstrating that anti-tale either does exist or does not exist. We are left with the opposite solution, and that is that text is probably a bad dream, and anti-text is almost certainly a bad hangover. It is not even probable that Wilmot’s arguments would help him find where he put his hat.

Works Cited:

Assorted. Stuff: Some of it Real. Places: Times.
Self. Stuff: All of it Made Up. Here: Now

NOTE: Have fun looking up the sources. They’re all interesting if they exist.


4 thoughts on “a reply to Prof Wilmot

  1. an interesting arguement John, im going to have to get up to speed in anti-tale, i spent most of my time looking at how you structured teh arguement rather than the arguement itself.

  2. Pingback: from: “Strange Democracies” « The Paradoxes of Mr. Pond

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