The Crossword Mentality in Modern Literature and Culture
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CitationRaphel, Adrienne. 2018. The Crossword Mentality in Modern Literature and Culture. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation examines the crossword’s influence in modern literature and culture in three sections: history, literature, and praxis. I argue that while the crossword relies on surface-level connections as aesthetic form, as a cultural mode, by thinking inside the box, people use the puzzle to make connections with each other.
I first tell the story of the crossword from 1913 to the present, charting the crossword's evolution from an afterthought in the newspaper to one of the main media moneymakers of the twenty-first century. Ultimately, I argue that the crossword has become a reflection and an emblem of contemporary leisure-class culture in both America and England.
The second section argues that the crossword plays an evocative role as both formal figure and stylistic trope in modern and contemporary literature. I show the crossword's role in the creative processes of several twentieth- and twenty-first century authors, united by their interest in the puzzle’s addictive qualities and capacity to facilitate associative thinking. I track the appearance of the crossword in literary texts between 1913 and 2018, arguing that the crossword typically connotes intellectual prowess without emotional sophistication. This section also considers reading practices, comparing the reading of a crossword to the reading of literature by setting both in conversation with definitions of difficulty. To help understand the crossword itself as form, I provide a detailed taxonomy.
The third section provides a study of the praxis of the crossword in contemporary life. It takes the reader behind the scenes of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, the nation’s oldest and largest competition of its kind. This section also presents a narrative account of a crossword-puzzle-themed ocean crossing on the Queen Mary II. I argue that although the crossword is by nature a solitary practice, the crossword brings people together in surprising and unexpected ways.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41129119
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