A Model of Defiance: Reimagining the Comparative Analysis of Concealed Discourse in Text


This paper proposes that diverse oral-traditional cultures may use similar processes to conceal expressions of political or social subversion in a text. It introduces a new model to help identify concealed expressions of resistance and compare the processes involved in their disguise. Designed to tease out the relationships between the oral-derived text and the oral-traditional environment, the model frames the disguise process according to three principles: articulation, by which a text hides secondary meaning through its use of diction and syntax; construction, by which a text incorporates hidden meaning within its narrative or textual structure; and diversion, by which a text directs audience attention away from subversive meaning by focusing on other elements. With examples from the Babylonian Talmud, Homer’s Odyssey, and Maria Edgeworth’s Castle Rackrent, the paper demonstrates how these principles may be articulated. Because the new model frames disguise processes rather than individual expressions of resistance, its value is not limited to the context of defiance, but should be viewed as a general tool for the systematic, comparative analysis of texts, enabling nuanced examination of cultural features that may be difficult to discern from textual sources.

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