An enlightening study of three writers, Flaubert, Joyce and Beckett: The Stoic Comedians begins with an explanation of the effect of the printing press on books. The book as book has been removed from the oral tradition by such features as prefaces, foottes, and indexes. Books have become voiceless in some sense--they are to be read silently, t recited aloud. How this mechanical change affected the possibilities of fiction is Kenner's subject. Each of the three featured authors approached this situation in a unique, yet connected way: Flaubert as the Comedian of the Enlightenment, categorizing man's intellectual follies; Joyce as the Comedian of the Inventory, with his meticulously constructed lists; and Beckett as the Comedian of the Impasse, eliminating facts and writing vels about a man alone writing.
William Hugh Kenner, was a Canadian literary scholar, critic and professor.