Ryan Carroll is a graduating senior at The George Washington University studying English and Linguistics. His research interests include global modernism, literary theory, digital humanities, and literary phenomenology. Most recently, he finished work on his Honors thesis, “Feathery and Evanescent, Clamped with Bolts of Iron: Contradiction and Sacramental Reading in the Novels of Virginia Woolf and Gabriel García Márquez,” which studies the stylistic form of Woolf and García Márquez’s fiction in order to develop a theory of literature that draws from the Catholic concept of the sacramental. Previously, he has been published in the University of Maryland’s Paper Shell Review and the Madison Journal of Literary Criticism, and has been accepted to present at the South Atlantic Modern Language Association and Northeast Modern Language Association conferences. In the future, he hopes to continue his research into a phenomenology of literature, with an eye towards metanarrativity and mediation in twentieth-century fiction.
Fundamental to any novel is finality—a narrative may consume hundreds of pages, but, ultimately, it must conclude. Yet, at the same time, they continue to compel our attention, staying alive in our minds and imaginations. In this paper, I study novelistic endings with an eye toward two particularly notable Global Modernists, Virginia Woolf and Gabriel García Márquez. Analyzing the poetics of García Márquez’s and Woolf’s novelistic endings, I argue that they may direct us to what I call the simultaneous finality and eternality that undergird textual interpretation. In one way, their novels call attention to their own terminality, to the material finitude of reading and the constant missingness that is entailed by finishing a novel; and, in another way, the novels’ language concludes their narratives in states of perpetuality and flux, thus directing the reader to the way in which their stories will perpetuallyunfold in the text, to the way that their missingness only calls for further engagement with the text. Furthermore, drawing from the theoretical work of D.A. Miller and Wolfgang Iser and the framework of the sacramental, I argue that dialectic of missingness and re-interpretation serves to consecrate a text with spirit, to animate it with vitality and life—a kind of sacramental embodiment of meaning that grows in interpretation. Ultimately, I argue, Woolf and García Márquez reveal the novel as an entity of both missingness and vitality, a finite entity that constitutes singular meanings and an infinite experience that offers an ongoing revelation of meaning.
An Ongoing Revelation: Endings and Poetics of Missingness in the Novels of Virginia Woolf and Gabriel García Márquez
Fundamental to any novelistic text, we might think, is its finality. A novel’s narrative might consume hundreds of pages, but ultimately, it must conclude, must close its narrative and depart from the readerly consciousness. And yet, at the same time, we don’t finish with the novel after we read the final word; it remains in our consciousness, animated in our intellect, affect, and imagination, continuing to pulse with some sense of life. Even when novels leave us, they also continue to call us, calling us to move back across this space of missingness to continue engaging with them. In this paper, I will endeavor to analyze this phenomenon and its manifestation in the paradigm of global modernism—namely, in the novelistic endings of Virginia Woolf and Gabriel García Márquez.
More specifically, I will argue that the poetics of conclusion, the formal structure of García Márquez’s and Woolf’s endings, direct us to what I call the differentiated unity, the presence of multiple contradictions in the act of reading—in this case, the simultaneous finality and eternality that undergirds the experience of the text. In one way, García Márquez’s and Woolf’s endings call attention to the novels’ own terminality, to the material finitude of reading and the constant missingness that is entailed by the conclusion of a novel. Simultaneously, however, Garcia Marquez’s and Woolf’s novelistic language concludes their narratives in states of perpetuality and flux, directing the reader to actually experience the way in which the novel’s meaning will perpetually unfold in the text. Further, drawing from the theoretical work of Wolfgang Iser and D.A. Miller, as well as the spiritual framework of the sacramental, I will argue that Woolf’s and García Márquez’s poetics may direct us, as readers, to the way that the textual dialectic of missingness and interpretation serves to consecrate a text with spirit, to animate it with vitality and life—a kind of sacramental embodiment of meaning that grows in interpretation.
As subjects, Woolf and García Márquez are particularly interesting figures for analysis for a number of reasons; the most immediate of which is their genealogy of influence. Though Hemmingway and Faulkner are frequently listed as García Márquez’s greatest influences, García Márquez himself cited Woolf as a major stylistic inspiration (Bell-Villada 82-83)—he was captivated by Jose Luis Borges’ translation of Woolf’s Orlando, and, while working as a reporter, used the pseudonym Séptimus, after Septimus Smith, one of the protagonists of Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway (Martin 122). But it is not my goal here to “prove” that this influence exists (after all, if I wanted to do that, I would have finished this paper after that last sentence) nor is it my goal to determine the progeny of either writer’s style or worldview; this, I think, would be as fruitful as digging the two up and trying to ask them how they wrote their books. Rather, I see this analysis as a meaningful endeavor not just(or not only) because of the direct influence between the two, but also because their treatment of endings transcends the temporal and geographic gulf between them. And, just as their stylistic influence bridges this gap, so too does their mutual attention to contradiction and differentiated unity and their mutual ability to generate these ideas within the form of their works.
Examining endings specifically, I am especially attentive to D.A. Miller’s conception of “closure” in the novel, which locates the necessary state of tension and self-contradiction inherent to the very act of conclusion. Narrative, for Miller, is composed of the “narratable,” the “instances of disequilibrium, suspense, and general insufficiency from which a given narrative appears to arise” (Miller 252); an ending, then, ostensibly brings narratable events to a close and restores a sense of quietude. Yet, narrative poetics can never truly bring a narrative to an end, because, they are, themselves, part of the narrative—the narratable “can never generate the terms for its own arrest. These must be imported from elsewhere, from a world untouched by the conditions of narratability. Yet as soon as such a world is invoked in the novels…its authority is put into doubt by the system of narrative itself” (Miller 274). In other words, a novel can never bring itself to an end, because, by the nature of the text, any attempt to end a narrative requires language that continues the narrative. While a text is, of course, materially finite, comprised of only a certain number of words and pages, its narrative may never be fully lain to rest. It is important to note, however, that Miller studies this trend largely in “traditional” novelistic endings, endings that do not explicitly recognize the inherent contradiction of “ending” a narrative. In this analysis, I will endeavor to demonstrate the way in which Woolf’s and García Márquez’s narratives are fueled by a certain awareness of this contradiction (and attention to the materiality of endings, in a way that Miller himself does not note), and, by affirming the inherent conundrum of ending a narrative, direct us to understand and experience the way in which the novelistic narrative never truly ends, and is, indeed, vitalized and animated by its perpetuality.
For this reason, I seek here to link Miller’s theorization of the ending with broader frameworks for understanding the novel, namely those of Iser and of the Catholic Imagination. Iser, for his part, proposes a conception of the novel in which the “literary work” is constituted in the “convergence of text and reader” (Iser 279)—the interplay between the text and reader generates the text’s own “virtual dimension,” the shifting narrative reality that exists in the reader’s mind and that “endows [the text] with its reality” (Iser 284)—or, as I might say, that which consecrates the text with vitality. Particularly crucial to this interplay is the reader’s embodied knowledge of the text: Iser argues that upon concluding a text, the text and reader have fundamentally changed one another, such that the reader encounters a new possibility for interpreting and constituting meaning. In this encounter, the reader “implicitly acknowledges the inexhaustibility of the text; at the same time, it is this very inexhaustibility that forces [them] to make [them] decision” (Iser 285). Thus, Iser may allow us to note, the ongoing nature of the interpretation process is the very phenomenon that perpetuates the text, that keeps it vital.
This element of vitality dovetails into the final element of my critical apparatus: sacramentality. I use this word, derived from Roman Catholic spirituality, to refer to an understanding of texts and other phenomena as being consecrated with spirit, actually embodying in their aesthetic and material form, incarnating and making present, the meaning that permeates them. Sacramentality also applies, further, to the relational process of textual interpretation—to interpret a text is to join in a relationship with it, constituting meaning in one moment and also offering an impression of a text’s whole gestalt meaning. I draw here from Andrew Greeley’s theory of the Catholic Imagination, which seeks to explicate the sacramental manner the Catholic conceptual framework (if not doctrine per se) conceives the world. In this framework, the stuff of reality is understood to be enchanted with God’s presence—God is incarnated in all reality, and God’s infinite nature is constantly revealed within this incarnation. (Greeley 1-7). Consequently, the “texts” of Catholicism, not only the Bible but also relics, icons, rituals, and, indeed, all things that exist in the world, are understood as being real, vital presences of God: they are sacraments that both embody divinity and invite individuals to join in a communion with divinity. This communion, in turn, calls one into an ongoing revelation of God’s presence both in that singular moment and in all things.
The concept of sacramentality has, in turn, been mobilized in the realm of literary and philosophical theory: Terry Eagleton, for example, articulates the sacrament as a sign that “accomplishes what it signifies,” texts that “do what they proclaim, as both material acts and pieces of discourse” (Eagleton 135). Phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty, similarly, emphasizes both the incarnational and the relational element of sacramentality, noting that “the sacrament not only symbolizes, in sensible species, an operation of Grace, but is also the real presence of God, which it causes to occupy a fragment of space and communicates to those who eat of the consecrated bread, provided that they are inwardly prepared” (Merleau-Ponty 246). Subsequently, he draws a parallel between this dynamic and the nature of sensation, the quality of the sensible to embody meaning and to engage in a mutualistic relationship with the perceiver—a differentiated unity. Sacramentality, in this way, may be a valuable frame for understanding contradiction and the production of meaning in Woolf’s and García Márquez’s novels, in which the text joins with the reader to constitute local meanings and reveal global meaning. Consequently, in using the words spirit and soul here, I use soul or spirit (which I will apply interchangeably)to refer to the whole, multifarious gestalt of meaning that permeates any text, the force that animates and consecrates the text with vitality in the readerly affect, intellect, and imagination, and which is sacramentally incarnated in aesthetic form. In other words, the spirit may be understood as the animating force that gives a text life, the same force that the reader encounters in reading—and which is consecrated in the text by the interpretative process.
Ultimately, by joining Miller and Iser with the framework of sacramentality, we may find that Woolf’s and García Márquez’s novels point us to a particular understanding of textuality and interpretation in general. In the endings of their novels, in particular, García Márquez and Woolf direct our attention to the differentiated unity of finality and eternality that exists in the act of interpretation. A text, they reflect, is an object with a finite number of pages, and must necessarily end with the reading of the final page; yet, in rendering narrative “endings” that are left in a permanent sense of flux, their stories never truly end, instead persisting as perpetual artifacts, always growing in meaning as the reader continues to interpret them. García Márquez’s and Woolf’s novels speak to the way in which readers join with texts to both constitute local meanings and to engage in an ongoing revelation of a text’s whole, global meaning.
An Ongoing Revelation: Finality, Eternality, and Interpretationality in Endings
Through the remainder of this paper, I will close read García Márquez’s and Woolf’s novelistic endings and study the differentiated unity finalityand eternality at play in their conclusions. By finality, I mean the way in which the novels draw attention to their own finitude, their conclusiveness, the fact that the reader must actually finish reading their physical form and (hopefully) draw some reading from this act. By eternality, on the other hand, I mean the way in which the novels flag the sense of permanent stasis in which they end, their final images capturing their subjects mid-action, left in a state of eternal persistence, like a photograph that preserves the ephemerality of a single moment for all of time. From these simultaneous qualities, I argue, we may be directed to understand that the sacramental text is never one that truly ends—it crystalizes a local meaning in one instant, while also giving an impression of the global, gestalt meaning of the whole text, one compounded and consecrated by each new reading.
The quintessential model of this differentiated unity is the ending of One Hundred Years of Solitude, in which García Márquez concludes the novel by locking its events into a kind of endless hermeneutical loop. At the novel’s conclusion, the last member of the Buendia family, Aureliano, discovers his wife and inbred child dead and, in a “flash of lucidity,” he deciphers “as if they had been written in Spanish” (OYS 415) the encoded parchments given to his ancestors earlier in the novel by the magician Melquíades:
It was the history of his family, written by Melquíades, down to the most trivial details, one hundred years ahead of time…Melquíades had not put events in the order of man’s conventional time, but had concentrated a century of daily episodes in such a way that they coexisted in one instant…[after reading about his progeny, Aureliano] began to decipher the instant that he was living, deciphering it as he lived it, prophesying himself in the act of deciphering the last page of the parchments, as if he were looking into a speaking mirror. Then he skipped again to anticipate the predictions and ascertain the date and circumstances of his death. Before reaching the final line, however, he already understood that he would never leave that room, for it was foreseen that the city of mirrors (or mirages) would be wiped out by the wind and exiled from the memory of men at the precise moment when Aureliano Babilonia would finish deciphering the parchments, and that everything written on them was unrepeatable since time immemorial and forever more, because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth. (OYS 414-417)
Here, One Hundred Years of Solitude reckons with a number of the elements carrying throughout its entirety, namely the differentiated unity and sacramentality of its form and the sacramentality process in which the novel itself is read. The reader is called to bring attention to their own act of reading, to the fact that they become congruent with Aureliano as he reads what is (or at least resembles) the text of One Hundred Years of Solitude, albeit written by Melquíades and not García Márquez: Aureliano suddenly becomes enveloped in the “century of daily episodes” that make up the text, sacramentally experiencing all that the reader has heretofore experienced in the novel. Or, more accurately, the reader and Aureliano experience all that each other has experienced. In this moment, the novel becomes a kind of Moebius strip of interpretation as we read Aureliano reading us reading Aureliano.
That is: we read the story of Aureliano reading his own story. Because García Márquez’s poetics inhabit the narrative in the past tense, we are inclined toward understanding that we are presently reading events that have already occurred and ended; simultaneously, Aureliano himself is reading the text (or something like the text) of One Hundred Years of Solitude, which we have already experienced in our reading; and, even further, we are presently reading Aureliano as he, too, is “decipher[ing] the instant that he was living…prophesying himself in the act of deciphering.” Thus, in our engagement with the text and our consequent union with Aureliano, we come to contradictorily experience events as past, present, and future, all at once, infinity folded into the finite textual space. Like a single instant preserved for eternity in a photograph: always happening, and always already having happened.
This differentiated unity of finality and eternality reaches its apotheosis at the conclusion of the final paragraph, when the narrator remarks that Macondo would be “exiled from memory” and all the events of the parchments would be “unrepeatable since time immemorial and forever more”; in other words, the story concludes, and from our perspective, reading from a “future” point, it has always been over. And yet, this assertion is contradicted by the simple fact that we are reading One Hundred Years of Solitude, and we will always be able to flip back to the first page and reread the novel’s events—and, for that matter, keep the events in our memory. Thus, while the events are over, they are recapitulated in the text; while they are “unrepeatable,” they are repeated in our reading. Is Macondo truly destroyed? Yes, but then again, we are physically reading an embodied performance, a sacrament, of the entire history of Macondo and the Buendia family, one that will always be happening, and one that will always already have happened. Thus, we find in the novel’s ending a distinct bundling, a differentiated unity, of finality and eternality, a contradiction that animates the text with a dynamism that persists beyond the moment when the reader’s eye sweeps across the last word (earth in English, and tierra in the original Spanish).
Returning to the concept of sacramental interpretation, Solitude’s ending may allow us to contour the concept more sharply and sketch out its parameters more fully. We might see, in the first place, that in its ending, One Hundred Years of Solitude becomes a sacrament of temporalities, actually making the past, present, and future present in a single moment, a single textual form (in that way, it resonates well with Woolf’s mnemonic and temporal sacramentality in Mrs. Dalloway). An integral element of the reading process here is that the texts join together with the reader to constitute meaning, which is certainly applicable here. But what else might it say about the act of reading itself, considering its significance to this scene of the text? What might this ending say about the nature of the interpretative process beyond one singular moment of meaning?
The answer, I believe, lies in the text’s differentiated unity of finality and eternality. As the novel’s Moebius strip of interpretation directs us to understand, the act of simply completing a text does not render it an inert entity; rather, reading a text is part of an ongoing revelation of meaning, one in which the text always remains alive, offering forth new meanings on each reading that add to the whole gestalt of the text’s meaning. Indeed, as Iser recognizes, in the moment that the reader engages with the text’s multifariousness of meaning, “he implicitly acknowledges the inexhaustibility of the text; at the same time it is this very inexhaustibility that forces him to make his decision [about how to interpret the text in that moment]” (Iser 285). We may, indeed, compare this differentiated unity with Aureliano’s own act of decoding Melquíades’ parchments, when he works to “decipher the instant that he was living, deciphering it as he lived it,” (OYS 416) a local meaning, while simultaneously reading “a century of daily episodes in such a way that they coexisted in one instant,” (415) the whole gestalt of the text’s meaning, which culminates in the final revelation that closes the novel (417). In turn, this meaning animates our continuing contemplation of the text, keeping it alive in our thoughts and feelings—and contours our future readings, with the ending prompting us to revise all that we knew about the text and to formulate new meaning as we fold the text’s ending over all the events that preceded it. Thus, the text remains perpetual, being animated and consecrated by our reading. We cannot simply leave Macondo to rest—through this sacramental interpretation, it remains alive, as does the text, continually compounding in the sacramental meaning that it embodies.
The same, we find, is true in the conclusion to Woolf’s Orlando. At the novel’s conclusion, Orlando, in a state of ecstasy, begins to perceive the full totality of reality, all its sacramental meanings and significances, and experiences, compressed into a single moment, a flurry of experiences from throughout her life (O 240). Then, among the still midnight she sees rising before her “a phantom castle upon earth…the great house with all its windows robed in silver,” which had neither “wall or substance,” and she relives the fateful moment in the book’s introduction when she (then he) met Queen Elizabeth. Suddenly, the ecstasy climaxes as Orlando’s husband returns from a jaunt abroad, whereupon a wild goose (echoing Orlando’s previous frustration of attempting to catch real, ecstatic meaning, which she compares to a goose flying out to see) flies over his head. The novel concludes:
“It is the goose!” Orlando cried. “The wild goose…”
And the twelfth stroke of midnight sounded; the twelfth stroke of midnight, Thursday, the eleventh of October, Nineteen Hundred and Twenty-eight. (O 240-241)
Certainly, this ending is not the same mind-bending puzzle of interpretationalityas in One Hundred Years of Solitude, but it nonetheless does direct us to the same differentiated unity of finality and eternality, and the same attention to the ongoing revelation of sacramental meaning. Here, the ending to Orlando offers us not a tidy resolution for its central characters, nor an explicit statement about the “true” meaning of it all, but rather an image—an image that is final, that is complete, but also an image whose ongoing action partakes of a kind of perpetuality. Again, we may return to the photograph: simultaneously capturing a single, final instant, and extending out that instant for all time. In turn, Orlando, like One Hundred Years of Solitude, directs us in this fashion to consider our own role in the novel’s ending—can we truly say that either our reading or the novel truly ended? I am inclined to think not. Instead, we must come to understand that one reading of the novel offers one meaning, bundle of emotions and associations, while also offering an impression of its own wild goose, the whole totality of its meaning. Indeed, this duality is especially true when we consider the final line of the novel, listing the precise date of Orlando’s ecstasy—not coincidentally, the same date that Orlando, the novel, was first published. In one way, the text pins its ending to a definitive date and time, a time that is perpetually inaccessible to readers—the narrative ends on a fixed date, and nobody who has ever read Orlando, save, perhaps, for those who finished it on the day it was published, will ever be able to experience this date as the present. It is, to paraphrase Woolf, always already the past. And yet, despite this finality, the novel’s vitality persists: it is continually read and continually interpreted continuing to blaze with life—I may read the novel ninety-one years after its initial publication and still experience it as though it were, in some way, really happening. Thus, in its differentiated unity of finality and eternality, the novel directs us to the way in which its multifariousness, its fixedness-and-unfixity, allow its soul of meaning to continually consecrate the textual form.
And, to be sure, this same differentiated unity of finality and eternality exists across Woolf’s and García Márquez’s respective oeuvres. This fact is especially significant, as it elucidates the broad relevance of this sacramental model of understanding endings: while it is meaningful enough to identify the sacramental sensibility at play in Orlando and Solitude, as both of those novels explicitly address the issue of readerly interpretation, García Márquez’s and Woolf’s other novels are not so explicit in this sensibility. Thus, to highlight the differentiated unity of finality and eternality in these novels is to offer insight into the way that all of García Márquez’s and Woolf’s fiction, and, indeed, all fiction in general, may partake in the ongoing revelation of interpretation.
The General in His Labyrinth ends with the moment of Simón Bolívar’s death, a final moment suspended perpetually in a state of flux; while García Márquez notes the precise date (December 17) and time (signaled by slaves “signing the six o’clock Salve” (GL 168)), Bolívar also sees “Venus in the sky that was dying forever, the eternal snows, the new vine whose yellow bellflower he would not see bloom on the following Saturday in the house closed in mourning, the final brilliance of life that would never, through all eternity, be repeated again” (GL 168). In a reiteration of the apophasis and contradiction in One Hundred Years of Solitude, we are made aware of the finality of the General’s death, the supposed impossibility of its repetition—and, simultaneously, we are also made aware that he is “dying forever,” and that, though his life is ending, we may repeat his “final brilliance of life” because we may read back over the paragraph, or the chapter, or the novel itself, recreating and re-discerning his life. Thus, we are called once more into an ongoing revelation of meaning that animates and sacramentally consecrates the text with life.
The same multivalent occurrence of finality and eternality emerges in the conclusion of To the Lighthouse, as Lily Briscoe finally completes her painting—with the text offering a glimpse at the work’s finite future life while also perpetually illuminating it before the reader. We are made to know, and to experience, that the painting “would be hung in the attics” and “destroyed,” (TL 211) but yet, among this sense of finality, we are left, too, with a sense of perpetuality; the last image of the novel depicts Lily in several temporalities at the same time: “Yes, she thought, laying down her brush in extreme fatigue, I have had my vision” (TL 211, emphasis mine). Here, the reader is directed, ever so subtly, to understand Lily to be both finished, forever completed with her work, but also always in motion, in some way always laying down her brush. Woolf offers a further glimpse of endlessness in the eternal flux of Lily’s painting: the novel concludes without giving a clear image of what the painting actually looks like; it is left as a specter perpetually looming over and inflecting our contemplation and reading of the text. Upon a future reading, for example, we may discern moments in which the text anticipates and hints at the painting in unexpected ways—finding new meanings in the ongoing reading process. Iser, analyzing this ongoing reading process, notes that “in a second reading familiar occurrences now tend to appear in a new light and seem to be at times corrected, at times enriched,” and that, consequently, “the reading process always involves viewing the text through a perspective that is continually on the move, linking up the different phases, and so constructing” the whole of its meaning (Iser 285). In our interpretation and experience of these seemingly new elements, we bring ourselves to a different text, one that has been altered by our interpretation, that can now constitute new local meanings even adding to the text’s gestalt and consecrating the text with life. Both Lily and Woolf have “had [their] vision[s]” in a kind of final way, but in the text’s indeterminacy, it lives on in the readerly imagination, infused with a vitality that continues to expand as we read the novel. The same thread is visible, too, in the ending to Love in the Time of Cholera. At the conclusion of the novel, Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza, reunited in old age and new love, sail up and down the Magdalena River to avoid the seemingly inevitable return to the social ostracization that awaits them at home. Ultimately, they refuse to return, committing themselves to sailing the river forever and hoisting the flag of a cholera outbreak to ward off interlopers—and thus, in raising a banner synonymous with death, finality, they come to occupy a space of eternality, a kind of perpetual life. Indeed, upon this decision, the ship’s captain, identified by Fermina Daza as “their destiny,” is himself “overwhelmed by the belated suspicion that it is life, more than death, that has no limits” (LC 348). Consequently, after the captain inquires of Florentino Ariza how long their trip will last, Florentino Ariza responds in an inversion of the novel’s first words (“It was inevitable” (LC 3)): “Forever” (LC 348). Here, in a moment of profound differentiated unity, we are made to experience a simultaneous state of permanent ending and perpetual life; the novel directing us to note that, even as it hurtles towards its seemingly “inevitable” conclusion, we are also departing the story in a moment of eternal flux. Certainly, we must think, it’s impossible for Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza to sail up and down the Magdalena River for all time: they must die eventually. But yet, they do sail forever, and they do not die; the text depicts no such end and no such death, after all. In this way, the novel resists the impulse to end, to put their story to a definitive rest, and instead affirms our readerly ability to vitalize the protagonists—and, by extension, the text, “forever.” Thus, we may find ourselves directed once again to the sacramentality of the interpretative process: in the novel’s differentiated unity of finality and eternality, it obliges us to take stock of the ongoing, sacramental process through which our interpretation gives life to the text. Love in the Time of Cholera does not end, but rather lives on, with its meaning, its spirit, continuing to course with life and expand as we interpret it, engaging in an ongoing revelation of the text’s gestalt meaning, and indeed, of the sacramental meaning permeating all things.
Broadly, then, we may see that the nature of the reading process is, too, sacramental, with reading functioning both to constitute local meanings and to give an impression of the whole, the global meaning of the text—and thus, consecrate the text with meaning. This is not to say that the former, the local meaning that emerges from one reading or one moment, is without value; in fact, it is the essence of sacramentality that both local and global meanings exist in differentiated unity, equally significant, equally powerful in their sacramental constitution of meaning. To return to the Catholic context from which I first drew this analogy, the Eucharistic Host (the text) is sacramental; the ritual Communion in which the Host and those who receive it (the reader) are brought together is sacramental; and, over the course of this process, there exists an ongoing revelation of God in both the local ritual and in the whole of all things. Furthermore, much like Catholicism’s ongoing revelation of God’s presence and its sanctifying effect on reality, the ongoing revelation of textual meaning imbuesthe text with a both consecrated and consecrating spirit: the act of interpretation deepens the text’s enchanted soul of meaning and animates it with vitality—leading us, in turn, to understand how the same soul of meaning brims within alltexts, all things, of the world.
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—. One Hundred Years of Solitude. HarperCollins, New York, 2005.
Greeley, Andrew. The Catholic Imagination. University of California Press, 2000.
Iser, Wolfgang. “The Reading Process: A Phenomenological Approach.” New Literary History, vol. 3, no. 2, 1972, pp. 279-299. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/468316, doi:10.2307/468316.
Kearney, Richard. “Eucharistic Imaginings in Proust and Woolf.” Material Spirit: Religion and Literature Intranscendent. Edited by Gregory C. Stallings, Manuel Asensi, and Carl Good. Fordham University, 2014.
Martin, Gerald. Gabriel García Márquez: A Life. Vintage, New York, 2010.
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Phenomenology of Perception. Translated by Colin Smith. Taylor and Francis, 2005.
Miller, D. A. “Problems of Closure in the Traditional Novel.” Narrative Dynamics: Essays on Time, Plot, Closure, and Frames. Edited by Brian Richardson. Ohio State University Press, Columbus, 2002.
Woolf, Virginia. Orlando: A Biography. Mariner Books, New York, 2006.
—. To the Lighthouse. Harcourt, New York, 2005.
 For that matter, Martin notes that Mrs. Dalloway’s significance to García Márquez was “such that, no doubt exaggerating, he would later attribute his entire understanding of the nature of time both in life and in fiction” to the novel (Martin 569).
 Here, I draw from the comparative tradition spearheaded by such figures as Gayatri Spivak and Wai-chee Dimock, which seeks to orient the discipline of comparative literature not in a purely synchronic manner that affirms existing hegemonic, Western-centric paradigms of nation-states, but that, instead, takes on a planetary focus, to question hegemonic paradigms and suggest an entwinedness of ideas across disciplines. While I will not engage in extensive historicization or cultural location for this study, I am confident that the sacramental framework, in its affirmation of texts’ power to contain multiple valences of meaning, will fit well with this comparative project.
 Differentiated unity operates at the very heart of Catholicism, most clearly in its understanding of the hypostatic nature of Christ: fully human, fully divine, and both, at the same time. Indeed, the phrase differentiated unity is drawn from Catholic liberation theologian Ignacio Ellacuría, who theorizes an approach to spirituality in which opposite dimensions such as the spiritual and the material, or the transcendent and the immanent, “are [not] identified one with the other in such a way that by cultivating one of the extremes the other is ipso facto cultivated, such is that it is nothing but a reflection…But neither are they separated from the other in such a way that they could be cultivated without an intrinsic, essential, and efficacious mutual determination” (Ellacuría 276).
 Greeley’s word choice is significant, as it entwines the Catholic Imagination with the paradigm of the enchanted—the paradigm that holds that the supposed that the “pre-modern” ascribed a powerful spiritual dimension to the material world, to understand the “material universe,” in Eugene McCarraher’s words, “as a cosmic theater of divine vitality” (McCarraher 675). Importantly, McCarraher asserts that, contrary to the conventional paradigm, which asserts that the onset of modernity and capitalism banished enchantment from the world, the world has actually remained enchanted, infusing this sense of immanent sacramentality into the artifices capitalism—though we may return to a more holistic sense of enchantedness rooted in the love and goodness of God.
 Consider specifically Greeley’s assessment the Catholic analogical imagination as opposed to the Protestant dialectical imagination: while the dialectical imagination might understand a phenomenon such as human love, to be metaphoric, related to but distinct from God’s love, the Catholic Imagination views human love as analogous, in some way partaking of, God’s love (Greeley 7).
 Importantly, here I seek to expand the literary sacramental outward from the work of scholars such as Regina Schwartz, Sarah Beckwith, Matthew Smith, James Watson, Matthew Potts, and Kathryn Stelmach Artuso, who study sacramental or incarnational poetics vis-à-vis the emergence of the Christian sacred within the text—rather, I wish to speak to the sacramental nature of all texts, whether they contend with the sacred or not.
 Species refers to the external quality of the sacramental host, where the host appears and scientifically seems to be just bread and wine, when, in reality, its essence is that of Christ.
 As Richard Kearney notes, “it is precisely when Merleau-Ponty traces the phenomenological return all the way down to the lowest rung of experience…that he discovers the most sacramental act of communion, or what he also likes to call ‘chiasmus,’ the crossing over of ostensible contraries, the most in the least, the highest in the lowest, the first in the last, the invisible in the visible,” which allows phenomenology to surpass “traditional dualisms (body/mind, real/ideal, inner/outer, subject/object) in the name of a deeper, more primordial chiasmus where opposites traverse each other” (Kearney 14-15).
 We may also note that García Márquez describes Aureliano as being buried under the “crushing weight” of the collective memories of all that inhabited his house, “Wounded by the fatal lances of his own nostalgia and that of others” (OYS 414)—in other words, experiencing the sacramental totality of the house, as an embodiment of all the meaning embedded into it.
 Notable here, though certainly not essential, is that García Márquez did identify with and embed himself into the character of Melquíades. (Martin, García Márquez: A Life 289)
 One may write another paper entirely, I think, on the afterlife (or continued life) of One Hundred Years of Solitude from a cultural perspective, and the way in which this afterlife meshes with the sacramentality of the text’s existence. Solitude, in particular, evinces the way in which new local meanings are continually imprinted into a text, changing the text forever while also leaving the text, at some level, the same body. That is to say: might we not say that Solitude “ended” when its postcolonial, anti-U.S.-imperialist project became mainstream? Did it end when the novel was translated from Spanish into English for the purpose of entering the global market? Did it end when García Márquez was no longer a sufficiently hot item to hold an MLA panel about? Did it end when it became the favorite book of Bill Clinton, the epitome of U.S. neoliberalism (or when García Márquez struck up a friendship with Clinton)? Did it end with the announcement of a Netflix-produced Solitude T.V. series? To all these questions, I might say, appropriately to this thesis, yes, and no. For, even in the face of all these fundamental challenges to its nature, One Hundred Years of Solitude has remained itself—has remained, indeed, a sacrament of all the values ever impressed upon it.