Some problems with the concept of literary influence : the case of Virginia Woolf and Garcia Marquez
The concept of literary influence has been for some time a topic of confusion and controversy. Its ill-defined methods and objectives as well as its tenuous conclusions have led many scholars to reject the concept and to propose alternative approaches to the study of literature. Still others defend it as a valuable means of studying both individual works and literary relationships. In the midst of, or in spite of, this debate, the fact remains that influence studies themselves persist, their
... s persist, their authors presumably undaunted by the problems in the field. This thesis is an attempt to investigate the question of literary influence not through the rejection or support of its claims but rather through an exposure of its presuppositions and its predetermined conclusions. Examination of the literature in the area shows these presuppositions to include the assumption of a traditional chronological system in which linearity necessarily implies causality, sequence meaning, and originality worth. The hypothesis that Gabriel Garcia Marquez was influenced by Virginia Woolf is studied here in the light of this exposure of the assumptions of influence theory. A review of the various discussions of this possible case of influence shows that the critics, whether supporting or denying the claim, (unconsciously) adhere to the assumptions of the theory and allow their conclusions to be (pre)determined as much by those assumptions as by the presence or absence of textual parallels. Furthermore, it is demonstrated the the narrative effort of Woolf and Garcia Marquez has been to subvert, or deconstruct, that same system of assumptions. My comparison of texts by these two authors has as its purpose neither the "proof" nor the denial of an influence but rather the demonstration of that deconstructive effort and hence of the prescriptive nature of influence theory which would ignore that effort in its imposition of a conventional reading.