On doing ‘being a misfit’: towards a constrastive grammar of ordinariness

  • Alessandro Grilli
Keywords: literary criticism, misfits in literature, normality as performance, Harvey Sacks, “On doing ‘being ordinary’”, queer theory, comparative literature


This paper aims at exploring the shaping of normality, in the
hegemonial patterns which constitute the difference between the
performances of social failure and success, by presenting the methodology
and some key results of an extensive ongoing research project about the
representation of misfits in Western literature. Through the analysis of the
literary representation of a variety of interactions between misfits and
‘normals’, my work aims to investigate the primordial shaping of
normative constructs in a number of apparently benign forms of social
exchange such as conversation. Beyond its thematological framework,
stemming from a traditional comparative setting, my research project aims
at a comprehensive analysis of the repressive thrust of normality and of the
various socially relevant meanings which can be expressed through the
literary representation of its imperfect performance, from the cautionary
tale to the return of the repressed.