The essay explores the significance of Brian O’Nolan’s recurrent return to the misreader as character, trope, and process throughout his writing, with a particular focus on The Third Policeman. It is argued that O’Nolan’s hoax aesthetic – shot through with authorial and generic misdirection and populated everywhere by spurious critical authorities and comic paranoiacs – handles misreading not only as a comedic device but also as a central thematic concern. By tracing O’Nolan's theme of the anti-archive througout his oeuvre, from the Irish Times letters through to The Dalkey Archive, it is shown that O'Nolan deploys the misreader strategically, as a figure who sabotages the self-proclaimed cultural authority of writers, readers, critics, and social engineers alike – including his own claims to authority in each of these roles – by implicitly disclosing the paranoid logic upon which their self-authenticated expertise is based.
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Keywords: Paul De Man, Expertise, Paranoid Modernism, Misreading, Literary hoaxes
How to Cite:
Paul Fagan, ‘“Expert diagnosis has averted still another tragedy”: Misreading and the Paranoia of Expertise in The Third Policeman,’ The Parish Review: Journal of Flann O’Brien Studies 3, no. 1 (Fall 2014): 12–41. Available at: https://doi.org/10.16995/pr.3118.