The Mirror in the Text [1 ed.] 0226134911, 9780226134918

The Mirror in the Text is concerned with the literary and artistic device of mise en abyme, the use of an element within

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The Mirror in the Text [1 ed.]
 0226134911, 9780226134918

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The Mirror in the Text is concerned with the literary and artistic device of mise en abyme, the use of an element within a work which mirrors the work as a whole - like the ‘play within a play’ in Hamlet. In this classic study, Lucien Dallenbach provides the first systematic analysis of this device and its literary and artistic applications from Van Eyck and Velasquez to Gide, Beckett and the French nouveau roman. Alongside this wealth of examples, Dallenbach constructs his theoretical argument with elegance and clarity, assuming no previous knowledge of arcane and specialized theory, but guiding the reader helpfully through the maze of literary criticism. The result is a new conceptual field, a new grammar of the mise en abyme. and an examination of its function within the work of art and literature. This highly original study has been acclaimed as one of the most important works of contemporary literary theory. It will be of interest to all students of English and European literature, as well as to students of the visual arts.

The Mirror in the Text

For Jean Rousset

The Mirror in the Text LUCIEN DALLENBACH

TRANSLATED BY JEREMY WHITELEY WITH EMMA HUGHES

The University of Chicago Press

Originally published as Le recit speculaire: essai sur la mise en abyme, © Editions du Seuil, 1977. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 60637 Polity Press, Cambridge © 1989 by Polity Press All rights reserved. Published 1989 Printed in Great Britain 98 97 96 95 94 93 92 91 90 89

54321

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Dallenbach, Lucien, The mirror in the text. Translation of: Le recit speculaire. Bibliography, p. Includes index. 1. Fiction—Technique.

I. Title.

PN3355.D2313 1989 808.3 ISBN 0-226-13491-1 (alk. paper)

89-4898

This book is printed on acid-free paper.

Contents

Preface

1

1 2 3

PART I VARIATIONS ON A CONCEPT Andre Gide’s shields A critical heritage Triple meaning

4 5 6 7 8

PART II TOWARDS A TYPOLOGY OF THE MIRROR IN THE TEXT Mise en abyme and reflexivity 41 Fiction and its doubles 55 Narration revealed 75 The spectacle of the text and the code 94 The emergence of types 107

7 20 27

PART III DIACHRONIC PERSPECTIVES 9 The mise en abyme and the nouveau roman 10 The mise en abyme and the new nouveau roman

117 137

Conclusion

164

vi

Contents APPENDICES

A B C D E

The three lessons of the mirror The novel as ‘poetry of poetry’ Mallarme’s ‘Sonnet en X’ Metaphors of origin Reflexivity according to Roussel

Notes Bibliography Index

169 175 178 181 184 187 247 256

Preface

Since its adoption by the nouveau roman, the term mise en abyme1 has become so popular that within a few years it has invaded the field of literary criticism, has made more and more forays into neighbour¬ ing areas, has been brought to the attention of the general public and has insinuated itself into everyday vocabulary. But despite the tacit agreement which apparently exists as to its meaning, it has managed to be understood in so many different ways that it is now imperative to question the apparent certainty and to disturb the serenity with which it is accepted. What was its original meaning, and what precisely does it mean now? Does it have an unequivocal meaning? Or does it cover a number of different concepts? Does it designate a well-structured complex, or is it a terminological alibi for a protean and ultimately indefinable monster? These are the questions this study raises and tries to reflect on in three sets of analyses. The first analysis, which is heuristic, lays the basic ground. Aiming to rediscover, or, if necessary, to formulate the concept in a coherent and relevant way, it notes how the mise en abyme made its entry into literary criticism, discusses its reception by its early interpreters, investigates the role of Gide, who was responsible for coining the term in the first place, but subsequently remained silent about it, and draws (not without scepticism) on the more or less explicit interpretations of the term offered by various authors. Under these various impulses, my enquiry will move closer and closer towards two negative conclusions, which will prepare the ground for a more theoretical section: although the structure con¬ ceived of and expressed as mise en abyme is in fact neither as simple

2

Preface

and homogeneous as is usually thought, nor as anarchic and ir¬ rational as initial investigation might make it appear, the only way of genuinely clarifying the concept lies in accounting for both its multiplicity and its unity. To attempt on the one hand to distinguish the specific forms that the concept of the mise en abyme tends to blur by subsuming them into one common term, and to show, on the other hand, that despite their profusion and diversity, what appear empirically as mises en abyme can be reduced to a finite number of simple forms: these activities converge and point to the need to construct a typology of the device. From then on, the aim of the enquiry must be to arrive at an inventory of what has hitherto been hidden and to outline both a lexicon and a grammar of the mise en abyme. Such a lexicon and grammar could be ends in themselves. Here they provide the basis for a third set of analyses. These will be concerned with the diachronic evolution of the mise en abyme; they must necessarily take a narrow view, but one that is compatible with the amount of material one person might reasonably read. The aim is therefore to follow the metamorphoses of the mise en abyme in the nouveau roman alone. Although this is worth while in itself, it is, however, possible that the coherence and status of such a study might appear problematic. To clear this up, I shall explain how parts II and III of my threefold investigation are related. While part II comprises virtually a general theory of literary forms (a poetic) - in that it aims to describe all real or potential mises en abyme, starting from a small number of ideal types that define how the device can be used - the third, historical and critical part sets out to describe and interpret one particular area of application of the mise en abyme - that is, one area of the mise en abyme in practice. So, on the one hand we see the range of different structural possi¬ bilities presented by the mise en abyme, and on the other we find out the way in which these possible structures are actually used, with all the questions this raises: what kinds of mises en abyme does the nouveau roman use, synchronically and diachronically? Which kind predominates? What functions do the mises en abyme fulfil within the respective structure of each text? What strategy are they part of? And, lastly, why is this strategy adopted? The problem of how these two sections of the study are linked comes down to the question of the relationship between literary

Preface

3

theory and literary history (taken as a diachronic study of the change in type and function of a particular literary device); it also clearly overlaps with the more complex problem of the relationship between literary theory and literary criticism. In other words, part III pre¬ supposes part II, from which it takes its descriptive and investigative methods. However, this process involves neither repetition nor simple illustration of part II, but rather a description and an in¬ terpretation of actual variations in the use of the device. Because of this specific division, nothing would in theory prevent the nouveau roman from being discussed in part II.2 In fact, my examples will avoid this as much as possible, in order, of course, to avoid giving someone reading the final section the feeling that s/he has read it somewhere before; but also in order to prepare for the critical analysis in part III. In fact, keeping the nouveau roman out of part II prepares for the future: it will in no way detract from the uniqueness of the nouveau roman if this lies merely in the original use of the types and functions of the mise en abyme that I isolate in part II; and it will also allow this uniqueness to be depicted in terms of difference, if it arises from a metamorphosis of the mise en abyme such that it cannot be reduced to these types and functions. This division therefore seems likely to encourage the greatest possible interplay between the theoretical and historical/critical sections and thereby to make the examination of the nouveau roman more interesting. It is easy to see what is at stake in this examination; by showing whether the nouveau roman resists or fits into a framework (which would be all the better as a guide to its novelty for having been constructed from examples drawn not from the nouveau roman, but rather from the very representational and expressive works whose traditions, as we know, the nouveau roman seeks to break with), it will reveal its ability to challenge (or at worst to conform to) recog¬ nized forms: it will show whether, and how far, it still forms part of the great Western artistic tradition (of art as mimesis) - or whether, and since when, it has broken with this tradition. To appreciate through a structural transformation the metaphysical change that has come about in and through recent literature - this is in fact the ultimate goal of this study, which aims rigorously to take account of our transition to modernity.

PARTI Variations on a concept

f

Andre Gide’s shields

1

The first reference

In order to clarify what should be understood by mise en abyme, it is most appropriate to return quickly to the sources and to reproduce the text in which the mise en abyme is mentioned for the first time. Gide wrote in 1893: In a work of art, I rather like to find thus transposed, at the level of the characters, the subject of the work itself. Nothing sheds more light on the work or displays the proportions of the whole work more accur¬ ately. Thus, in paintings by Memling or Quentin Metzys, a small dark convex mirror reflects, in its turn, the interior of the room in which the action of the painting takes place. Thus, in a slightly different way, in Velasquez’s Las Meninas. Finally, in literature, there is the scene in which a play is acted in Hamlet; this also happens in many other plays. In Wilhelm Meister, there are the puppet shows and the festivities in the castle. In The Fall of the House of Usher, there is the piece that is read to Roderick etc. None of these examples is absolutely accurate. What would be more accurate, and what would explain better what I’d wanted to do in my Cahiers, in Narcisse and in La Tentative, would be a comparison with the device from heraldry that involves putting a second representation of the original shield ‘en abyme’ within it.1

This text, which is more often quoted than interpreted by critics inclined to think that Gide is speaking about himself,2 is more complex than it appears at first sight. Although it is more correct and concise than the passage from Hugo that it is perhaps recalling,3

8

Variations on a concept

its apparent clarity becomes blurred if one reads it carefully; despite its straightforward appearance, it is so enigmatic that one starts to wonder whether this ‘charter’, which gives the mise en abyme its status in literature, is not responsible, to a certain extent, for the uncertainty surrounding it today. Before coming to a conclusion on this question, by considering at source the subtle ambiguities of the passage, let us try to note some basic points from it: 1 2 3

4

the mise en abyme, as a means by which the work turns back on itself, appears to be a kind of reflexion; its essential property is that it brings out the meaning and form of the work; as demonstrated by examples taken from different fields, it is a structural device that is not the prerogative either of the literary narrative or indeed of literature itself;4 and it gets its name from a heraldic device that Gide no doubt dis¬ covered in 1891.5 The last point leads to some further remarks:

(a) The word abyme here is a technical term. I shall not therefore speculate on its many connotations6 or hasten to give it a meta¬ physical meaning: instead of invoking Pascal’s ‘gouffre’, the abyss of the Mystics, Heidegger’s ‘Abgrund’, Ponge’s ‘objeu’ or Derrida’s ‘differance’, I shall rather refer to a treatise on heraldry: ‘ “Abyss” (“Abime”) - the heart of the shield. A figure is said to be “en abime” when it is combined with other figures in the centre of the shield, but does not touch any of these figures.’7 (b) Although the word still remains allusive, we can now under¬ stand what Gide had in mind: what fascinated him must have been the image of a shield containing, in its centre, a miniature replica of itself . (c) Rather than worrying about whether heraldry contains such a device, or whether it is simply a product of Gide’s imagination,8 I shall take the analogy on its own terms, in other words, as an attempt to explain a structure that could be defined as follows: a ‘mise en abyme ’ is any aspect enclosed within a work that shows a similarity with the work that contains it. Once this has been clarified, we can return to the text of the

Andre Gide ’s shields

9

y

‘charter’ for more information. It is here, as we shall see, that the real problem arises. As soon as we try to go beyond the straight¬ forward points just listed and to deal more accurately with Gide’s text as a coherent whole, it becomes unclear and seems to make a definitive interpretation impossible. It is fairly clear how the text becomes more and more difficult: the burden for the interpreter is that s/he cannot avoid coming up against the problem of the relation¬ ship between its three elements. What is the relationship on the one hand between the pictorial and the literary examples, and on the other hand between these two sets of examples respectively and the mise en abyme ? To put it another way, which highlights the rel¬ evance of these questions to this study, is it valid to suppose that these three levels are interchangeable, to illustrate the procedure from heraldry through Hamlet, for example, and to assimilate the concept of mise en ahyme to that of the mirror? The study has no chance of success unless we begin by dividing up Gide’s text into its different strata, since if this structural approach is not taken, two essential elements will inevitably be misunder¬ stood. The first is that the passage is truncated and that the ‘thus’ of its first sentence refers to La Tentative amoureuse, mentioned at the end of the text as an example of the mise en abyme. So the first important conclusion we reach is that the text has a circular struc¬ ture. It starts off implicitly with the mise en abyme and ends up explicitly with it. The second point to consider is that the ambiguity of this circular text lies in the three successive ‘thus’es and in the ‘finally’ that follows on from these. The argument slides from La Tentative amoureuse, which is definitely referred to, from one adverb to another (‘thus . . . thus . . . thus . . . finally’) weaving the various examples interchangeably together, until the slide is halted by the unexpected phrase ‘none of these examples is absolutely accurate’, which puts them into perspective. From this fact alone, one initial conclusion is clear: one cannot do justice to Gide’s fundamental intentions by purely and simply assimilating the mise en abyme to the pictorial and literary examples that prefigure it. In the final analysis, the only thing the heraldic metaphor does - and it does this better than any other metaphor - is to express what Gide ‘wanted to do’ in some of his books. The

10

Variations on a concept

problem - which rears its head again - is from now on to account for the particular suitability of this metaphor. To understand it correctly, we can do no better than to start negatively, by showing why the other analogies are inadequate. Following the order of Gide’s text, I shall therefore begin by considering the pictorial tradition mentioned by Gide, and in particular its main exponent (although Gide does not refer to him): Van Eyck.

2

Approximations

Pictorial examples By exploiting certain natural reflective properties (notably the unique power of revelation), a well-placed mirror can enable us to see what is going on behind our backs, and a combination of mirrors can enable us to see ourselves in profile and so on. Van Eyck uses mirrors to compensate for the limits of our field of vision and to show us what usually lies beyond it. With the help of a mirror, The Woman at Toilet (a painting now lost) allowed the spectator to contemplate the hidden side of her body.9 Similarly, in the famous Arnolfini Marriage, what is invisible is made visible by the same device. But here the artifice is even more subtle, since the little convex mirror hung on the back wall allows us to see, behind and between the couple, people standing in the doorway of the room, whom only the couple can actually see. These are the wedding guests, among whom (if we are to believe the famous inscription above the trick-mirror - ‘Johannes de eyck fuit hie’) was the painter himself. Effecting an encounter, and showing Van Eyck’s artistic self-awareness, the trick-mirror (and its duplication - the large signa¬ ture in Gothic script) is like a sacrament that authenticates, conse¬ crates and immortalizes the moment of a union.10 Similar examples of the use of a convex mirror are rare in painting, which enables us to identify with a fair amount of certainty the works that Gide is referring to, even though he does not name them. Thus his allusion to Memling is likely to be a reference to the Martin Van Newenhoven Diptych which the young Gide certainly had time to admire in July 1891 at the Hopital Saint-Jean in Bruges.11 The right-hand panel shows a three-quarter portrait of the donor at prayer. The left-hand one depicts a Virgin and Child, the

Andre Gide’s shields

11

Virgin holding an apple. Behind the Madonna, the little convex mirror, which reflects her back, also captures the image - given the supposed angles of the panels - of Martin Van Newenhoven, this time in profile, adoring the Infant Jesus. Although He is excluded from the reflected scene, His supernatural presence does appear in the rays of light from His aura, which pass through the mirror, sanctifying and uniting in a single communion the two characters who are re presented. As for Van Eyck’s last pupil and heir, Quentin Matzys, it is probable that when Gide refers to him, he is thinking of the work in the Louvre called The Banker and his Wife or The Man Weighing Gold. In this work, the convex mirror has the same ‘spying’ func¬ tion that it has in the Arnolfini Marriage, but here it goes far beyond the space being represented, revealing, set back, a person in a red hat with a piece of paper in his hand (either the painter himself or (more probably) the usurer’s client) and a window seen in perspective, which reveals the Italian influence. The key innovation here is the placing of the mirror at an angle. Finally, in Las Meninas,12 the mirror is facing the spectator, as in Van Eyck’s picture. But in Velasquez the technique is more realistic in that the ‘rear-view’ mirror in which the royal couple appear is not convex, but flat. Whereas the reflexion in the Van Eyck recon¬ stituted objects and people within a space that was condensed and distorted by the curvature of the mirror, Velasquez’s picture spurns such playing with the laws of perspective. It projects on to the canvas the exact image of the King and Queen, who are standing in front of the picture. Moreover, by showing the people the painter is looking at, and also, by the use of the mirror, the people who are looking at him, Velasquez’s painting achieves a reciprocity of contemplation that creates an oscillation between the interior and the exterior, making the image ‘come out of the frame’,13 while inviting the visitors to enter the picture. We could continue this investigation, but it has already shown why Gide eventually dismissed these pictorial examples as analogies for the mise en abyme. His idea of the device, as we have seen, was that it resulted in an accurate reflexion of the subject of the work itself. This is not the function of the mirrors enclosed in the paint¬ ings of Van Eyck, Memling, Matzys and Velasquez. It is not merely that they only partially reflect ‘the interior of the room in which the

12

Variations on a concept

action of the painting takes place’; the duplication that they give rise to, far from being faithful, is distorted by the convexity of the mirror or, at any rate, by its reversal of right and left. Moreover, this re¬ flexion is problematic, since it is topologically necessary, for the characters actually to be seen, for them to be standing in front of the picture, facing it (the person we assume to be the usurer’s client, the royal couple in Las Meninas, and the guests at the Arnolfini Marriage') - which prevents them a priori from being duplicated in the picture. For the optical illusion sought in all these pictures, which is their main attraction, lies in bringing into the painting items that (fictively) are outside it: the reflexions provided in the mirrors complete the picture and function primarily as a medium for interchange. At the frontier between interior and exterior, they are a way of taking two-dimensionality to its limits. It is therefore not surprising that these pictorial examples were not able to retain Gide’s interest in any lasting way. The role they fulfil - making the external intrude upon the internal - was merely a rather flawed approximation of the structure Gide had in mind. Is it the same for the examples from literature? It is to these that I shall now turn.

Literary examples Of all the internal duplications in the history of literature, none is more famous than the ‘play within the play’ in Hamlet. Critics have no difficulty in claiming that it represents the mise en abyme in its purest form, and are not alone in giving it the status of a paradigm. Even before Gide, writers referred to it in order to illuminate their own practice of duplication,14 and some works, while avoiding explicit reference to Hamlet, even use it in the same way that Shake¬ speare uses ‘The Murder of Gonzago’ - for reflexive purposes.15 In the brief theory of literature he expounds to the players (Act III, scene ii), Hamlet assigns to the theatre the permanent function of holding ‘the mirror up to nature’.16 This is precisely the theory that the central scene of the play puts into practice. By representing the King’s own crime and the Queen’s infidelity, the ‘play within the play’ holds up an accusing mirror to the guilty parties, pricks Claudius’s conscience through this simulation, gives the (over-)scrupulous Hamlet irrefutable proof that he has not been duped by

Andre Gide's shields

13

an evil spirit and finally inspires him to take action, confident he is in the right. Since the success of the play within the play17 is proof of how faithful it is to the primary plot, it is hard to see why this example did not find favour with Gide. Did he disqualify it because the primary function of the reflexion is to make the action of the play progress, so that it fulfils, to some extent, an instrumental role? Nowhere, how¬ ever, does Gide lead us to believe that the mise en abyme has to be gratuitous. What he does demand, on the other hand, is, as we have already seen, that it reflect the subject of the work itself. Is this the case here? Note that the play within the play is called ‘The Murder of Gonzago’, and not, for example, ‘The Melancholy Prince’. So what it reflects is not the procrastinations of the hero (which is the true subject of the play that bears his name), but rather the ‘pre¬ history’ of the play that is related to the audience by the Ghost. It is therefore a mistake to suppose that it strictly parallels the plot. It repeats the account given by the Ghost, and makes actual the events that preceded the beginning of the play: as such it invites us to put it on a par with the inadequate analogy of mirrors in paintings.18 Such parallels with the pictorial examples do not seem to apply to the reflexions in Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. The puppet scenes in Book I symbolize the novel just as the magic lantern does in Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, and identify the dominant themes of the story right from the start as theatricality and the division in Wilhelm between his imagination and his sense of reality. Since this conflict is to change and be resolved as the hero’s education pro¬ gresses, the reflexions that point to it can only be imperfect. They can either reflect the conflict in a general way - as in the initial Puppentheater - and as such inevitably remain diffuse, or they can claim to take his development into account - like the ‘festivities in the castle’ (Book II) - thereby limiting themselves to a partial revel¬ ation. This double disadvantage alone, inherent in the Bildungsromanf9 would explain why Gide only temporarily adopted these reflexions as an analogy, discarding them later. Gide’s reluctance to retain ‘the piece that is read to Roderick’ is less easy to explain, because the explicit duplication provided by The Mad Trist in Poe’s story is undeniably extensive. This Gothic novel has a double function: an emblematic one - it is clearly associated with the protagonist, and through its title it serves as the device of

14

Variations on a concept

Usher’s lugubrious personality and morbid exaltation; and a prefigurative one, since it relates, as if in counterpoint, and in veiled terms, the very story of the visions of Madeline. So it is regrettable that Gide did not explain why he rejected an example that apparently should have been satisfactory. Did it after all contravene some over¬ riding requirement that, for the moment, eludes us? This hypothesis would seem more plausible if we could succeed in proving that, besides examples taken from his own works, Gide had another unimpeachable example of mise en abyme, which he also however rejected for the same mysterious reason. Fortunately such proof (albeit indirect) can be found two pages before the charter (which dates from August or September 1893). Gide notes in his Journal (in August |$93): ‘I shall have to translate Heinrich von Ofterdingen without delay.’ Now, Novalis’s novel contains, as we shall see,20 a perfect example of mise en abyme, which corresponds in every way to Gide’s definition. How can one account for the fact that the potential translator does not mention the reflexion in this work, which must have been in the forefront of his mind? This strange omission, while restoring to our text its enigmatic quality, perhaps points us in a direction that might clarify it. The only explanation, if there is one, is that, however irreproachable the reflexion in Heinrich von Ofterdingen is, like the one in The Fall of the House of Usher, it does not really convey what Gide ‘wanted to do’. To understand what he really did want to do, we must put our text back into its context: I wanted to indicate, in La Tentative amoureuse, the influence the book has on the author while he is writing it. For, as we give birth to it, it changes us and alters the course of our life; in the same way that in physics, when liquid is poured out of filled floating containers in one direction, the containers move in the opposite direction, our actions have a retroactive effect on us. ‘Our actions act upon us as much as we act upon them’, said George Eliot. So I was sad because a dream of unattainable joy torments me. I tell of this dream, and, dissociating the joy from the dream, make it mine. The dream thus loses its mystique and I am joyful as a result. A subject cannot act on an object without retroaction by the object on the subject that is acting. It is this reciprocity that I wanted to indicate - not one’s relationship with other people, but with oneself. The active subject is oneself. The retroactive thing is a subject one

Andre Gide ’s shields

15

imagines. So it’s a kind of indirect action on oneself that I conveyed in La Tentative amoureuse \ it’s also just a tale. Luc and Rachel too want to achieve their desire, but whereas in writing of mine, I achieved it in an ideal way, they dream of the park of which they can only see the gates and which they want to go inside in reality: so they feel no joy. In a work of art, I rather like to find thus transposed ... the device from heraldry that involves putting a second representation of the original shield ‘en abyme’ within it. The retroaction of the subject on itself has always appealed to me. It’s typical of the psychological novel. An angry man tells a story this is the subject of the book. A man telling a story is not enough - it must be an angry man and there must always be a continuing relation¬ ship between the man’s anger and the story he’s telling.21

These comments pave the way for a productive line of enquiry. So as not to jump the gun, I shall first consider the phenomenon that it is the mise en abyme’s function to bring to light - the way in which the writer constructs the writing, and vice versa.

3

Twinning

This reciprocity, as Gide presents it in his Journal, seems to be clarified by what psychoanalysis tells us about linguistic communi¬ cation (and this is perhaps not entirely coincidental): namely that the ‘sender gets back from the receiver his/her own message in inverse form’,22 and that, mediated through the desire of the other, my words construct me by anticipating the response they seek. Gide, years before Lacan, observed this on many occasions, and it would not be impossible for his whole oeuvre to be understood in terms of a methodical attempt to create according to this law. To use this law in order to give solidity to a being who was receptive, fluid and existed ad libitum ,23 and at the same time to avoid the aspects of this law that alienate a spirit who dreams of self-sufficiency (the inevitable recourse to the other, who, by constructing me, falsifies me) - this is, at its most basic level, the unavoidable requirement of Gide’s wish for sincerity. Can one ever hope to satisfy it? All of Gide’s work aims to enable him to do so. The choice of the medium of writing is itself part of this strategy. By writing, Gide becomes his own interlocutor. But unless this introspection is combined with

16

Variations on a concept

one particular condition, it still only provides a precarious solution: for although it excludes the (de-)formative personality of the other, it replaces it with the captivating and no less specious character in the novel. In order to derive a real benefit from the transaction, one has to contrive to ward off the very otherness of the fictive character, and, in order to do so, to impose sufficient constraints on oneself: in other words to create it in one’s own image, or, better still, to make it engage in the very activity that one is oneself undertaking in creating it - the writing of a novel (The Notebooks of Andre Walter) or the telling of a story (La Tentative amoureuse). It is tempting to compare this narcissistic doubling with the creative experience, which Lacan calls the ‘mirror stage’ or ‘mirror phase’.24 since this strategy of auto-generation through writing reveals a perversion on the symbolic level that results in an even worse lapse into the imaginary. Thus we know, through a fortuitous note in the Journal, that Gide sometimes wrote in front of a mirror so as to get inspiration from talking and listening to his reflexion: I am writing on the small piece of furniture of Anna Shackleton’s that was in my bedroom in the rue de Commailles. That’s where I worked; I liked it because I could see myself writing in the double mirror of the desk above the block I was writing on. I looked at myself after each sentence; my reflexion spoke and listened to me, kept me company and sustained my enthusiasm.25

The reflexive language of writing, exalted by the reflected image of the writer; the mirror of his early years recalling the first fusion of body and language: what we have here is doubtless a typical reappro¬ priation scenario, which only a psychoanalyst could interpret fully. For my part I shall only take two points from it: the first is that this reflexion through writing is based on an imaginary reflexion, which allows the writer obsessively to enjoy the image of himself as he wants to see himself - as a writer; the second point is that the imaginary reflexion that aims to restore the immediate and con¬ tinuous relationship between self and self comes up in this scenario against the discontinuity and the shift caused by the very activity of writing itself! Gide may well imagine himself a writer by means of this narcissistic image, but he can no more see himself writing than one can stop and watch oneself walking. ‘I could see myself writing’, he states.26 But as soon as it is uttered, this statement is belied by

Andre Gide’s shields

17

the detail that follows: ‘I looked at myself after each sentence.’ No doubt this means that the reappropriation cannot be complete, but also that while the two reflexions are dependent on each other, they remain distinct: whereas the visual experience of looking in a mirror is instantaneous, the writer and his reflexion can only speak to, and answer, each other in turn. However, we must not infer that the mere acceptance of this diachronic constraint can alone create a work ‘en abyme’ as Gide conceives of it. In order to achieve this form, another condition must be met: the work itself must point up the reflexion that is taking place; or, more precisely, the reflexion must become the subject of the reflexion. La Tentative amoureuse provides a better example of this ‘second-degree’ activity than do the Notebooks,27 and since it is in the context of this latter text that Gide refers metaphorically to heraldry, a concise analysis of this work may be sufficient to enable us to define fairly precisely what Gide’s own version of the mise en abyme was. The author who writes the ‘Envoi’ is tormented by a dream of happiness he knows is unattainable, but he achieves it by proxy: he makes a narrator (with whom he identifies) tell a (fictive) lady the story of Luc and Rachel’s happy love affair. From the beginning of this experimental tale, a certain complicity is apparent between the two couples. Their respective situations are similar, apart from the fact that Luc and Rachel are happy. Rachel corresponds to the woman who is listening to the narrator, and Luc is such a perfect extension of the narrator that from time to time Luc takes on his role when he is with his companion: he tells stories. He does not ramble: he transposes his own love life in the same way that the narrator transposes his as he creates Luc’s; Luc’s narratives go beyond their immediate addressee (Rachel) to affect the subject and the object of the narration - the ‘narrateur’ and the ‘narrataire’28 - whose destiny they recapitulate and anticipate, and it is through this fluctuation between the two narrative levels that the retroaction can occur. Initially, there is a contrast between the narrator’s sadness and the lovers’ happiness (‘ “Madame, I shall tell this story to you. You know that our sad love affair lost its way on the moor” ’),29 but soon the balance changes and Luc and Rachel’s boredom (which over¬ takes the narrator - ‘ “Madame, this story bores me”, p. 54) is followed by the triumphant realization that his ill-fated desire should

18

Variations on a concept

not distract him from his more ambitious plans (‘ “lam happy; I am alive, I have great things in mind. I’ve finished telling this boring story: great things now await us” p. 58). So the imaginary identi¬ fication that the narrator himself contrived finally has a great thera¬ peutic value for the story-teller. Restored by his fictional work, he can devote himself to more real adventures with a joyful heart.30 The example of La Tentative amoureuse is clear enough to enable us to try to formulate what the structure of Gide’s mise en abyme is. What distinguishes it from everything else is that it attributes to a character in the narrative the very activity of the narrator in charge of the narration. This is what is achieved when the ‘je’ otLa Tentative amoureuse is taken over by Luc. If this taking over of the narrative is different from that initiated in The Arabian Nights, and used, for example, in Le Roman comique or the picaresque novel, this is because the secondary narrative in Gide reflects the primary one in so far as the process of retroaction requires an analogy between the situation of the character and that of the narrator, in other words between the thematic content of the main story and that of the story contained within it. One can therefore define Gide’s mise en abyme as a coupling or a twinning of activities related to a similar object; or as a relationship of relationships, the relation of the narrator N to his/her story S being the same as that of the narrator/character n to his/her story s. From this, it is possible to understand a certain number of key facts; first among these is that the ‘charter’ owes part of its ambi¬ guity to a word whose sense is not made clear: the word ‘subject’. As soon as we realize that the ‘subject of the work itself’, for Gide, is relational (the relationship between the work and the person writing it) - and is in other words duplicated as soon as the work begins - we can see why Heinrich von Ofterdingen was neglected and The Fall of the House of Usher challenged as examples. Since Novalis’s novel and Poe’s tale tell stories and do not contain the reciprocal construc¬ tion of a story and a narrator, the duplication they provide only comprises two of the four terms required (N:S::n:s), and so could not satisfy a writer who had chosen, as a problematic subject, the prob¬ lematic of the subject.31 What is less easy to understand in this context is why Gide came to give a privileged position to a metaphor that, because it was not able to designate simultaneously the reflexion of a narrator, of a

Andre Gide’s shields

19

story and of the dialectic between them, doubtless applied to his own work, but even more accurately to his other examples. It may well be that this comment reveals that it is impossible to explain fully a choice, the basis of which is not entirely evident, but in both sets of examples the image of the ‘shield within the shield’ does represent the duplication of the ‘subject’ (which is ‘simple’ in Novalis and Poe, and relational in Gide) of the work within the work; it is there¬ fore appropriate as an image of all works that use the mise en abyme, and, all in all, this device is now sufficiently defined by the prelimi¬ nary statement of the ‘charter’. In other words, as long as the nature of the reflected subject is irrelevant, we can return, after many a detour, to our initial belief - namely, that when the expression mise en abyme first appeared, it unequivocally designated what other authors call ‘the work within the work’32 or ‘internal duplication’.33 But now the unavoidable question arises: is this how it has been and is today understood by critics? It must be admitted that this is often not the case. Did Gide contribute to these misinterpretations? This possibility certainly cannot be excluded. But to hold the text from the Journal as mainly responsible for the uncertainty that exists today would be to forget that we have not yet got all the facts at our fingertips.

2

A critical heritage

Let us continue our enquiry - or rather state straight away the conclusion it will allow us to arrive at. As far as the charter is con¬ cerned, this conclusion is ‘case withdrawn’. For if most critics have not interpreted this key document as they should have, it is not because they have run into problems due to the examples it contains or due to any intrinsic difficulty: it is, more simply, that they have become aware of it, and read it, through C. E. Magny and P. Lafille.1 One fairly clear indication of this indirect awareness of the charter is the use, by various authors, of the expressions ‘composition’ and ‘construction en abyme’, which are certainly derived from Lafille.2 Magny’s role as a go-between seems to me to be sufficiently proved by one simple observation: if she had not been the main channel through which the charter became known,3 the term mise en abyme, which she coined,4 would not have been accepted so readily by other critics. Besides, it can only be because of her role as initiator and protagonist of the term that intelligent people felt it appropriate to praise her surprisingly highly.5 If they had taken the trouble to check her statements, they would no doubt have been more circum¬ spect about her commentary, whose capacity for encumbering and obscuring the meaning of the charter is still considerable today. This earliest gloss is the source of the misinterpretation of the charter: it does more than get in the way of the text it is supposed to comment on, it obscures what it sets out to illuminate and it confuses what it should be trying to unravel. From our point of view this confusion is not uninstructive, and I shall therefore examine in some detail how it came about, frequently referring to the text itself.

A critical heritage 1

21

The art of sidestepping

According to Magny, Gide’s device, later imitated by Huxley, allows the construction of an ‘open super-novel’, defined ‘by the fact that all of its possible meanings form an infinite set’ (Histoire du roman francais, p. 269). One can establish whether a novel really does present such a ‘set’ of meanings by referring, as a mathema¬ tician would, to Bolzano-Weierstrauss’s criterion: An infinite set is recognizable by its capacity to be put in a term-toterm relationship with a genuine subset of itself, i.e. applied to, and as it were referred back to, this subset. Thus the set of whole numbers can be applied to the set of even numbers, or to the set of perfect squares, despite the fact that all of them are contained in it: simply by writing next to each number the double, or the square of this number, one can list all possible terms of each of these two series. As early as 1893, Gide considered applying this process of ‘referring back’, or ‘reflexion’ (in the optical sense), to the novel, and actually did so in The Notebooks of Andre Walter, La Tentative amoureuse and Le Traite du Narcisse. (Ibid.)

This cavalier comparison is followed by a quotation from the charter, which Magny links to The Counterfeiters, Paludes and (more loosely) to Huxley’s Point Counter Point. She adds: One could find yet further literary examples besides those mentioned by Gide: for instance, in Ulysses the conversation in the library about Hamlet, where we find a reprise, ‘en abyme’ as Gide says (Joyce, who was fond of all technical languages, would certainly have liked this term taken from heraldry), of some of the main themes of the book: in particular the theme of paternity, in its two aspects - the spiritual and the temporal. (Ibid.)

One might wish for more precision here: what is the status of this supplementary example? Is Ulysses an impeccable illustration of the mise en abyme ? If so, is this definition of the device as the ‘reprise’ of ‘some of the main themes of the book’ compatible with her other definition of it as ‘the device of “the novelist’s diary” ’ (p. 271)? These questions remain unresolved. But more seriously, while she pays homage to heraldry, Magny

22

Variations on a concept

does not think it necessary to consult works on it, preferring - with¬ out knowing any of the facts - to rely on her intuition alone: Without wanting to push the mathematical comparison too far, it is easy to imagine intuitively the infinite series of parallel mirrors and the ‘internal space’ this device introduces into the very heart of the work (interior designers use similar mirror effects to make small rooms look larger) - and also the attraction, the sense of metaphysical vertigo we feel as we peer into this world of reflexions which suddenly opens up beneath our feet; in short, the illusion of mystery and depth inevitably produced by these stories whose structure is thus ‘en abyme’, in the felicitous phrase of heraldry, (p. 271)

I would not dispute that the mise en abyme in this sense evokes the idea of the infinite.6 But is this the same thing as Gide’s mise en abyme ? Has not the image of the shield within the shield been warped by a shift in logic here? Everything in the above text - its style, its vocabulary, its imagery - reveals the distortion: the tech¬ nical term ‘abyme’ has become a victim of its connotations, has been infected with its metaphysical meaning, and has found itself evoking those images best suited to this metaphysical meaning: mathematical infinity, an ‘infinite series of parallel mirrors’, etc.7 And yet these are not the only images that crowd forward under Magny’s voluble pen. Unable to control her metaphors, she piles up the most varied comparisons for this single subject: parallel mirrors, mathematical infinity, a feeling of vertigo, a tin whose designs are infinitely repeated (p. 271), ‘the Leibnizian impression of a series of worlds each enclosed within another, in a dizzying series of re¬ flexions’ (p. 273), and also - in a quite different sense - monads and microcosms/macrocosms (p. 272). When she notes, for example (pp. 30ff.), that Huxley attributes to Philip Quarles his own wish to create a multiple series of super¬ imposed vicarious novelists But why draw the line at one novelist? Why not place a further novelist within the second (imaginary) novel, and so on ad infinitum. (as on packets of Quaker Oats there is a Quaker holding in his hand a packet of oats, on which there is another Quaker holding another packet, on which there is a further Quaker etc). At the tenth remove one could have a novelist who would tell the story in terms of algebraic symbols, or of internal organs, or of reaction times (pp. 27 Iff.)8 -

A critical heritage

23

she feels no need for any discrimination between the structures of different novels. She passes from Gide to Balzac (L 'Auberge rouge etc.) and from Balzac to Proust (noting that Swann in Love ‘is similarly “en abyme” in relation to the story of “Marcel”, whose major themes it prefigures’ - p. 273), she moves from one author to another who seems to be connected, moving from resemblance to similarity, from error to misunderstanding, from impression to effect and from trope to trick, managing by this process of almost universal analogy to touch on everything without going deeply into anything, drifting along until the reader has lost all his/her bearings: it is impossible, at this stage, to formulate precisely what the mise en abyme is for Magny. After this glissando, no more light is shed, for the last pages of the book are hardly any clearer than the previous ones. From her assertion that ‘the aesthetic effect of the “mise en abyme” is this impression of broadening and deepening, of limitless complexity, that I have just described’ (p. 274) one might infer that she is opting, in her heart of hearts, for infinite reflexion (illustrated by the packet of Quaker Oats and quoted earlier in regard to Huxley) as her definition. This interpretation seems to be corroborated by the importance she attaches to The Counterfeiters, which ‘continually reminds us of the impossibility for each human being of liberating himself sufficiently from his “metaphysical situation”, from his human condition and from his personal characteristics to take a completely impartial view of reality’ (p. 274). Now, It is in an analogous, but as it were inverse, way that in existential philosophy what Jaspers calls ‘the cipher of transcendence’ emerges. Jean Wahl writes in his Etudes kierkegaardiennes: ‘One might formulate thus the problem posed by Jaspers’s philosophy: what is the philosophical value of the phrase: one cannot philosophize without entering a reality where one cannot say sentences like: one cannot philosophize without entering a reality where one cannot say sen¬ tences like, etc.?’ The reader will immediately have grasped the analogy between this, the ultimate essence of Jaspers’s philosophy, and the device of the ‘mise en abyme’: the image of the packet of Quaker Oats precisely expresses this structure of a reality where one cannot say sentences like etc. (p. 276)

But is this Magny’s last word? Even this conclusion, painfully arrived at, seems to be withdrawn by this comment:

24

Variations on a concept However, everyone would no doubt also agree with Jaspers that even this truth - ‘there cannot be anything other than a personal philos¬ ophy’ - is contradictory, since it is itself a personal statement claiming to be a general proposition. This is not sophistry, deriving from a clumsy (or over-skilful) use of language, but rather a paradox or a scandal, inherent in the structure of the human being. One cannot formulate this truth, which is perhaps the philosophical essence of the novel, in abstract terms without producing a vicious circle which reveals the essence of transcendence - without seeing, beneath our feet, the gaping ‘abyss’ (‘abyme’) that the intellect cannot contem¬ plate without a sense of vertigo, (p. 277)

The earlier comparisons therefore give way to a new image: the vicious circle - and this time depth and vertigo are associated with paradox and aporia f If no definite conclusion is therefore possible as a consequence of this new meaning of the mise en abyme, is this to say that in this historic chapter it is a term that can be used and adapted at will? A closer examination of Magny’s use of it reveals that, despite every¬ thing, this is not in fact the case. Hidden beneath the critical hotch¬ potch (an idea of which I have perhaps given), a latent sense of order can be discovered: an unsuspected logic that has lain behind this sliding from one analogy to another. This logic can be perceived if one tries to classify the paradigms that have emerged to describe the nature of the mise en abyme. In reality, the metaphors that have been used as comparisons for it can be grouped under three headings: 1

2

3

‘simple ' reflexion, represented by the shield within the shield, the microcosm and the monad (literary examples being Ulysses and Swann in Love)\ infinite reflexion, also symbolized by monads, but particularly by the reference to mathematics, infinite parallel mirrors (two mirrors would in fact suffice!), the packet of Quaker Oats and Jean Wahl’s self-repeating phrase about Jaspers’s philosophy (a literary example being the Utopian novel of Philip Quarles, Huxley’s spokesman); and paradoxical reflexion, represented by Magny’s commentary on Jean Wahl’s sentence - and by this sentence itself, which creates an endless spiral.

A critical heritage

25

The Counterfeiters seems to belong to each of these categories, although Magny does not help us understand why it has this triple allegiance. But what she does imply is that the mise en abyme - even for her - is possibly not an unstructured reality.

2

Indecision and conjecture

Does Lafille’s work confirm, in those areas relevant to our enquiry, Magny’s chapter, which it vouches for to some extent? It immedi¬ ately seems different by virtue of the more technical - and quite irreproachable - definition it gives of the ‘aesthetic device which Gide will often use and which he will call composition “en abyme”, following the vocabulary of heraldry, to designate the reproduction in miniature, at the centre of the shield, of the shield itself. Gide initiates this procedure, which installs the problematic of the work at the heart of the work itself, in Vlmmoraliste’’ (p. 25). Admittedly, Lafille uses the ‘shield within the shield’ interchangeably with the mirror metaphor (‘a mirror inside the narrative’ - p. 26 (cf. also pp. 113ff. and 207), ‘devices of reflexion and inclusion’ - p. 113), but this does not prevent him from making further valid comments on the charter when he refers to it in respect of The Counterfeiters: ‘The Counterfeiters gives a characteristic illustration, as is well known, of the device of construction “en abyme”, of which Gide was so fond, whereby the primary work is reproduced at its very heart . . .’ (p. 206). It is exactly as if Lafille were assimilating quite simply mise en abyme - shield and mirror - to simple reflexion. But we should not draw hasty conclusions, for a few lines earlier Lafille had remarked: ‘It is not unusual for this double structural change to produce a kind of vertigo, making it necessary to reflect carefully in order to find out where one is and whether it is Edouard or Gide who is narrating. Are we in Gide’s The Counterfeiters? Or in Edouard’s?’ (ibid.). The impossibility of answering this question may derive from the possibility of error, which is one of the characteristic attributes of paradoxical reflexion. Does this form part of Lafille’s definition of the mise en abyme ? This cannot be excluded; nor can the second category we discerned behind Magny’s remarks (infinite reflexion). Gide’s constant denigration of Point Counter Point, according to

26

Variations on a concept

Lafille, can be explained as jealousy - and understandable jealousy, since if Gide had deigned to read more of Huxley’s novel, he would have found a novelist, Philip Quarles, who is hero, spectator, and writer of a notebook, as Edouard with his Journal was in The Counterfeiters. This reflexion within the novel is fiendishly extended into vertiginous series of reflexions. The device of the ‘shield’ and construction ‘en abyme’ are developed well beyond what Gide himself had imagined or achieved. Thus Philip Quarles says, seriously and caustically, ‘Put a novelist into the novel . . .’10

While acknowledging that the work of both novelists contains an element of vertigo, Lafille therefore admits that the one device of mise en abyme11 can have sometimes a simple, and sometimes a ‘developed’ (hyperbolic) form, which ultimately comes down to saying that his book, too, presents us with the three main elements ‘intuitively’ discerned by Magny (although Lafille handles them more coherently), and with the equivalence - confirmed despite the charter - of the mise en abyme and the mirror. This repetition, which is odd to say the least, and the idea that is gradually emerging - and is still problematic - of three versions of the mise en abyme, invite us to ask, with some urgency, whether our definition of the device is adequate. Does it take into account the complexity of this phenomenon? Why, in other words, is there such a divergence between our interpretation and that of these two critics of Gide? One possible reason is that our respective readings of the charter were not made against the same background. Whereas I was trying to grasp the concept through an internal analysis of the famous page and by reference to the example Gide himself gives (La Tentative amoureuse), Magny and Lafille were influenced by later works and interpreted the mise en abyme primarily in the light of The Counter¬ feiters.12 Could it be that Gide’s later development made his state¬ ments of 1893 appear in a different light? Did he renounce his earlier views? Or modify them, make them precise, or broaden them? Our examination will clearly have to be extended in order to outline answers to these questions.

Triple meaning

The thrust of my analysis shifted considerably in the last chapter: whereas I was trying to show that the current uncertainty about the mise en abyme derived essentially from its early commentators, whose work had the effect of obscuring things, these commentators themselves challenged me to prove that my definition of the term was not contradicted or to be modified by the way Gide thought of the mise en abyme after 1893. It might seem quite appropriate that the accuser has been more or less put in the dock by those he set out to confound: but the fact remains that I cannot be comfortable with my definition until I have tested it, not against any theoretical view of Gide’s - the absence of which one can only deplore1 - but against what my implicit opponents, Magny and Lafille, challenge it with: namely against The Counterfeiters (whose unexpected verdict will be final); and, closer to the charter, against a work that is already auspicious - Paludes.

1

Return to Gide Paludes (1895)

For Paludes to overthrow my analysis and to invalidate what I have painstakingly revealed, it would need not to use the ‘work within the work’ (whose very presence would give comfort to my definition), or any alternate narrators, or the famous procedure whereby the narrative reflects on the narrator.

28

Variations on a concept

But rather than simply noting that their presence does confirm my definition, we need to go more deeply into the resurgence of these devices. For are we to conclude that in comparison with earlier works Paludes contained no structural innovations? This has often been claimed;2 but for such a conclusion to override the impression the reader has that Paludes does deviate from its predecessors, it would be necessary for the consequences of this conclusion also to be true - namely that the new mise en abyme in Paludes can be straightforwardly assimilated to that inLz Tentative amoureuse. An assimilation is possible, but not a complete one. There are undeniably striking similarities: the ‘je’ who writes ‘Paludes’ is projected on to another ‘je’ (Tityre) who writes his diary ‘or “Paludes” ’;3 Tityre’s swamp corresponds to the stagnation of his inventor; the narrator, contaminated by his character, ends up, like Tityre, taking pleasure in his sedentary existence.4 But to leave it at this would simply amount to finding those elements we were looking for in advance, and simplifying a complex structure that, although containing these features, cannot be reduced to them. At any rate, this one-dimensional approach only serves to stiffen the resistance of the example of the mise en abyme in Paludes, which will not be satisfied until its originality is recognized. The first step towards clarifying this originality lies in realizing that the threefold unity we observe again in Paludes can take on dif¬ ferent values and that on each occasion we have to concentrate on the way in which its variables are characterized. Once we have fixed on this as the appropriate approach to the problem, it appears that this characterization in Paludes has a peculiar quality: that of disturbing the programmatic equation to the point of making it either equal zero or not be soluble at all. Since only a change of value could explain this perversion of the matricial formula, we must attribute this to the only variation that affects our threefold unity: the change of title. To recapitulate: in the Notebooks, the work Walter was writing was called ‘Allain’; in La Tentative amoureuse, ‘the story of Luc and Rachel’ had no title; but the innovation in Paludes is precisely that it gives its name not only to the embedding work written by the author,5 but also to the embedded work written (fictively) by the narrator and (more fictively still) by the character the narrator sub¬ stitutes himself for when he writes: Tityre.

Triple meaning

29

Although it is at first sight of minimal importance, this concord¬ ance of title of itself creates an oscillation between the embedded and the embedding work, to which I shall return later. We may, how¬ ever, note at this stage that its disruptive aim finds the best possible ally in the personal pronoun of the narration: bearing in mind the concept of ‘shifters’ in linguistics, one of whose peculiarities is their alienable character, since ‘je’ designates the person who says ‘je’, it follows that this pronoun, which is self-referential and therefore capable of infinite mobility, ‘can only be identified through the discourse that contains it. ’6 Paludes, precisely because of the title it gives to its secondary narrative, makes the only context in which the various ‘je’s could be differentiated so ambiguous that they retain their original potentiality and can simultaneously refer to the inter¬ mittent ‘je’ of Tityre, the originating ‘je’ of the narrator and also when the contextual meaning allows - the concealed ‘je’ of the author. To use an image from a sphere often used by linguists, the game of chess, we can therefore say that the personal pronoun of Paludes produces a ‘fork’, whose main function is to provoke spec¬ tacular concatenations of the three narrative levels. Admittedly, such telescoping is rare with Tityre: protected by his proper name when the narrative is in the third person, he keeps his distance sufficiently, even when he says ‘je’, to discourage any identification with the other levels. However, such an identification occurs continually between narrator and author,7 and has a triple objective: tracking down the fleeting figure of the narrator and forcing him to renounce his anonymity: allowing the author to step out of his role and to appropriate the name on the title-page; and giving the book an insoluble aspect through this interchange of function and identity. Are we in Gide’sPaludes, or in the narrator’s? The question Lafille asked in the context of The Counterfeiters cannot be answered here, since Paludes deliberately plays with problems of topology.8 Continually hesitating between interior and exterior, it takes us into a realm where eccentric and concentric circles intersect and where the mirror of the painters recurs, with all it symbolizes: the integration of the different into the same, the oscillation between within and without. It would be audacious to claim that this uncertain relation rules out infinite reflexion. This is undoubtedly not present as far as the inserted works are concerned. But it is present, at least in outline, in

30

Variations on a concept

the alternation of narration that here comprises three terms (authornarrator-character), all of which are clearly built upon each other, rather than two (as previously). We must therefore admit that Paludes does in retrospect shed light on the vague theses of Magny and Lafille, and that if its mise en abyme proves me right as a ‘novel within the novel’, it does not prove them wrong as a ‘novel of the novel’ or a ‘novel of the novel of the novel’.

The Counterfeiters (1925) Despite having reached this already complex conclusion, it would be premature to pause here: we have only covered half of our journey, and we must continue and confront the key element that is still missing from our inventory: Edouard’s diary in The Counterfeiters. This is the novel’s main organ of reflexion9 and forms an enclave within it which irresistibly evokes the image of the ‘shield within the shield’. But one thing is surprising: however much one looks for hints from the author or scrutinizes the allusions made by the figures he has created, there is no indication that Edouard’s diary has any relationship with the heraldic device. On the contrary, just when one has decided that the relationship is too obvious to need to be signalled, Edouard surprisingly describes his diary as follows: ‘It is my pocket-mirror’ (p. 144). The implications of this statement are obvious. This substitution of the mirror for the heraldic metaphor counters, rather than supports, the charter and answers one of our questions: the fact that the heraldic image is supplanted by the mirror (or must at best coexist with it) clearly explains why Gide did not think it appropriate to return to the idea of the mise en abyme after 1893. In order to find out the reasons behind this, it may be enough to study the role of this mirror within the novel. Among its functions, two immediately demand our attention: those of focusing and of spying. To clarify the former, we can begin by comparing this ‘pocketmirror’ with the mirror ‘carried along a road’.10 The important thing to note is that the parodic nature of the quasi-quotation chal¬ lenges a whole concept of the novel: by replacing anonymous neu¬ trality with the first person Gide is targeting not only Stendhal, but

Triple meaning

31

also the adherents of ‘objective’ realism, which The Counterfeiters refutes in its practice; he also invites us to infer that the observations entered in Edouard’s Journal come from a point of view that is just as partial (in both senses) as that of the other characters. This filtering of the facts through a highly individualized vision is the fundamental subject of the book, and it is only revealed as a filter¬ ing because Gide lets the characters narrate the events and also ensures that each fact is seen through different ‘lenses’ - and at least twice: by Edouard and by one or other of his friends in turn. Apart from making the reader forsake his/her usual passivity and establish a form of truth from these divergent versions, this double or triple perspective, which regularly involves Edouard’s Journal, gives it an undeniable focusing quality: by giving one person’s per¬ spective a greater continuity than the others, it counters the tend¬ ency to diffuseness and disintegration that tends to undermine all narratives that have a multiple focus. And yet this mirror is not by any means limited to reflecting ‘the interior of the room in which the action of the painting takes place’. Like the trick-mirror of the painters, it gives the narrative more information by intercepting what passes through its field of vision. It is certainly likely that this ‘espionage’ will operate to the advantage of the exposition of the plot: creating subtle flashbacks, the Journal achieves a conjunction of past and present. But its use is not limited to ‘catching up’ with what is necessary to understand the story; working within the action, it can capture the unknown, ‘catch’ certain events and in particular introduce aesthetic reflexions into the novel that clarify its purpose. We must therefore devote particu¬ lar attention to the links between the theories of the vicarious novelist and the practice of the author, and, in more general terms, to the relationship between Gide’s novel and Edouard’s virtual novel.11 One thing is certain from the start, namely that this relationship is to be seen in terms of a paradox: since the two novels have the same title and an identical subject,12 and obey shared aesthetic principles,13 they will of necessity slide into one another, interchange, blur their distinctions, mix up their authors and translate us into an ambivalent area where the principle of identity is continually abused. In other words the spy-mirror has less the role of integrating an ‘external’ reality into the novel than of abolishing the opposition between

32

Variations on a concept

within and without, or rather achieving a sort of oscillation between them. This reversibility, which is most noticeable when Gide’s novel evokes Edouard’s by calling it by its name, occasionally uses trickery to produce an all the more effective short circuit. To give just one example, in the following sentence the illicit intrusion of the deictic ‘here’ (instead of ‘there’) combines with the artful use of the perfect (‘has been able’ instead of ‘will be able’) to complete the superimposition of the two levels: ‘It will be difficult in Les FauxMonnayeurs\ writes Edouard in his Journal, ‘for it to be credible that the character who will play me here has been able, while remain¬ ing on good terms with his sister, not to know her children’ (Les Faux-Monnayeurs (Paris, Gallimard, 1949, p. 116; cf. The Counter¬ feiters, p. 81). Although such a refined use of ambiguity recalls certain tricks in Paludes, it does not mean that The Counterfeiters takes up the same discourse at the point at which it was interrupted thirty years earlier: there are undeniable similarities between the two uses of the mise en abyme, but these are paralleled by no less undeniable differences. This is shown in the way each text uses layers of narration: whereas in Paludes the narrator and the author were superimposed to the point that their writing activity was indistinguishable, the author of The Counterfeiters takes over from Edouard in that he writes the work that Edouard plans, discusses, but is careful not to write. The two novels are separated as potential is from action, the two authors separated as theory is from practice; and it is by accumulating the differences that appear as so many complementary aspects of the same work that The Counterfeiters can state the theory it illustrates and can present, by its internal twists, what normally cannot be seen: the genesis of the book of the same title. Everything occurs as if, like the Remembrance of Things Past14 or one of Lacretelle’s narratives,15 the novel, ‘the novel of the novel’, which is also necessarily ‘the novel of the novelist’, was presenting itself as a work whose main subject was its own production. A closer examination shows, however, that this is only one side of the story. I have already said that what makes The Counterfeiters a novel in which everything is reversible is the discontinuous tran¬ sition between Edouard’s virtual novel and Gide’s novel. If, then, on the one hand everything invites us to posit a relationship of identity between them, everything on the other hand also dissuades us from

Triple meaning

33

being certain of their correspondence, since the author dissociates himself from his counterpart. This is marked in various ways: by the use of a forename that distinguishes the vicarious novelist from his creator; by Gide’s refusal to delegate to his counterpart all of the conduct of the nar¬ ration; by the decisive way the author criticizes as Utopian the quest for a reconciliation between realism and the ‘pure novel’;16 by the very existence of the book we are reading and which proves that Gide is not for his part taking up the idea that the story of the work is more interesting than the work itself (cf. The Counterfeiters, p. 174); and finally by the place reserved in the finished novel for ‘real facts’ (news items taken from press reports - the discovery of the counterfeit coin, Boris’s suicide), which Edouard criticizes, con¬ fessing that they make him feel ‘uncomfortable’. Despite the many ways in which Edouard is accused (his theories are extreme and dogmatic, he is illogical, displays bad faith and most seriously - is idle), his condemnation does not irremediably disqualify him in Gide’s eyes. Despite all the differences between them, the author continues to use him occasionally as an official spokesman and to recognize himself in the depiction of Edouard. This combination of correspondence and discordance which is evident throughout the Logbook of The Coiners17 reveals an ambiguity that is productive on the novelistic level. Edouard not only gives Gide an alibi, but also allows him to play a double game. By putting himself forward behind his mask, Gide is able to theorize while pretending to set no store by his theories; to give a glimpse of the genesis of the work while suggesting that it was different; to include in his book a critique that is positive or negative, depending on whether Edouard is the subject or the object of it; and finally to resolve for himself the conflict between the ‘pure novel’ and the flux of life by adopting ‘the only possible aesthetic solution: putting into the impure novel one writes the theory of the pure novel it is imposs¬ ible to write.’18 We can therefore see that for Gide the mise en abyme, despite authorizing acrobatics and pushing the narrative to the limit, was far from being merely a means of illusion to mystify the reader. Through the division of responsibilities it establishes in the work, it alone could be used for a theme that had also profoundly dominated Gide’s

34

Variations on a concept

thought: the reconciliation of contingence and necessity, of vitalism and symbolism, of reality and ideal, and of life and art. However, in order not to lose sight of our initial interest here, another element must be taken into account. Having concentrated on describing the specific nature of the mise en abyme in The Counterfeiters, we have so far emphasized in particular self-involve¬ ment and Gide’s partial negations of it. The novel certainly does suggest a centripetal movement that induces it to close in on itself or to vacillate and hesitate between the two levels; but it also conceives of the reflexive process in terms of the dynamic centripetal mode of infinite expansion. Presenting the spectacle of an author who hands over to a substitute, who is himself then replaced by the character of a novelist writing a novel that is very likely also to be called The Counterfeiters, is to present a literary version of infinite regression. In comparison with the images of infinite reproduction we have discussed (such as the cocoa tin or the packet of Quaker Oats), the mise en abyme in The Counterfeiters takes the process even further, to the limits of the novel in the Logbook of The Coiners19 and beyond in Gide’s Journals which in their turn comment on the progress of the novel and of the journal of the novel: the reflexion cannot be captured in a single mirror, but is projected, through various filters, in a series of mirrors that open up dizzying per¬ spectives. There is a great temptation to enter this labyrinth of reflexions, but if we did pursue these duplications to the fourth or fifth degree we would risk losing sight of our goal, which was to check whether our definition was well founded. We already know that the definition will certainly have to be modified; now I shall return to my earlier considerations and attempt to take a synthetic view. From our limited perspective, what Paludes and The Counter¬ feiters show is that the charter of 1893 is completed and modified by Gide’s subsequent practice. Retrospectively validating what Magny and Lafille had indistinctly glimpsed, our study has arrived at two conclusions we can summarize thus: 1

although Gide initially rejects the image of the mirror in favour of the one from heraldry, he later reverses this decision and enjoins us, if not purely and simply to substitute the idea of mirror reflexion for that of the mise en abyme, at least to see the two terms as equivalent; and

Triple meaning 2

35

since the mise en abyme shows itself to designate not only the ‘novel in the novel’, but also the ‘novel of the novel.’ - which implies the ‘novel of the novelist’ - it cannot be fully described in terms of the ‘work within the work’ or ‘internal duplication’.

2

Generalization

And yet the suspicion arises that this double conclusion might only apply to Gide: the only way to allay such a doubt would be to expand the investigation to include the theory and practice of other authors.20 This expansion does in fact provide perfect proof of these conclusions, and, without reproducing it here, I shall restrict myself to emphasizing the two points it assures us of: 1

2

the practice of most critics shows that the mise en abyme and the mirror are sufficiently interchangeable for us to combine the two and to refer to ‘the mirror in the text’ whenever the device appears; and the term mise en abyme is used unproblematically by authors to group together a collection of distinct things. As in Gide, these can be reduced to three essential figures: (a) simple duplication (a sequence which is connected by simi¬ larity to the work that encloses it); (b) infinite duplication (a sequence which is connected by simi¬ larity to the work, that encloses it and which itself includes a sequence that . . . etc.); and (c) aporetic duplication (a sequence that is supposed to enclose the work that encloses it). The emblematic and unifying use of the mirror by numerous critics is explained by the fact that these three duplications can each, in a way, be related to one or other aspect of mirror re¬ flexion.

Given this threefold division, and, moreover, the fact that some narratives (such as Paludes and The Counterfeiters) themselves contain each of these elements, it can be said that we stand before these three types of duplication like the three sons in the parable of the three rings; it is impossible to decide which one is the authentic version. Rather than opting arbitrarily for one or another, or restric-

36

Variations on a concept

ting ourselves out of loyalty to the charter to internal duplication alone,21 all three can be accepted as representing the three species of the generic term mise en abyme. This triple recognition challenges any simplistic view and requires a pluralistic definition of the mise en abyme which we might hazard as follows: a ‘mise en abyme' is any internal mirror that reflects the whole of the narrative by simple, repeated or ‘specious' (orparadoxical) duplication.

3

A ‘TRINITARY’ CONCEPT

The only remaining question is whether the mise en abyme is a coherent whole or a false unity; whether it designates one complex structure or is merely a triple rather than a ‘ trinitary ’ term covering three conflicting and heterogeneous realities, illicitly related under one single name. To prove that the mise en abyme is a coherent whole, it would no doubt suffice to call as witnesses once more Gide and the other authors cited in appendix 1. But I would prefer to invoke a neglected maestro of the mise en abyme avant la lettre - Jean Paul. He also bears witness to the complicity of the three types and to the possi¬ bility of passing seamlessly from one to another, and invites us most insistently to subscribe to the interpretation whereby the mise en abyme, to be seen as such, can take on one form of duplication after another, but while always remaining a single unity. To consider some examples from Jean Paul’s work: the theatrical performance described in Titan (1800-3) is a microcosm of the novel itself, and is interrupted by the (‘real’) suicide of the authordirector-actor Roquairol who, playing himself, takes his wish for self-affirmation to extremes. Giving the final word on the various commentaries this ostentatious suicide provokes in the audience, Jean Paul’s spokesman draws the following lesson from the ‘work within the work’: From a purely artistic point of view, one might wonder whether this situation could not be used to great effect. One would need, as in that work of genius, Hamlet, to intertwine a play within the play and, within the primary play, transform apparent death into real death. Doubtless this would only be the appearance of appearance, reality at play with the real, a miraculous reflexion repeated a thousand times.22

Triple meaning

37

A mere suggestion from an artistic adviser, this apparently inno¬ cent remark is certainly intended to illuminate the author’s actual practice. But what is more interesting from our point of view is that both the reflexions in Hamlet and, in its footsteps, those in Titan, are associated with infinite duplication - which neither in fact involves. Flegeljahre (1804) is an equally clear example of the slide from one type of mise en abyme to another, and also of the complicity between the types. In this narrative, which artfully blurs the demarcation between within and without in order once more to produce a vacillation in the categorization of the fictive and the real,23 we again find a ‘work within the work’, in this case a ‘Doppelroman’ written in collabor¬ ation by the opposite, but complementary, twins Walt and Vult. This curious work reflects the themes, aesthetics and genesis of the embedding novel just as the latter in turn enunciates the story of the gestation of the embedded novel, and it is all the more suggestive of self-embedding in that it apparently was nearly also called Flegeljahre 24 - and in that its conception dates back to the twins’ stay ‘at an inn called The Inn’ (‘Wirtshaus zum Wirtshaus’),25 a place that is an example par excellence of that vicious circle whose function Jean Paul makes explicit in Die Vorschule der Aesthetik (1804), section 46: THE CIRCULAR WITTICISM This element of abstract or reflective wit consists of an idea that is set in opposition to itself, but none the less makes peace with its opposite in terms of similarity, if not in terms of equality. I do not have in mind here any philosophy, but the circular witticism, that veritable causa sui. It is so easy that it only requires a little . . . goodwill: for example ‘to polish up the polishing of criticism’ - ‘to take a rest from rest’ ‘to put the Bastille in gaol’ - ‘he who steals from a thief’. Apart from its concision, its charm lies in the fact that the mind (‘Geist’), which must always move forwards, see the same idea - ‘rest’, for example rising up before it a second time, but this time as its own adversary, and that it is constrained to track down some sort of similarity between them. The simulation of war requires a simulation of peace. In this circle what one finds is an interlinked and shimmering polygon. As Madame du Deffant said of the engineer Vaucanson, whom she had found very stiff and boring: ‘I had an elevated idea of him: I bet he made himself. ’26

38

Variations on a concept

And yet as Jean Paul illustrates the reflexive qualities of his work, he is not content to evoke the specious circularity it actually achieves; his ideal would be to raise it to a higher power, so that the ‘shield within the shield’ generates an infinite number of ever smaller shields. Thus Vult is intrigued during the memorable descent to the inn called ‘The Inn’ by the hotelier, ‘a pietist who only painted on his inn-sign another inn-sign with another sign on which the same thing again was represented’.27 Jean Paul’s commentary on this humorously fits in to the tradition of Kant, F. Schlegel and Fichte:28 Whereas the entire Witz of philosophy is to make the subject ‘I’ into an object and vice versa, the philosophy of the Witz nowadays is one that similarly tries to ensure that the ideas of this subject-object are treated sub-objectively; in other words, I am being profound and serious if I say: ‘I am registering the registering of the fact of register¬ ing the fact of registering’, or ‘I am reflecting on the fact of reflecting on the reflexion of a reflexion on a brush.’ These are serious sen¬ tences, which reveal infinite reflexion (‘Widerschein ins Unendliche’)! Such depths are certainly beyond the reach of some people! I’ll go further: only he who shows himself able to write, several times in a row, the genitive of the same infinitive of whatever verb, can be allowed to say: I am philosophizing . . ,29

Thus the idea that will serve as the conclusion of the heuristic section of this work is reinforced: through a solidarity of principle, the three versions of the mises en abyme constantly refer to one another, and the unity of the mise en abyme is not compromised by its refraction in three directions.

PART II Towards a typology of the mirror in the text

'

4 Mise en abyme and reflexivity

Our analysis up to now has considered in turn the appearance, the reception and the use of the concept of the mise en abyme in literary criticism. It re-established the original meaning of the term; it showed that authors confused under the one concept different realities and that these could reasonably be reduced to three essential forms. Were we to conclude that this ternary character lay at the root of the device, or conversely to see in it an unconscious extension of the concept? This question was resolved by the novelistic practice of Gide and Jean Paul, which provided very clear proof of the former hypothesis. The time has therefore come to start the major phase of our triple study, in order to undertake in the proper place the central task of this enquiry, namely to take our conclusions on to the theor¬ etical level and to elaborate the typological model these conclusions demand.

l

Typology and immediate analysis

This model presupposes a choice between two approaches. The first consists in unproblematically starting from the three types we have isolated and ordering them appropriately, not in terms of a historical succession, but rather by reference to their increasing logical complexity as compared to an archetypal form. This approach would be based essentially on the relation between the three types and would involve revealing their various similarities and growing differences, and constructing a generative tree with the simplest at its base and the most complex at the top.

42

Towards a typology of the mirror in the text

The second approach would not tolerate such a progressive tree¬ like structuring. Freely based on the linguistic model, it envisages the three types as probably being amalgams rather than distinct essences, and attempts to show that the units they respectively represent can be broken down into smaller, more consistent units that can in turn be broken down into a limited number of indivisible features. In other words, it aims to establish an exhaustive list of all possible elements at each level at which the structure operates, and, ascending that structure, to follow from level to level (from distinc¬ tive feature to elementary mises en ahyme to types) the triple com¬ bination in play when the structure is actually used (figure 1).

form

types

elementary mises en abyme

distinctive features

Figure 1

Although at first sight these two hierarchical and classificatory approaches seem equally valid, for reasons the relevance of which will gradually become clear I have decided to follow the one that will allow the construction of a theory of the mise en abyme through an elaboration of a structural typology of its elements, namely the second approach. The immediate task is to identify the essential and indivisible features that distinguish the mise en abyme and must form part of the definition of the concept at the most basic level. The common root of every mise en abyme is clearly the idea of reflexivityf and this will provide our first identifying property.

Mise en abyme and reflexivity 2

43

Basic properties

The reflected narrative (a) Objects of reflexion Analysis of the object of reflexion is an appropriate starting-point. It will be recalled that Gide thought of this as ‘the subject of the work itself’. But this expression of his is not unambiguous, since it can cover not only the theme or the plot of the novel, but also, as we have seen, the story being told and the agent of the narration - to which can be added, in the case of The Counterfeiters, the story, the aesthetic and the criticism of the work.2 It may be that this is too broad a range for a term (‘subject’) which usually has a more restricted meaning, and this was why I substituted ‘narrative’ for ‘subject’ in my earlier definition. But in describing a mise en abyme as ‘any internal mirror that reflects the whole of the narrative in simple, repeated or “specious” (or paradoxical) duplication’, I may have achieved accuracy at the cost of some vagueness. In fact, since this study will unfold gradually, there is no reason why it should not be possible for any global definition to be developed later. Now that it is necessary to be more specific, we must ask whether the use of the term ‘narrative’ is an appropriate description of the reflexivity concerned; whether, in other words, we can distinguish different types of reflexion by considering the different objects - the different aspects of the narrative - subjected to this reflexion. It appears that we can, and, in order to do so, it seems justifiable to adopt for our own purposes the classic distinctions of Jakobson’s linguistics and to divide reflexions into reflexions of the utterance, reflexions of the enunciation, and reflexions of the whole code.3 But before clarifying what each of these terms covers in our context, we can usefully reverse the direction of our analysis and concentrate on the other aspect of any reflecting structure: the subject of the reflexion. (b) Superimposition and double meaning Once we realize that this subject is an utterance - and more exactly a synecdochal4 utterance - we can relate the two aspects of reflexivity and suggest the follow¬ ing definition: a reflexion is an utterance that relates to the utterance,

44

Towards a typology of the mirror in the text

the enunciation or the whole code of the narrative. This phrase reveals and confirms that any reflexion represents a semantic super¬ imposition, or, in other words, that the utterance containing the reflexivity operates on at least two levels: that of the narrative, where it continues to signify like any other utterance, and that of the reflexion, where it intervenes as an element of metasignification, enabling the narrative to take itself as its theme. Now, if the same words are being used to say something other than what they say, there is no reason why the reflexive unit cannot be compared with other linguistic devices that have a single signifier, but a plethora of signifieds - for example, the symbol and the allegory. In common with these structures with a double meaning, the reflexive phrase is also over-determined, harbouring semantic parasitism (since one of its codes lives on the other), and stratifying its meanings so that the literal and obvious primary sense both covers and uncovers the second, figurative one. And yet this similarity between the mise en abyme and the other structures is combined with a twofold difference. The reflexion is not a symbol, since the relationship between the literal and the metaphorical sense is instituted; neither is it an allegory, because the two meanings are not a priori interchangeable. It alone is neither opaque nor transparent, it exists in the form of a double meaning, whose identification and deciphering presupposes a knowledge of the text. In other words the text - and not only, or initially, the primary meaning of the sequence - enacts ‘the analogy by providing the analogue’,5 and consequently the hermeneutic key can never open up the reflexion until the narrative has revealed the existence and the location of the reflexion. To put it less metaphorically, a reflexive utterance only becomes such through the duplicative relationship it admits to with one or other aspect of the narrative - which, in concrete terms, comes down to saying that the emergence of this relationship depends, on the one hand, on the progressive assimi¬ lation of all of the narrative, and, on the other, on the decoder’s ability to make the substitutions necessary to pass on from one register to another. Is it more appropriate to rely on the decoder’s performance? Or to help him/her by compensating for any possible opacity in the reflexive utterance? Poe’s tale The Fall of the House of Usher, quoted by the young Gide, opts decisively for giving benevolent help. Here, the reader

Mise en abyme and reflexivity

45

does not have the task of establishing equivalences and interpreting them; this is done first by the narrator, who points up the analogies between the remarks in the book he reads in the text and what he himself hears, and then by the protagonist (Roderick), who gives him word-for-word translations of what he has been reading: And now - tonight - Ethelred - ha! ha! - the breaking of the hermit’s door, and the death rattle of the dragon and the clangour of the shield - say, rather, the rending of her coffin, and the grating of the iron hinges of her prison, and her struggle within the coppered archway of the vault!6

Other texts also take on in the decoder’s stead this substitution of expressions, which is the perfect definition of the activity of the addressee of reflexive utterances. But few literally spell it out, as Poe does, in a twin, repeated and one-dimensional correspondence. The reason is clear: authorized by a kind of extended metaphor, term-forterm translation immediately seems too close to allegory for it to be compatible with the genre of the novel. Other texts, therefore, as a rule only make explicit one analogy, while taking care to blur this by an apparent use of symbolism or of some semantic ‘muting’. Zola’s use of reflexion can serve as an example of this (and of the opposite tendency). Before leaving the Rome he dreamt of regenerating, but where he only succeeded in being rejected by a domineering and sceptical Pope, Abbe Pierre Froment, facing an unknown Botticelli, finds himself suddenly confronting his destiny: It was only seven o’clock, he had an hour to wait before dinner, when, looking around the walls to be sure of remembering every¬ thing, his eyes lighted on the old painting, by the neglected master whose work he had often looked at with emotion during his stay. The lamp happened to be shedding a full and evocative light on it; and, once more, his heart sank, all the more so since he now saw in the painting, in these final moments, a complete symbol of his failure in Rome, in the doleful and tragic face of this woman, half-naked, in tatters, sitting on the steps of the palace whence she had been ejected, crying, her face in her hands. This scorned, stubborn lover, who sobbed so, of whom nothing was known, not even what she looked like, or where she came from, or what she had done, was she not the image of all his futile efforts to open the door of tmth, of the complete

46

Towards a typology of the mirror in the text and awful rejection that is the lot of man when he comes up against the wall that keeps out outsiders?7

The question may be rhetorical, but it reveals very well Zola’s concern to tie each representation to the narrative as a whole, and also his fear that the author and reader might not communicate suf¬ ficiently. What is striking here is his wish to lift the veil he initially imposed, to reduce the scene to a merely transparent meaning, and, in order to do this, to make an allegory of the symbol by translating it (at the start of the passage) and by an explanatory paraphrase of it (at the end). Haunted by a one-dimensionality of meaning, Zola’s novels are condemned to mark their reflexive utterances in the most obvious way, and almost always to duplicate them with a discursive explanation. It goes without saying that it is not difficult to find texts that are less obvious in their reflexivity. Most narratives instinctively partake of a polysemy that seems basic to literature, and eschew mere trans¬ lation. Rather than putting themselves in the place of the interpreter, they provoke interpretation by signalling that such and such an utterance is a transposition of the narrative,8 or that such and such an element of their structure conceals a latent meaning behind the obvious one. Mademoiselle de Maupin couches thus its invitation to decipher the text below the text: We were all extremely interested and preoccupied by all this: in a way it was another play within the play, a drama we were acting, which was invisible and unknown as far as the rest of the audience was concerned, and which, in symbolic words, summarized our whole life and expressed our most secret desires.9

And yet there is no need for such an emphatic declaration to invite a double reading: it just requires one warning signal to be picked up. The clearest signals are given by words that posit an analogy between an utterance and an aspect of the narrative (‘resem¬ blance’, ‘comparison’, ‘parallel’, ‘relation’, ‘coincidence’). But there are others that are less direct but no less powerful. Among the most frequent, one can mention similarities achieved by (a) homonymy between the characters of the inserted and enclosing narrative; (b) virtual homonymy between a character and the author;

Mise en abyme and reflexivity

47

(c) homonymy between the titles of the inserted and enclosing nar¬ rative; (d) repetition of an evocative setting and a combination of characters; and (e) textual repetition of one or more expressions relating to the primary narrative within the reflexive passage.10 Less immediately recognizable, and more dependent on the reader’s performance, are words and phrases with a double meaning - which can lead to the need for the passage to clear the way for the metaphysical meaning. This is the case in the following passage, in which the ‘naturalist’ in question is one and the same as the author of this and future Rougon-Macquart novels: Pascal gave the mad woman, her father and her uncle a penetrating stare; the egotism of the scientist took over, and he studied this mother and her child as intently as a naturalist would the metamor¬ phoses of an insect. And he thought of these developments of the family tree, of the trunk that produced different branches, its bitter sap carrying the same seeds to the farthest twigs, themselves twisted in different ways according to their degree of exposure to the sun. He momentarily glimpsed, in a flash, the future of the RougonMacquarts . . ,n

In The Counterfeiters, the ‘symbolical picture of the ages of life’ is less transparent. It is true that Gide does not stint the winks he gives to the reader: the adjective ‘symbolical’ is one, the comment that the ‘chief value’ of the engraving ‘lies in its intention’12 is another. But does this lift the veil enough? The biology lesson is similar. Although announced by a pun made by a knowing character,13 and signalled by the term ‘abime’ as well as by the reference to the hybrid ‘parent trunk’,14 is its reflexivity clear enough on the first reading? Given that virtually all commentators have ignored it, we should not be too confident that it is . . . The majority of texts, however, neither perform the transposition of meaning themselves, nor suggest that it should be performed by the reader. Should these be decoded as reflexive? Or, since they do not prescribe this either explicitly or implicitly, do they proscribe it?151 have given an initial and partial reply above, and I shall now return to it briefly to note what it excludes.

48

Towards a typology of the mirror in the text

To say that a reflexive utterance only becomes reflexive through the duplicative relationship it admits to with one or other aspect of the narrative is to rule out two symmetrical, but opposite, interpret¬ ations. The first, which is too limiting, implies that texts with no warning signals (such as those I have described) contain no reflexive duplication, and that their utterances are to be taken only at face value. The second, which seems to me to go too far in the other direction, comes down to inferring from the inevitably self-centred literariness of the text that reflexivity must be omnipresent and that every narrative can be read as an uninterrupted orchestration of the double meaning. But if this were the case, there would be no distinc¬ tion between Balzac’s novels and Roussel’s fictions. Both would be reflexive, and both would need to be decoded in the same way. Such an equalizing of texts could only be tenable if one presupposes that not only are all narratives polysemic - which they are - but also that they are semantically organized in one, specifically cumulative mode, the parable - which is not proved. It would certainly be absurd to deny that being by definition ‘intransitive’, all texts are primarily concerned with themselves. But although they refer back to themselves in this way, does it follow that their themes and plots only express the texts themselves, as metaphors of their own story and modes of function? In my view, such self-reflexion characterizes only some texts; those that, conscious of their literariness, ‘narrativize’ it and strive, by a permanent or occasional reference back to themselves, to reveal the law underlying every linguistic creation. To give this a universal value presupposes a different view of the ‘poeticity’ of the text from Jakobson’s, or the adoption of some fallacious hermeneutic principle. For by which linguistic criterion do we empirically recognize the poetic function? In particular, which is the one indispensable element in any poetic work ? To answer this question, we must recall the two funda¬ mental modes of arrangement used in verbal behaviour: selection and combination . . . The poetic function projects the principle of equi¬ valence from the selection axis on to the combination axis. Equivalence is promoted to rank as the constitutive process of the sequence.16

Although the consequence of this is that all literary narratives are constituted by the modulation of equivalent units, and that ‘the true

Mise en abyme and reflexivity

49

meaning of the text resides in the coherence of its formal references and ... in the fact that the text repeats its subject, although continually varying its way of doing so’,17 is it not an abuse to assimilate as a consequence those resonances and relationships to the phenomenon of reflexion (i.e. a structure with a double meaning)?18 The proof that any such assimilation is inappropriate can be found at the beginning of Dans le labyrinthe, where, despite the exemplary projection of the paradigmatic on to the syntagmatic axis, Robbe-Grillet still finds it necessary to introduce in addition a reflexive scenario.19 In other words, although all literary works can be defined as structures that resonate and develop cross-correspon¬ dences, reflexion can only come into play through the presence of additional elements.20 This conclusion seems to call into question the validity of certain retrospective readings of texts. Although not necessarily invalid, this practice becomes so, in my view, when the decoding it involves is entirely unconnected with the encoding, for instance when the notion that all fictions are mere allegories of their own production is applied to texts that do not subscribe to this view. Admittedly, critics hesitate to read realistic novels in this way: they do draw the line somewhere. But the headstrong critic will certainly turn to this practice when confronted with the early nouveaux romans. On the pretext that they often use the mise en abyme, some very dubious mirror-effects will be discerned almost throughout.21 The inherent danger of this sort of reading lies, of course, in making the text into an allegory - in other words, seeing its referen¬ tial dimension as merely self-reference in disguise. Reminiscent in its categorical and distorting approach of the readings of the Scriptures by some Church fathers or Gnostics, this type of interpretation is self-fulfilling and impervious to any discussion. Imprisoned in a kind of scriptural idealism, it only appears to insist on the materiality of the text the better to ignore it, and creates a master-key to the text in order to avoid actually reading it.22 It is, however, pointless to deny that this excessive practice poses the unavoidable question: ‘Under what condition(s) can a sequence be interpreted as a “dramatic enactment” of the narrative?’ In other words, what are the hermeneutic principles that should guide our reading? At least two such principles can be given.

50

Towards a typology of the mirror in the text

The first, a traditional one, takes us back to an earlier proposition, and holds that it is the whole of the text that gives meaning to each of its segments, and that one can therefore only give a reflexive value to a sequence if this is justified by the text as a whole. The second, which is complementary, involves not interpreting texts in a reflexive-allegorical way unless reflexivity appears as a theme in them, guaranteeing some sort of systematic view. Narra¬ tives whose reflexive character is only tacit, or localized, are recog¬ nizable by their emphasis on their referential, rather than their literal, dimension. However, this rudimentary ars interpretandi does not yet allow us to identify a reflexive utterance correctly, since the question remains as to whether the reflexivity discussed hitherto is the only property in the basic definition of the mise en abyme.

‘At the level of the characters ’ Gide, it will be recalled, introduced a further property: he writes of transposition ‘at the level of the characters’. Does this mean that, like the heraldic enclosure, the reflexive utterance must be sur¬ rounded by a ‘border’ and, in other words, that all mises en abyme must be enclosed? This would mean (since a sequence (B) can be said to be enclosed in a sequence (A) if it is contained within it and is both preceded and succeeded by elements of sequence (A) that are not equal to zero),23 that neither the first nor the last segment of the text can be en abyme. And yet, if this is the logical conclusion, one might hesitate to accept enclosure in stricto sensu as a second characteristic of the mise en abyme. Does this, in any case, corre¬ spond to what Gide himself was saying when, in the first sentence of the charter, he gives in advance a non-metaphorical gloss to his own (heraldic) metaphor? I prefer to think that the ‘characters’ in ques¬ tion are in implicit opposition to the ‘author’, and that what Gide was setting out comes down to the exclusion from the idea of the mise en abyme of reflexive elements that do not concern the spatiotemporal universe of the narrative - or the ‘diegesis’, to use the terminology of literary theory. This would exclude any personal intervention by the author within the narrative and also any prologue or invocation of the muse that might announce the forthcoming narrative in the form of a resume.

Mise en abyme and reflexivity

51

It would not exclude diegetic or intradiegetic reflexive utterances, metadiegetic reflexive utterances, or reflexive meta- or secondary narratives. I shall discuss these latter examples first. To avoid any misunderstanding, I should clarify that in my ter¬ minology the metanarrative is different from the metadiegetic utter¬ ance. Diverging from Genette, who was the first to treat these aspects theoretically, I shall reserve the term ‘metanarrative’ solely for those textual segments where an internal narrator takes over temporarily from the author or the narrator, who are thereby relieved of their responsibility to make the narrative progress. It follows from this definition, which excludes Genette’s concept of the ‘agent of representation’,24 that the reflexive metanarrative, as I understand it, is characterized by its fourfold property of reflecting the narrative, interrupting the narrative, interrupting the diegesis25 and, as J. Rousset showed,26 diversifying the discourse. The insertion is supposedly under the aegis of a narrative agency differ¬ ent from that of the primary narrative (and can be either (a) oral or (b) written), and (c) thereby legitimizes its stylistic variations; it can also (d) lead to the injection of a personal narrative within a thirdperson fiction, or, conversely (e), impersonalize for a varying length of time a narrative in the first person.27 Reflexive metadiegetic utterances are distinct from metanarratives in that they do not aim to liberate themselves from the narrational control of the primary narrative. Spurning the use of an alternative narrator, they limit themselves to reflecting the narrative and only involve the suspension of the diegesis. Such reflexive interpolations include (a) indirectly reported narratives; (b) dreams; (c) visual and (d) auditory representations.28 Reflexive (intra)diegetic utterances neither change the narrational agency nor suspend diegetic continuity: totally dependent on the primary narrative, they follow its course and are arranged within its universe.29 This classification in itself would allow us to return to the ques¬ tions we have left in abeyance. But before returning to the question of the basic properties of the mise en abyme, it would be appropriate to consider whether the device is linked not only, as we have seen, to narrative voice, but also to narrative mode. Mode and voice are indeed specific terms, but the fact that for a long time they have been

52

Towards a typology of the mirror in the text

confused perhaps indicates that they are not inseparable. Moreover, it is no coincidence that Bruce Morrissette’s article on the mise en abyme, which reopened study of the device, was devoted to the ques¬ tion of the narrative ‘point of view’.30 In this respect some remarks about the history of the device may be helpful. Let us consider the use of the mise en abyme in realism and naturalism, and how this use is justified. The mise en abyme here is clearly a compensatory device: forbidden from reflexion by contem¬ porary theoreticians who are unanimous in the belief that, in order to be credible, the fiction must feign independence, the author avoids this difficulty by intervening at the level of the characters, allowing him/herself to be heard while still respecting the sacrosanct commandments of ‘objectivity’ and ‘impersonality’. Now, although it can be seen in its classic form in the literature of the second half of the nineteenth century, this delegation of power is always inherent in the mise en abyme, rather than limited to specific periods. All intra- or metadiegetic reflexions are in fact of equivocal origin because they involve the interplay of two spheres: the sphere of the author, who eschews personal comments on his/her own work in order to transmit his/her knowledge of it to a character who serves as his/her ‘cover’; and the sphere of the character, who is promoted to the level of the author through this spokesperson role - hence the necessity of attenuating the transgressional character of this trans¬ position by making the authorial representations authentic in order to keep the narrative credible. This need for authenticity is of course a consequence of the intra- or metadiegetic status of the reflexions: in the mouth of the author, they would not be questioned: but once they are dependent on a character, how can they inspire confidence? Are characters competent to speak in the name of the person who is responsible for the narrative? Do not uncertainty and lack of infor¬ mation reign at the diegetic level?31 This is certainly the case, but again there is a way round it. The trick in the narrative consists in allowing either a very limited intrusion by the author as a ‘sponsor’ of the authorial substitute, or an authentication of the substitute which involves satisfying three criteria: 1

choosing agents who are not integral to the plot, which leads to the appointment of (a) old people, (b) foreigners or (c) com¬ panions, who are able to appear solely to carry out the role which is expected of them;32

Mise en abyrrie and reflexivity 2

3

53

recruiting qualified personnel from among those who specialize in, or make their living from, the truth; hence the following archetypal characters: (a) the novelist; (b) the artist; (c) the critic; (d) the scientist; (e) the clergyman; (f) the librarian; (g) the book¬ seller; - but also (h) the madman; (i) the innocent; (j) the drunkard; and (k) the dreamer;33 in the absence of such ‘organs of the truth’, doing without them and using the services of a work of art that, valid in itself, might in an emergency need no guarantor.34

It would be tempting to continue this study of the ‘constraints’ imposed by any reflexion at the level of the characters. But there is no need to do so since we can now list those properties necessary in any basic definition of the mise en abyme. After full consideration, we can limit these to two: 1 2

the reflexive character of the utterance; and its intra- or metadiegetic quality.

Alternating narratives, strictly speaking, and interruption of the diegesis are not features necessary to the mise en abyme,35 Nor does the choice of narrative perspective affect in any fundamental way a device which is essentially transgressional.

3 Elementary miseen abyme and its demarcation Having adopted these two criteria, we can now fill in the lower levels of our typological model; if a designates the intra- or metadiegetic character of a segment of the text, and a, b and c represent respect¬ ively the reflexion of the utterance, of the enunciation and of the whole code, we have three elementary mises en abyme (A, B and C), each determined by a constant (the coefficient a) and a variable (a, b or c) (figure 2). This demarcation evidently has the corollary that if the reflexivity a of a, b or c alone defines the conditions in which the mise en abyme appears, the locating of mises en abyme must also take place at this level of analysis - and at this level alone. In other words, the isolation and demarcation of a segment of the narrative that satisfies the two criteria will, according to each case, detach from the narra¬ tive a unit of highly variable size,36 compatible with any of the

Towards a typology of the mirror in the text

54

elementary

distinctive features

a

c

B

A

mises en abyme

a

a

b

a

c

Figure 2 ‘registers of narrative discourse’ (Todorov),37 not necessarily sharing the contours of the narrative structure it is grafted on to: thus, with the mise en abyme too, the function creates the organ ,38

Fiction and its doubles

Although the constitution of the mise en abyme as an ‘organ’ of the text is synonymous with its function (rather than its form), one might none the less expect it to operate differently according to whether it is the utterance, the enunciation or the whole code that is subjected to mise en abyme. Each of the three elementary types of mise en abyme must therefore be approached separately, in the above order, starting with the mise en abyme of the utterance. Starting by limiting ourselves to the referential aspect of the utter¬ ance as a ‘story’ or ‘fiction narrated’, it seems possible to define this sort of mise en abyme as an intertextual resume or quotation of the content of a work. Inasmuch as it summarizes or quotes the content of a story, it is an utterance that refers to another utterance - and therefore belongs to the metalinguistic code; inasmuch as it is an integral part of the fiction that it also summarizes, it generates the means to reflect back on the fiction and consequently gives rise to internal repetition. It is therefore not surprising that the narrative function of what I shall call this ‘fictional’ mise en abyme is basically characterized by a combination of the usual properties of iteration and of second-degree utterances, namely the capacity to give the work a strong structure, to underpin its meaning, to provide a kind of internal dialogue and a means whereby the work can interpret itself. This is no doubt what Gide had in mind when he said that ‘nothing sheds more light on’ a narrative than its mise en abyme. But the fact that this kind of intervention happens in all kinds of works, in all periods, should not inhibit us from going beyond such generalizations. For although it is true that the mise en abyme must

56

Towards a typology of the minor in the text

disappear on one level in order to suggest its existence on another level,1 it is also the case that the impact and side-effects of this inter¬ vention vary on the one hand according to the degree of analogy between the reflecting and the reflected utterance (as a parameter of the paradigmatic rules), and on the other according to the position of the mise en abyme in the narrative sequence (as a parameter of syntagmatic obedience).

1

Semantic compression and dilation

The reason why the first of these parameters has a decisive influence on the function of the fictional mise en ahyme is that the transition from the story being told to its reflexion implies two different oper¬ ations as far as transformational logic is concerned; a reduction (or structuring by embedding), and an elaboration of the referential paradigm (or structuring by projecting a metaphorical ‘equivalent’ on to the syntagmatic axis). Given that this latter operation can involve a greater or lesser degree2 of analogy or contrast f a whole range of possibilities exists, between virtually mimetic reproduction on the one hand, and free transposition on the other, each interacting with the story in a different way. Thus, when the mise en abyme is limited by a sort of homothesis to reproducing the fiction on another scale,4 it is identical to the miniature model whose virtues Levi-Strauss analyses in a famous chapter of La Pensee sauvage. In simplifying the complexity of the original,5 the fictional counterpart converts time into space and succession into contemporaneity, thereby increasing our ability to ‘take it in’.6 Thus Gide was not wrong to remark that ‘nothing displays the proportions of the whole work more accurately’, nor Valery to echo this when he wrote that ‘reflexion confronts the being with its function’.7 By stylizing what it copies, the model distinguishes what is essential from what is only contingent: it in-forms. But the question is whether by acquiring this power to inform, the model loses more of the original than its dimensions. Expressing it in the terminology of communication theory, one might say that the

Fiction an;d its doubles

57

more scrupulous the reproduction, the more any redundancy in the work is amplified. Given that the informational content of a message is inversely proportional to its redundance, it follows that precisely because the ‘reproductive’ mise en abyme allows a maximum closure and codification of the narrative, it correspondingly reduces the possibility of polysemy. An ‘isotopic’8 reading is surely too high a price to pay for a mise en abyme. Be that as it may, two types of narrative willingly pay this price: those intent on an unequivocal meaning at all costs, and those that aim to affirm themselves as narrative and therefore exploit the truism that ‘life’ and repro¬ duction should be seen as contradictory.9 As a secondary sign, the mise en abyme not only emphasizes the signifying intention of the primary sign (the narrative that contains it), it makes clear that the primary narrative is also (only) a sign, as any trope must be - but with added power, according to its stature: lam literature, and so is the narrative that embeds me.10 As for those reflexions (by far the most frequent) for which fidelity is constricting, rather than seeing them in terms of the ‘miniature model’, one might better compare them to the figures created by what Freudian psychoanalysis calls the ‘primary processes’, since they derive from ‘condensation’ and ‘displacement’, rather like the ‘dreamwork’. The result of a transcoding, which makes it original, the mise en abyme is less concerned in this case with undermining the referential illusion than with becoming an ‘isotopic shifter’ and thereby pluralizing meaning. Thanks to the mise en abyme, the redundance is diminished; the narrative becomes informing and open - and above all it accepts, after having imposed its own form on its ‘analogue’, that the latter, in turn, superimposes its own form on the narrative. Apuleus’ Golden A.w is an ideal example of this semantic ‘reaction’. For how would we read it without the ‘Tale of Eros and Psyche’ in books IV, V and VI? In the same way as we had pre¬ viously read books I, II and III, as a sort of picaresque novel in which the miraculous plays a part, but never, surely, as a mystagogical narrative. It is precisely the function of this later narrative to make the first reading more complex, by setting off a second (religious) isotope which not only prepares, at a distance, the epiphany of Isis in the famous chapter XI, but also superimposes itself on the first reading (the novel as adventure) in order to give it an initiatory

58

Towards a typology of the mirror in the text

impulse. Once influenced by Psyche’s parallel experiences, those of Lucius can only be read - or re-read, in respect of the books that precede the mise en ahyme - as the tribulations of one who, after a period of alienation and wandering, is promised grace, thanks to the goodness of metamorphosis. Without the mise en ahyme, the novel would not be able to convert its narrative events into a redemptive code. The mise en abyme has a similar role in L ’Homme qui rit. Although it only acknowledges a debt to Shakespeare, has not Hugo’s novel an intertextual relationship with Apuleus’ work as well? The performance called ‘Chaos vanquished’, which forms a fulcrum between the two parts of the novel, seems to be - like the tale in The Golden Ass - an ‘interlude’ with a structural purpose, but also with a semantic one, since its meaning reflects back on the start of the narrative, prepares its denouement,11 and gives the work an initiatory dimension.12 Too long to be quoted here, the description of this incomparable spectacle presents an allegorical celebration of the ascent of man through the triumph of light over darkness, of the mind over raw matter, and the domination of chaos by the force of the spirit. So once more it is the ‘work within the work’ that invites the interpret¬ ation of the fate of the main character as a descent into Hell and a redemptive transformation. But it does more: as a cosmic liturgy at the heart of the text, its power radiates throughout the novel, conse¬ crating and detemporalizing it into an epic chronicle in illo tempore. No less admirable is the semantic dilation in E. T. A. Hoffmann’s Prinzessin Brambilla, which results again in a transposition, of which the reader is made aware as follows: You will now, dear reader, have to listen to a story that will seem quite foreign to the events I have undertaken to relate. However, although it is therefore to be condemned, just as we sometimes reach our destination by following what seemed to be the wrong path, so this episode may lead us right to the heart of the main theme, despite appearing to be a false turning. So here, O reader, is the marvellous STORY OF KING OPHIOCH AND QUEEN LIRIS:

Once upon a time, long, long ago . . ,13 This promise that a fairy-tale will deepen our knowledge is indeed kept: refracted through a gnostic myth, Carnaval’s fantastic story is

Fiction and its doubles

59

interiorized, and, from being a pure Caprice, becomes an exemplary description of wandering and healing. But there is more to it than the double isotope to be found in Apuleus’ and Hugo’s novels. Taking on gradually all of the elements of the narrative, the allegori¬ cal impulse started off by the tale transforms the adventure of Giglio and Giacinta in turn into a quest for knowledge, an apologia for romantic irony, a defence of the theatre and a parable of artistic creation - to the point where the protagonists, exhausted by having this multiplicity of meanings imposed on them, are eventually revealed as mere ciphers, paper beings whose only raison d'etre lies in acting as representatives of the waves of isotopic variations unleashed by the mise en abyme,14 The reason why the mise en abyme is so active is given in the text; reflecting the narrative by taking as its own theme the duplication that characterizes romantic irony,15 this mirror of a mirror was bound, thematically, to call up other mirrors, creating multiple, infinite reflexions. Such examples, and the general remarks that preceded them, make it clear that, from the paradigmatic point of view, the fictional mise en abyme, like synecdoche, can be divided into two groups: the particularizing (miniature models), which concentrate and limit the meaning of the fiction; and the generalizing (transpositions), which give the context a semantic expansion beyond that which the context alone could provide.16 Compensating for what they lack in textual extent by their power to invest meaning, such transpositions present a paradox: although they are microcosms of the fiction, they superimpose themselves semantically on the macrocosm that contains them, overflow it and end up by engulfing it, in a way, within themselves. Of course, such expansion is only possible in the light of certain narrative choices. Thus, it seems significant that the reflexion in the three works briefly referred to above does not result from a novella or any over-schematic duplicate, but from a tale or myth. The tale is suited to the propagation of universal truths, since it can be univer¬ sally appreciated. As for myths, even if they are being brought into an allegorical context, they never quite lose all of their original character: ‘symbols extended into narrative form’, they ‘make one think’,17 and in moving the narrative into an unreal register, none the less produce an inexhaustible supply of meanings.

60

Towards a typology of the mirror in the text 2

Distribution effects

Cutting across the first variable (the question of the kind of model), another is at play, determining the function of the fictional mise en abyme according to its place on the syntagmatic axis. I shall try to reveal how, and for what narrative purposes, after noting that (i)

a text can integrate a mise en abyme by (a) presenting it once, en bloc\ (b) dividing it up so that it alternates with the embedding narra¬ tive; and (c) making it occur a number of different times. (ii) (a) (rather than (b) or (c)) above allows us to articulate more clearly the problem of the relation between the position of the component and the general economy of the narrative; (iii) this problem can be expressed and resolved essentially in terms of the narrative timescale. To prove this last point, I shall limit myself to noting that any ‘story within the story’ must necessarily challenge the development of the chronology (by being reflexive) while respecting it (by being a segment of the narrative sequence). For it cannot both conform and conserve its other main function. Too small to have the same rhythm as the narrative, its only means of rivalling it is by shorten¬ ing the duration of the story, presenting the content of the whole book in a limited space. Now, as I have said, such a contraction cannot avoid calling into question the chronological order of the book itself: unable to say the same thing at the same time as the story itself, its analogue, saying it elsewhere and ‘out of time’, sabotages the sequential progress of the narrative. But we can be more precise: one only has to consider the placing of the duplication in the narrative sequence to be able to confirm that all fictional mises en abyme have an anachronic form. Logically, one can therefore distinguish three sorts of mises en abyme corre¬ sponding to the three forms of dissonance between the time of the narrative and the time of the figure: the first (prospective) reflects the story to come; the second (retrospective) reflects the story already completed; and the third (retro-prospective) reflects the story by revealing events both before and after its point of insertion in the narrative.18

Fiction and, its doubles

61

Illustrating each of these mises en abyme with suitable examples will not only reveal more about them but will also show their relative frequency: on the basis of my samples, few such mises en abyme occur at the start of the narrative, virtually none at the end and very many in the middle.

The ‘programmatic loop ’ Set up at the opening of the narrative, the prospective mise en abyme provides a ‘double’ for the fiction in order to ‘overtake’ it and to leave it with only a past for its future. The fiction’s room for manoeuvre is limited to reflecting back on this previous reflexion, catalysing it, adhering to the programme announced by it and spell¬ ing out its contents. If this room for manoeuvre is restricted, this is because the remainder of the narrative is fated: tolerating its own revelation by a precursor, it must follow the latter’s directives. But this precursor’s revelatory and matricial function necessarily entails other functions; most importantly, by revealing a condensed version of the fiction, the reflexion combines isolated episodes and elements which, by being perceived almost simultaneously early on in the book, cannot help influencing how the book itself will be interpreted. Made aware that what s/he perceives synthetically will occur over a longer scale, the reader knows what lies ahead and can immediately regulate the itinerary of his/her reading, recognize important parts as s/he goes through, and determine his/her own rate of progress. In addition, by programming the remainder of the fiction so forcefully, this preliminary mise en abyme takes away all of its anecdotal interest - unless it provokes tension or gradually enhances the reader’s expectations. It can do this to the point of exasperating the reader, as Tieck’s Der Zauberschloss proves. To recall the plot, in broad terms: In love with a young captain, Luise is none the less to marry the rich and aged ‘Landrat’, of whom her father approves. The imminent wedding will take place in a castle that the strangest legends sur¬ round. During the preparations for the ceremony, a family friend, who can be a practical joker when he feels like it, tells the assembled ladies (including Luise) an extravagant and tragic story that is sup¬ posed to have happened at the castle during the Thirty Years War: promised by her father to a rich landowner, a certain Luise loved a

62

Towards a typology of the mirror in the text

young captain . . . There follows a story, all of whose episodes anticipate those of the main narrative, down to the smallest detail, but with one small, but important, exception: although there is a succession of coincidences between the embedding narrative and the preliminary mise en abyme, which seems to presage a catastrophic denouement, at the very end the relationship is reversed, and the characters and the reader experience an ironic happy ending, having been misled by the false prophecy of the inserted narrative. The suspense of the narrative derives from the repeated confir¬ mations of the ‘horizon of expectation’, each of which increases the tension, which is carried forward to the next prediction, up till the final twist when the reader gets (to) the point of the story. Although such a large number of analogies between the primary text and the mise en ahyme is not compatible with all literary genres, it is particularly applicable to the fantasy novella (e.g. The Fall of the House of Usher) and, to an even greater extent perhaps, to the classic detective novel. The way in which Agatha Christie treats the rhyme and the statu¬ ettes in Ten Little Indians is very instructive in this respect. The premonitory song is first presented en bloc at the opening of the novel; then each of its verses echoes, in an accelerating rhythm, each of the ten murders, either again announcing them prophetically, or commenting on them a posteriori, as in a morality play. To avoid these repetitions becoming wearisome and to accentuate further their inexorable progression - since here the narrative does not use ironic anticipation - each verse of the lullaby is related to a statuette whose breakage or disappearance punctuates, at a slight distance, the horrible sequence of crimes. Here the numerous and repeated omens dramatize the action, give it a new impulse and gradually make the reader’s critical powers diminish. Since this cannot be a goal common to all narratives, novels in general will avoid over-frequent literal coincidences. They will ensure that premonitory signs relate only to essential elements and cannot be deciphered too clearly. Two factors lead to this. On the one hand, the narrative aspires to be read synoptically, that is, in its totality. It can make up for the fact that this totality is not complete until the last sentence by having recourse to preparative devices, of which the prospective mise en abyme is the most radical. This immediately makes possible a second reading, which is literal rather

Fiction and its doubles

63

y

than referential. This is why Goethe felt obliged to ‘subordinate the law of delaying to a higher imperative: that which prescribes that one can - and must - know how a good poem ends and that, in summary, it is only the “how” that arouses the interest. In this way, curiosity does not play a role in such a work . . .’19 This extract from a letter to Schiller can be compared to the con¬ versation in Flegeljahre after the flute recital: But how did you listen to it? Going backwards and forwards, or just note by note, as it proceeded? Most people, like animals, can only hear what is present, not what comes before or after: they only hear syllables of music, not its syntax. It is because of the first phrase of a sentence that a good listener can divine perfectly what the following phrase will be.20 However judicious it is, this implied definition of the ‘good reader’ is not the only notable thing in this passage. Its interest lies in the attention it focuses on the inherent difficulty of any inaugural mise en abyme. Pointing in one direction alone, it can only be attuned to ‘what comes after’, and not ‘what comes before’, in Jean Paul’s terms. Is not the inevitable consequence that the vector it introduces into the work is too strong to maintain the equilibrium, and that revealing the whole story right from the start does, after all, make whatever may follow seem boring? Some sort of compromise seems necessary between immediate and total revelation and the rights of the referential illusion, which produces a number of diverse solutions that I cannot study in depth here. I shall merely indicate the most frequent ones, which are in any case often used by the mise en abyme. One of the most remarkable consists in counterbalancing the disruptive force of the anticipatory vector by tying it securely to a fictional past: the premonitory mise en abyme will therefore be subtly directed towards a diegetic or extradiegetic past that it would not normally be able to actualize. A prime example of this on the diegetic level occurs in Scott’s Waverley, where it is only because of his ‘prodigious memory’ that the simple-minded Gellatly can sing of the chronicle that will later be told. An extradiegetic example is Swann in Love, which ‘Proust places at one of the entrances to his novel, like a small convex mirror, to reflect it in miniature.’21 Looking both ways in time, in that it prefigures the narrator’s love-

64

Towards a typology of the mirror in the text

affairs, prepares the meeting of the two ‘ways’, but also provides a flashback that enables the author to ‘skip’ a generation, this ‘novel within the novel’ subverts, through the time-scale of its narrative, the exclusively anticipatory tendencies of the premonitory mise en abyme. The fact remains, though, that most narratives prefer to dissipate the force of the vector by blurring the revelation itself. This usually operates through (a) circumstantial lyricism; (b) duplication of omens that seem to neutralize each other; (c) explicit denial accom¬ panying the premonitory sign; (d) false commentaries by certain characters; and finally ‘noise’ due to a lack of comprehension on the part of those most directly involved.22 However, an example from the beginning of Maupassant’s Une Vie shows misunderstanding not presenting a difficulty for the decoder: although the ‘noise’ may be deafening, communication still takes place: . . . Jeanne, lifting up her lamp, studied the subject of the tapestries. A young lord and a young lady, dressed in the strangest way in green, red and yellow, were talking under a blue tree that bore white fruit. A large white rabbit chewed some grey grass. Just above these characters, in the conventional distance, there were five small round houses, with pointed roofs, and, at the top, a red windmill. Large leafy and floral designs were interspersed in this. The other two panels were very similar to the first one, except that they showed four little men dressed in Flemish costume coming out of the houses and raising their hands to heaven in extreme astonishment and anger. But the last tapestry showed some dramatic events. Next to the rabbit, which was still chewing, lay the young man, apparently dead. The young lady, looking at him, was falling on a sword; and the fruit on the tree had turned black. Jeanne had given up trying to understand the tapestries when she made out, in a corner, a tiny beast that the rabbit, if it had been alive, could have eaten like a stalk of grass - and yet it was a lion. She then recognized that it was the sad story of Pyramus and Thisbe; and, although she smiled at the simplicity of the designs, she was glad to be surrounded by this love story that would always remind her of cherished hopes, and would make this antique and legendary love look down on her every night as she slept.23

Revealed by the recurrence of certain semes, the fiction is hence-

Fiction and its doubles

65

forth fixed on its thematic axis. And if the protagonist can still misjudge her destiny, the reader already knows the denouement of her life, the ‘Vie’ of the novel’s title; the reader, like the novel itself, is also ‘orientated’. It seems then that the only means whereby the narrative can regain its balance is by compensating for the initial reflexion by a ‘terminal’ one - or, better still, by making the ending of the story lead back to the initial reflexion. This procedure, which is accom¬ plished in Fontane’s L ’Adultera, necessarily gives a geometric shape to the narrative, a strict ‘mirror’ composition that the realist novel cannot in all conscience tolerate - as is shown by Fontane himself, who uses the double structure under the cover of irony.

‘ The coda ’ If the initial mise en abyme says everything before the fiction has really started, the final or terminal mise en abyme has nothing to say save repeating what is already known. How, then, can one conceal that it has a delayed effect? Even if it can disguise its obvious redun¬ dance by the greatest possible degree of transposition, it must still conform to the code of credibility that has hitherto ruled the text. This is a great constraint which, apparently, can only be avoided in one way: by moving on to a higher plane and universalizing the meaning of the narrative. To this end, the mise en abyme might resort to the tale or myth, if it were not for the fact that they would risk giving the fiction a new impetus, since they themselves have narrative form.24 At the end of the fiction, when it seeks rest, it is more appropriate to form a pact with the themes of the narrative in the shape of a symbol or of music when the story allows. Whereas music limits the mise en abyme to the inexpressible and is inherently suited to the purpose of suspense,25 the symbol seems destined to terminate, but never to conclude. Its ‘vertical’ mode has the con¬ centration the narrative is searching for; indicating unfathomable depths, it provides a pause in the narrative; motivated and nonarbitrary, it conceals the weakness of the narrative. Thus, in the passage from Rome that I have already discussed, the meanings of the text become progressively more ‘catholic’ as a result of the description of the symbolic painting; for does not the

66

Towards a typology of the mirror in the text

tearful exile who represents for the protagonist ‘a complete symbol of his failure in Rome’ reflect for him ‘the image of all futile efforts to force open the door of truth, the complete and awful rejection that is the lot of man when he comes up against the wall that keeps out outsiders?'.26 The question mark left hanging, the abstract vocabulary (which generalizes and makes indeterminate), the definite article replacing the possessive adjective, and the collective noun replacing the proper name all prove that once the destiny of an individual or of a narrative is raised to the symbolic level, it can only radiate out and become the index of a universal meaning. It should be noted that this generalization of meaning is repeated a few pages later, where, taking over from his protagonist, it is the author and his contemporary readers who recognize in the evocative image of the painting a prefiguration of their century before dis¬ covering in it a timeless expression of the Century: He was ecstatic, overwhelmed by an admiration that grew as he appreciated more and more of this subject, which was so simple and yet so poignant. Was it not acutely modern? The artist had foreseen all of our painful century, our anxiety at the invisible, our distress at not being able to cross the threshold of mystery, whose door is permanently closed. And how this woman, whose face could not be seen, who was sobbing, distraught, and whose tears no one could wipe away, was an eternal symbol of the misery of the world! An unknown Botticelli, a Botticelli of such quality, uncatalogued - what a find!27

A find that is primarily a narrative one; an enthusiasm that guarantees the description; and a paraphrase to clarify the symbol¬ ism - but this is not all. More remarkable is the fact that Zola is acting as if he is hesitating between two solutions: on the one hand describing a symbolic image and, by not making it explicit, forgoing making the circumstance into a reflexion; and on the other hand transcribing the meanings it opens up, thus tying it into the story. Such hesitation no doubt reveals the difficulty all narratives have in successfully negotiating the problems of the terminal mise en ahyme. Any paraphrase of the symbol weakens it and wrecks it on the reef of redundance: by not translating it, the narrative must be finalized by it and move off in a direction that transcends it (which implies that the narrative was not transcendent previously . . . ).

Fiction and its doubles

67

The pivot Be that as it may, the preceding remarks have shown the inherent drawbacks of prospective and retrospective reflexions clearly enough for us to begin to understand the predilection of the narrative for retro-prospective mise en abyme. Providing a fulcrum between the ‘already’ and the ‘not yet’, it not only combines the vectors and functions of the other prospective and retrospective types of reflexion: as figure 3 indicates, it also has a quality of its own, entirely based on extrapolation.

A BCD E Syntagmatic axis of1-1-j-1-► the narrative v-y-/ mise en abyme 1 1 1 1 1 retrospective vector 1 1 1 1 prospective vector 1 1 1

Figure 3

The point of figure 3 is to provide a visual description of the terms of an argument by analogy which could also be expressed as: BC is to AB as CD is to DE (BC:AB::CD:DE). This argument is one instinc¬ tively made by the reader of the segment CD. Given that CD is thematically indissociable from BC, the reader is led to postulate from the undoubted fact that AB is reflected in BC, that the unknown factor DE will probably be a reflexion of CD.28 This, no doubt, is what Lammert has in mind when he writes that ‘the reader can assess the extent of the revelation to come in the mirror of the past.’29 We would say, more simply: the reader presumes on the basis of a resume. Heinrich von Ofterdingen provides a prime example of this move¬ ment from recall to prophecy, from deduction to induction. Here is

68

Towards a typology of the mirror in the text

the superb description of Heinrich’s discovery of the book that recapitulates and prefigures his whole life: ... the hermit, noting the pleasure with which Heinrich was looking at his books, persuaded him to stay the while and continue looking at them. Heinrich, glad not to have to leave the books, thanked the hermit warmly for this opportunity. He began ferreting away in the books and turning over their pages with boundless joy. Eventually he came on one written in a foreign language, which seemed to be similar to Latin and Italian. He wished with all his heart that he had known this language, for he liked this book best of all, although he could not understand a word of it. It had no title, but, looking carefully through it, Heinrich found some pictures. He was astonished to find that they seemed so familiar, and, looking more closely, he recognized, fairly clearly amongst the others, his own face. He gave a start, frightened, thinking he must be dreaming, but after studying it several times there was no longer any doubt, it was a perfect likeness. He could hardly believe his eyes when he saw the hermit and the old man next to him in the grotto in another of these small illustrations. Flicking through further, he found in other pictures the Oriental woman, his parents, the Landgrave of Thiiringen and his lady, his friend the court chaplain, and many other acquaintances; but their clothes were differ¬ ent, and looked as if they came from another era. He could not have put a name to many of these faces, but they all seemed familiar. He saw himself in various situations. Towards the end, he seemed taller and nobler. A guitar in his hand, he was receiving laurels from the Landgrave. He saw himself at the imperial court, on a ship, in the loving arms of a slender beauty, fighting savage-looking men, then talking amicably with Saracens and Moors. A serious-looking man was often with him. He felt a profound reverence for this great man, and was happy to see him at his side, arm in arm with him. The last pictures in the book were obscure and unintelligible; but he was surprised and, deep down, gratified to see some scenes he had dreamt about; the end of the book seemed to be missing. Heinrich was very sad at this, and his one burning desire was to be able to read and own the whole book. He began looking again several times at the pictures and was dismayed to hear the small group returning. A curious modesty overtook him. He did not have the heart to tell them of his discovery, and he closed the book, affecting indifference, and asked the hermit what it was called and what language it was in. He learnt that it was written in Provencal. ‘It’s a long time since I read it,’ said the hermit, ‘I can’t remember the contents in detail. As far as I know,

Fiction and its doubles

69

it’s a novel about a poet with a prodigious destiny, and it represents and celebrates poetry in all its various forms. The end is missing: I brought the manuscript back from Jerusalem, after finding it in the effects of a friend of mine, and I have kept it as a souvenir of him.’30

This miniature version of Heinrich von Ofterdingen articulates three periods of the plot of the book itself: the present or rather the immediate past (the hermit and the miner by the side of the prota¬ gonist in the grotto where he currently is), the past (the Oriental woman, his parents, etc.), the future (which does or does not come to pass in the book31 (Heinrich, victor of a contest, crowned as a poet, Heinrich talking with the emperor, setting off for the Orient, meeting Mathilde, fighting for a noble cause, living in the Orient, in the company of Klingsohr)). As these events here form an uninter¬ rupted succession, the protagonist (and the reader, looking over his shoulder) can easily infer that a book that contains his past and his present so exactly can also be prophetic. Moreover, this prophetic power is proved in the very next chapter, where we read: ‘Someone in the midst of this crowd had caught Heinrich’s attention - a man he thought he had seen fre¬ quently at his side in the book’ (p. 174). Other than showing clearly that the roles are now reversed, and that the inserted book (which had been the object) now becomes the subject and the key to the interpretation of the novel, this reminder of a prediction as it comes true reveals the novel’s new strategy of repeatedly subverting chronological order so that it dissolves and allows past, present and future to become interchangeable. There are two reasons to think that the mise en abyme is the key element in this strategy. First, by including the ‘Fulfilment’ (the second part of the book) at the very heart of the ‘Expectation’ (the first part), it causes irreparable damage to the consecutive order of the narrative. Second, this damage is further exacerbated by this ‘Fulfilment’ being the same as Heinrich’s dream (chapter I of the ‘Expectation’) coming true, this dream being ‘already’ the same dream his father had, ‘after’ having been the dream of the medieval poet whose destiny it is Heinrich’s vocation to repeat. We learn this initially by the diversion within the reflexion to the effect that the novel we are reading is ‘a novel about a poet’. But which poet? Heinrich the medieval poet? Or the medieval poet resurrected in Heinrich? The question here is meaningless:

70

Towards a typology of the mirror in the text

identity is dissolving, individuality is subject to osmotic change, and rather than the cyclic temporality of the transmigration of souls, the novel evokes the temporality of the Traum (dream), the Marchen (fairy tale): in other words, for Novalis, the temporality of poetry symbolized by the great Provencal lyric whose simultaneous (re)birth and apotheosis the novel celebrates (this is a further lesson of the mise en abyme). And yet the desire to fragment the metonymic unity of the narra¬ tive does not alone explain the mise en abyme’s central position in the text. The admirable appropriateness of the centre of the text for the insertion of a temporal ‘shifter’ derives from the panoramic view it gives, which satisfies the reader’s desire for intelligibility. It is the place where reversal of meaning becomes desirable. Although it is governed by the preceding context, the retro-prospective reflexion can turn back on it and enhance its meaning, and implement the rest of the text, which it dominates thematically. The mise en abyme is thus both presupposed by the preceding text and presupposes the succeeding text, is both the object and the subject of interpretation, and finds in this central position a platform on which the reading of the text can pivot. Apart from this see-saw function, we should note that this inter¬ mediary position also gives the narrative a centralized structure. ‘Every work of art’, wrote Flaubert, ‘must have a point, a summit, a peak to the pyramid, or at least the light must strike one point of the sphere. There is nothing of this sort in life: but Art is different from Nature!’32 From this profound remark one can understand that, while aiming to give themselves a ‘summit’, many texts fight shy of revealing their artificiality by too rigorous a symmetry and tend to shift their mise en abyme slightly to the left or the right,33 towards the golden section, and even beyond if they propose a dramatic end¬ ing,34 - unless they decide to divide up the mise en abyme itself (in order to make it appear at various times), or to add further examples of the device. Although it is not my intention to give detailed interpretations of individual cases in the light of the preceding remarks, it seems appropriate to indicate that the use of the repeated mise en abyme generally gives the story (a) a leitmotiv; and/or (b) an indicator of the plot,35 and that, as opposed to the single mise en abyme which divides the text into two and thereby challenges its unity, multiple

Fiction and its doubles

71

or divided reflexions can, in a fragmented narrative, be a unifying factor: their different elements, drawn together on the metaphorical level, can compensate on the thematic level for the metonymic dispersal of the text. Very generally, one can therefore conclude that every mise en abyme reverses the function of the text that uses it:36 it reacts to its context and ensures a kind of self-regulation of the narrative.

3

Preferential alliances and relation to genres

Although valid, the previous analyses are incomplete in that they were not concerned with the thematic content of these fictional mises en abyme. It would be an exaggeration to claim that these mises en abyme had to be based on a figurative, auditory or verbal representation, but our previous examples show that they only attain their full power when they collaborate with painting, drama, music, the novel, the tale, the novella. All this seems to point to the fact that reflexion, in order to ‘take off’, has to work in alliance with a reality similar to that which it is reflecting: a work of art. This structural alliance can be explained in several ways. We should note first of all that the reflexive work of art is a representation, and one with great internal cohesion. Given its figurative nature, it is suited to the fictional mise en abyme, which aims, by analogy, to relate two series of events to each other; its unity is virtually indispensable to the fictional mise en abyme in that this alone can allow the retro-prospective reflexion to perform its linking role with relative ease. To refer again to figure 3. My commentary on it said that the reader attributes reflexive power to CD if CD is indissociable from BC. But how can we be sure that they are indissociable? An infallible way of joining the two, of making their external limits less vague and enabling them jointly to stand out from the rest of the text lies in combining both of them in one indissoluble work. But there are evidently other motives behind the choice of such representations. It is not, for example, irrelevant that the work of art lends a polysemic richness to the narrative, that it objectivizes the action being reflected and, above all, that it has its own temporality, which annuls, or at least neutralizes, the time-scale of the story: the

72

Towards a typology of the mirror in the text

time-scale of the narrative makes way for the inserted work of art, which in turn suspends narrative time, thus avoiding the need to reflect its reflexion, or the reflexion of its reflexion, and so on ad infinitum. But there is a further point that has equally far-reaching impli¬ cations: it concerns the possibility of the inserted work of art func¬ tioning as a generic shifter. This almost always comes to pass, since the relation between the literary genre of the embedding work and the literary (or artistic) genre of the embedded work is conditional on the dimensions of each work: from this simple fact it follows that (with a few exceptions (a)) the novelistic form (to concentrate on this) can only contain a novel in the form of (b) a summary; or (c) extracts. In other words, unless it accepts this constraint, or exploits it by referring either (d) to itself; or (e) to a merely virtual duplication that the reader will never read,37 the novel must neces¬ sarily subject itself to mise en ahyme through non-novelistic works, thus giving itself a bi-generic structure. The virtual inevitability of the inclusion in one genre of another is crucial to the understanding of the preference for the mise en ahyme to be allied with the work of art, and seems to account for the chequered history of the device in literary history. Perhaps its incompatibility with the theory of separation of genres explains why it was discarded by classicism.38 In the next few examples, I would like to show that the relation between the mise en ahyme and previous literary theories was not straightforward and that the generic interchange can operate in different ways. Let us consider Goethe’s Die Wahlverwandtschaften from this angle. Initially conceived as a novella related to the Wanderjahre, the work gradually became separate and developed into a novel. Although it still occasionally bears the mark of its original form, this is barely noticeable and does not prevent it in any way from being a model of its genre. Paradoxically, it owes its exemplary novelistic character to the inserted novella ‘Die wunderlichen Nachbarskinder’. The novella is archetypal, as is shown by its generic characteristics, its sub-title (‘Novelle’) and a remark by Goethe himself,39 and deliberately so: a thematic, but also a structural, antithesis to the narrative that encloses it, by affirming itself as a novella, it affirms the novel as a novel, and dialectically enables it deservedly to carry its own sub-title: Die Wahlverwandtschaften-. ‘EinRoman’ (A Novel).40

Fiction and its doubles

73

y

However, not every embedded work acts as a generic ‘foil’, by any means. When the resemblances are blurred between the primary and the inserted work, when they no longer have a common back¬ ground allowing comparison of their different elements, highlighting by opposition gives way to combination and interchange between the two. Thus it is clear that Zola’s Le Reve, in its combination of epic-lyric structures such as hagiographic legend, popular fairy tale, literary, realistically based fairy tale, melodramatic narrative and idyll, is not trying to underline the contrasting novelistic genre of the narrative that acts as the frame: its primary interest lies in orchestrating these sub-genres41 and benefiting structurally by modelling itself on them. This benefit seems even to go beyond Zola’s hopes, since by introducing in this way the miraculous and the lyrical (proscribed by the naturalist aesthetic), the novel under¬ goes such a profound transformation that it feels the need to belie appearances by announcing itself as a ‘roman’. And yet despite this ‘smuggling’ of one genre into another, we must not forget that this ‘shifting’ can also occur in accordance with certain literary theories, supporting, and even surpassing, them by sharing their aims. To stay with naturalistic poetics, it is well known, for example, that its allergy to the lyrical is merely the counterpart of its concep¬ tion of the epic, which the ideals of ‘objectivity’ and ‘impersonalization’ relate to the dramatic genre. A further lesson of the RougonMacquart is that everything points to the need for dramatic works to be integrated into the novel in order for this relation to become a theme and to be developed in a satisfactory way. Let us consider the two theatrical mises en abyme in La Curee. The striking thing about the very elaborate Phedre episode is that the conjunctive-disjunctive link between Renee and her double is homologous to the relation between Zola’s novel and Racine’s tragedy. Almost as soon as she is identified with Phedre, the heroine has an inkling of the distance that separates them and that provides a literary distinction between their respective adventures: ‘Phedre was of Pasiphae’s blood, and she wondered whose blood she herself could be of, a modern incestuous woman . . . Would she be strong enough, one day, to take poison? How petty and shameful her life was, compared to the epic of antiquity.’42 Moreover, during the performance of the ‘poem of the love of the

74

Towards a typology of the mirror in the text

fair Narcissus and Echo the nymph’ - which the novel presents as an ‘anti-Phedre' (or rather as a version of Phedre revised and cor¬ rected by a society in which, as Marx said, tragedy can only return as farce) - Zola returns to the (poetic) licence of this mirror-work and again questions (derisively, this time) its relation to ‘classical’ art: ‘You will see,’ continued M. Hupei de la Noue, ‘I have perhaps taken poetic licence a little too far; but I think this audacity has been successful. . . Echo the nymph, seeing that Venus has no power over the fair Narcissus, leads him to Pluto, the god of wealth and precious metals. After the temptation of the flesh comes the temptation of gold.’ ‘Very classical,’ replied the wry M. Toutin-Laroche, with a gentle smile. ‘You know the age, monsieur le prefet’.43

It is clear that there is only one answer to the question of genre, given the terms in which it is posed by the two theatrical mises en abyme: at a time when the ‘great lyre is broken’,44 and where works modelled on La Belle Helene divert literature from its true path, writing a new Phedre is only possible if one resists the ‘Zeitgeist’ and adapts the anachronistic and unattainable form of ‘the epic of antiquity’ to the novel - and more exactly to a dramatic novel that the two performances in La Curee can make possible by a process of ‘contamination’. The proof that the grafting of one form on to another was more successful than Zola had hoped lies in the fact that this ‘dramatization of the epic’ led directly to ... a theatrical work: Zola adapted from the novel a five-act drama, Renee, which was performed in April 1887 at the Theatre du Vaudeville . . . Without prolonging this analysis or turning to the analogous problem of the transposition by the mise en abyme of one art form into another, we can conclude by mentioning a theme that leads us straight into the problem I shall discuss in the next chapter: inasmuch as it implies a producer and a receiver, the inserted work of art can actualize the famous literary triad and reflect not only the fiction that contains it, but also the way in which the narrative conceives of its relationship to the author and the reader.

6

Narration revealed

If enunciation differs from utterance as structuring differs from structure and fabrication from the object fabricated, the distinction between those mises en abyme I have just dealt with and those I shall now turn to could be described as follows: the former reflect the result of an act of production, whereas the latter bring into focus the agent and the process of production itself. Although valid, this conception is, however, restricted in that it neglects at least four elements integral to the enunciative process: the receptor who is explicitly or implicitly posited in the act of enunciation; the spatial and temporal context of the enunciation; the attitude of the protagonists to the exchange; and the events that happen to precede it. Consequently, I shall define the mise en abyme of the enunciation as (i)

the ‘making present’ in the diegesis of the producer or receiver of the narrative; (ii) the revelation of the production or reception per se; or (iii) the explicitation of the context that determines (or has deter¬ mined) this production/reception. The common feature of these three ‘manifestations’ is that they all, through artifice, try to make the invisible visible.

Towards a typology of the mirror in the text

76 l

The invisible/visible or reader/author HIDE-AND-SEEK

Without going into detail, we can say that the nature of a text is simultaneously to exclude its empirical producer and to include, in place of this exiled subject, a subject who has no existence beyond the enunciation s/he subtends, who is anonymous despite the name given on the title-page, and who is impersonal despite being seen as a literary person. This X, called the implicit author in literary theory, and who might more appropriately be called the ‘productive agency’, can therefore not be reproduced: as the donor, organizer and reciter of the text, s/he can have no face. Without breaking this essential anonymity, there are three ways in which the narrative can give the illusion of lifting it: pretending to allow the producer of the text to intervene in his/her own name; setting up a narrator; or constructing an authorial figure and making this one of the characters. The latter is the only option that directly involves the mise en abyme} and the trick is getting it to work, i.e. ensuring that the substitute for the author is recognized as such. By what token can the substitute pull off the illusion, and persuade the reader that s/he is revealing what is hidden? The most effective way is to rig him/her out with the same identity as the author s/he is supposedly replacing; just by giving the substitute (a) an appropriate profession or occupation; (b) a symbolic name; or, more functionally still, (c) a surname2 which evokes the one on the title-page3 the process of representation is instituted. However, no doubt because of their provocative nature, these occupational or onomastic connectors are rarely exploited by narra¬ tives, which can approach things the other way round, as it were, by relating the author and the proxy rather less directly. Since the author can be recognized by his/her works, as the tree by its fruits, the narrative is at liberty to connect the substitute to a mise en abyme of the utterance, and to authenticate the utterance via the mise en abyme, rather than vice versa. This miniature utterance usually coincides with the narrative we are reading.4 But as long as they come from the same writer, the authenticating mise en abyme

Narration revealed

77

can also reflect other narratives, even though this leads to a slightly different result. As soon as a limited intertextual self-quotation gives the authorial substitute his/her credentials, this character gains a double function: in the present s/he reveals the author of the book we are reading here and now, which contains the substitute; retro¬ actively s/he reveals the author of previous works, or of a whole novelistic oeuvre. Linking the past and the present, s/he unites disparate books, challenges their autonomy and modifies their idea of themselves - in a word, s/he reactivates them. Before Robbe-Grillet’s La Maison de rendez-vous, the best example of this was Zola’s Le Docteur Pascal. Inasmuch as his archives reflect, in this twentieth volume of Les Roug on-Mac quart, all the nineteen previous ones in turn, the wise doctor is not merely an emblematic double of the author of one or other of them; he creates this single fiction of one author, in order to link the different novels of the cycle more closely. There is one further way in which the author can be identified with the substitute: by giving the latter an identical or similar activity to that of the former. The text will inform us of this activity by showing visible signs of it. Through the text, then, one can get an idea - which the actions of the substitute will confirm - of the nature of the agent and process of the text’s enunciation. In the main, such mises en abyme of the work involved in pro¬ ducing the text are found in narratives concerned with continually reflecting the adventure of their own generation. It will therefore come as no surprise that Roussel’s work contains a rich store of examples.5 But rather than referring here to the protagonist’s inventions in Locus Solus or to the turns in Impressions d’Afrique, performed by artists or engineers who are all doubles of the virtuoso constructor of the novelistic apparatus, I shall note a superb and more workmanlike example: a very clear realization of the scriptural activity in a text one might hardly at first sight consult in this respect. In C. F. Ramuz’s Passage du poete, Besson’s basket-weaving explicitly refers to the creation of the text: . . . Besson carries on making his baskets, expressive of the region, which he is recreating, laying lines of wicker one on top of the other, as a writer does his verse or prose - expressing the region and its walls

78

Towards a typology of the mirror in the text through the strands of wicker he puts one through the other, tying them together; without people knowing or suspecting, quite calm and quiet, in the square, under the plane trees, alone, in his grey blouse and his green apron, his hands moving above his green apron.6

The reflexion of the Creator as the first poet in action, Besson the ‘poiete’ also reflects the writer who is ‘actioning’ the text, since the object he is making emerges from the intertwining of two axes, which one can, without forcing the comparison, relate to the two axes of language. The text stresses this: Besson is moving his hands, because he is writing (cf. p. 68). But this example has another lesson. Not only basing the activity of the substitute on that of the author, and underpinning this in a supporting mise en abyme, the narrative guarantees Besson’s representativeness by a third device: giving him a surname that in French means ‘double’ or ‘twin’. This confirms that the procedures I have isolated, whereby the substitute is connected to the author, are not mutually exclusive: narratives most frequently do not choose just one, but are rather to be distinguished by the emphasis they put on particular connecting devices: and, going beyond the device itself, by their preference for the representation of the author to concen¬ trate on one or other of two possible areas: the being of the author, or his/her doing (which can involve constructing, saying or writing). We can go on from this last remark to confirm that the effect of the enunciative mise en abyme also varies according to the degree of analogy between the (activity of the) author and the (activity of the) substitute,7 and that this parameter is equally applicable (although more diffusely) to mises en abyme of the receiver and of the reception. The implicit reader, like the author, has a minimal existence in the text. The two are of the same order, the one the symmetrical opposite of the other. What distinguishes the implicit reader, though, is that s/he does not hide behind a fictional name; the imaginary removal of his/her radical anonymity always requires the introduction of an auxiliary reflexion, which operates both as a narrative guarantee of his/her substitute and the material under¬ pinning of the (sort of) reading s/he undertakes. There is no better illustration of this than the admirable reconstructive reading of ‘Olympia ou les Vengeances romaines’ in Balzac’s La Muse du departement. In this text, which was bound to attract Butor’s atten-

Narration revealed 4

79

tion,8 Balzac is not content with using fragments of novels - which, moreover, are presented in discontinuous order - to reflect the plot through a skilful duplication of the fiction; not only does he carry off the audacious feat (which was barely conceivable at that time) of presenting the text of the mise en abyme in its typographical materi¬ ality; he goes as far as describing in detail the various aspects of the reception of a literary work. Going from the reconstitution of the text to its decoding and the risky business of interpretation, this procedure is not limited to revealing the different types of imaginary readers and readings of the novel: it becomes a generalized example, an extensive novelistic meditation on what makes each reading poss¬ ible and on the fate of the book as object, text and fiction. Balzac’s example, and the preceding remarks, can be summarized schematically (see figure 4). IMPLICIT AUTHOR

one producing character-► reflexion -one receiving character

IMPLICIT READER

Figure 4

But this crucially important figure may be incomplete: for should we not extend the vertical axis? By recourse to the enunciative mise en abyme, the narrative, as we have seen, tries to track down the invisible, immanent author and reader: but does it not at the same time try to integrate the empirical author9 and reader (as figure 5 shows), although they are debarred from the narrative? If most narratives do in fact try to pull off a double trick by leading us to believe that there is a biographical person ‘behind’ the implicit author, communicating through him/her, it is not easy to convince us that the authorial substitutes can be doubly vicarious and have

80

Towards a typology of the mirror in the text

Figure 5

this double referent. This illusion can be brought off, but will surely sooner or later be undone. Many narratives, rather than passively watching the destruction of the illusion, prefer to take the initiative in this destruction. Not inclined to allow their pure fiction to be brought to book by the real, after initially making them coexist, these narratives themselves disconnect the author or reader (who is immanent in the text and is supposed to extend it beyond itself) from his/her substitute. But if one can dissipate the mirage after having fostered it - in the style of the baroque enganoldesengano - it is also possible (and more modern) to institute from the start an uncertain relationship between the implicit and the ‘real’ author/reader, whereby resemblances are undercut by differences, setting up the illusion without ever allowing it to ‘stick’.10 Following mystification with demystification (by spectacularly fallacious similarities), and disturbing the identification by showing resemblances to be false, are surely two ways of showing that the producer has deserted his/her text and that the implicit author is an anonymous authority whose very homogeneity could be questionable. In any case, they demon¬ strate, by a reductio ad absurdum, that the narrative misleads its

Narration revealed

81

audience as to the origin of its mysterious narrative voice and can only answer the question ‘who is talking’ by lying. Since I shall return to this problem in Part III of this study, I hope I can now move on to consider the narrative implications of the fact that the protagonist occupies a certain place in the communicative scheme. Does it matter whether s/he operates as a producer or receiver en abyme, or in some cases only as the protagonist of the fictional reflexion? Everything indicates that the role assigned to the protagonist in this respect has an effect on the whole narrative system.

2

THE PROTAGONIST’S POSTURES

Thus, when the main character takes no part in the enunciative mise en abyme, but is implicated in the fictional one, it is likely that this is due to some kind of force majeure - such as (a) the death of the hero; or (b) that the narrative has chosen an actor as protagonist.11 As Mademoiselle de Maupin shows in respect of its own representation en abyme, one cannot enact one’s own story and still be a witness to it.12 If, on the other hand, the protagonist is a ‘producer’ (usually a novelist or an artist), s/he will be seen getting to grips with a work the creation of which will allow the treatment of the theme of the relationship between ‘life’ (the embedding narrative) and ‘art’ (the mise en abyme). It also allows this relationship to be dealt with either from the point of view of an expressive ideology (in which conformity emerges between someone’s existence and their creation) or aproductive one (in which art metamorphoses the events narrated in the embedding story or, as at the end of Sixtine, art shows the events themselves metamorphosed by production). Such perspectives are frequent in symbolist novels and in some nouveaux romans, but are rare in those narratives that are not concerned with exemplifying Proust’s theses in Contre Sainte-Beuve or showing how works develop from (or away from) a given thing. In fact, in the vast majority of cases, the role of producer falls to ‘extras’, the role of receiver being reserved for the protagonist.13 This preference is not accidental, deriving from a double concern to suspend the main character from the plot, in order to be able to

82

Towards a typology of the mirror in the text

stop the fictional reflexion, and to arrange a pause in the syntax of the narrative, to allow the ‘change from ignorance to knowledge’ that, according to Aristotle, is the definition of recognition.14 These two concerns go together because the sidelining of the protagonist is the necessary prerequisite to the introduction of self¬ reflexion into the narrative. In fact, once s/he is out of the action, the main character no longer needs to be duplicated, since it is then up to the others to act; but since, moreover, the actions of these others consist precisely in representing before his/her eyes his/her own past and future acts, s/he must be confronted with a resemblance whose decipherment - which concerns him/her, not just the reader - will have a decisive influence on the rest of the plot. The mise en abyme of the narrated story must therefore be made to appear as an exemplum to its diegetic addressee. In ancient rhetoric, the exemplum was a ‘persuasive similarity, an argument by analogy’.15 Operating through historical comparisons drawn by the orator with the present, this mode of argument was ideally aimed at inducing the listener to alter his/her self-conscious¬ ness and hence his/her way of living or acting. It is therefore inevit¬ able that, structured in terms of this ultimate goal, the role of the receptor essentially consisted in correctly interpreting the truth that was being propounded, recognizing its relevance and virtue and deriving a practical lesson from it. The well-known Latin apologia of The Limbs and the Stomach is a good illustration: but I would prefer to refer instead to a novella of Boccaccio’s that has more relevance for my study.16 The plot of this novella is as follows. Because of his own avarice Messer Cane declines an invitation from Bergamino. Feeling slighted by this, Bergamino tells Messer Cane a story that both ‘conveys in a figure what he had at heart to say touching Messer Cane and him¬ self’ 17 and presents an argument a minore ad majus. Primasso, having arrived (without having been invited) at a dinner given by the Abbot of Cluny, found himself refused any food. But straight after, seized with remorse, the Abbot, in order to make it up, showered him with presents. The conclusion is prepared by this internal nar¬ rative: Messer Cane was shrewd enough to apprehend Bergamino’s meaning perfectly well without a gloss, and said with a smile: ‘Bergamino, thy parable is apt, and declares to me very plainly thy

Narration revealed

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losses, my avarice and what thou desirest of me. And in good sooth this access of avarice, of which thou art the occasion, is the first that I have experienced. But I will expel the intruder with the baton which thou thyself has furnished.’ So he paid Bergamino’s reckoning, habited him nobly in one of his own robes, gave him money and a palfrey, and left it for the time at his discretion, whether to go or stay.18

The narrative lesson of this model denouement would include the following points: (a) Reception has three phases: 1 2 3

a deciphering of signs; a realization; and a subsequent action.

(b) If 3 can have a variety of content, 2 can only have one kind recognition. It is therefore logical that narratives where the plot takes priority favour 3, whereas those where the adventure is pri¬ marily mental emphasize 2. The dramatization of 2 is still current, and is emphatically expressed in the great texts of Western literary tradition, to whose metaphysical presuppositions it seems to con¬ form: predicated on truth and self-knowledge, this dramatization inevitably reaches a climax in a face-to-face confrontation, the ‘know thyself’ par excellence. (c) Inasmuch as 3 is articulated on 2 and 2 varies as a function of 1, the structure of reception can be expressed in terms of a chain parallel to the hermeneutic performance of the character: to perceive the analogy or be blind to it, to interpret it correctly or to mistake its meaning - that is the question. A question that contains another (since Messer Cane’s intelligence is not irrelevant): that of the decoder’s psychology and intellectual competence. (d) Although the narrative pretends to grant intelligence and free¬ will to the decoder, the narrative must manipulate him/her so that s/he does not have access to the whole truth until the denouement. The lateness of this ‘promotion’ is self-explanatory: to allow the protagonist self-knowledge is to give him/her what s/he is searching for; to end his/her wandering is to silence the narrative - hence the reprieve it grants itself through the greatest possible delaying of the fateful revelation.19

84

Towards a typology of the mirror in the text

This explains how the terminal mise en abyme can be perfectly deciphered by the receiver20 whereas no initial or median mise en ahyme is entirely elucidated - or, in other words (which anticipate my subsequent analyses), how the simple fact of seeing oneself ‘through a glass darkly’21 or distortedly shows that before the parousia of Meaning the character does not know him/herself as well as the reader knows the character. If this happens, it is because the reader is able, thanks to the illumi¬ nation provided by the embedding narrative, and/or his/her bird’seye view, to recognize the similarity and measure the character’s imperfect or erroneous interpretation against the yardstick of his/her own. I would, however, stress that the degree of divergence between the interpretations of the reader and of the character varies, and that some narratives seem to overdo it and give the reader the illusion and gratification of seeming superior. Despite his proverbial tact, Fontane himself sometimes incurs this criticism. In his Unwiederbringlich, the double picture of the naval battles between Denmark and Sweden reflects the fiction subtly enough for the reader’s advantage over the protagonist to be initially only relative. But the difference grows as the bad omens mount and Hoik continues to identify himself with the victorious admiral, Herluf Trolle. Although this positive interpretation of Hoik’s appears to give way for a moment to a truer perception of the analogy when it is contradicted in a nightmare, the realization this brings about is not able to override the character’s narcissistic infatuation: it is almost immediately so firmly repressed that in the morning, when Hoik receives a ballad called ‘The Burial of Herluf Trolle’, he is no longer so eager to identify himself with the hero - at the very time when this would be appropriate. Instead of pondering this memento mori, he appreciates the poem from a purely aesthetic point of view and compounds the incongruity by sending it to his wife . . . Admittedly, in choosing to take a character’s lack of awareness as his theme, Fontane needed to give the reader enough information to be able to recognize this lack, and judge it in full knowledge of the facts. But by accentuating to such an extent the difference between the inviolable illusions of the character and the reader’s knowledge, does he not risk his reader in turn becoming over-confident and impervious to doubt, like Hoik? Be that as it may, such a marked superiority of reader over

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y

character would be unthinkable in the modern novel, which tends to blur any qualitative difference between internal and external recep¬ tion, rather than to dissociate them. This narrowing of the distance between reader and protagonist is exemplified in Kafka, who in this respect acts as a foil to Fontane. In the chapter of The Trial called ‘In the cathedral’, the clergy¬ man tells Josef K. the famous ‘Ttirhtiterlegende’ - the legend of the door-keeper. Explicitly announced as an exemplum,22 the parable is intended to disabuse the protagonist by showing him an image of his own contradictions. Made objective in this way, he may perceive them and become sufficiently aware before it is too late. The impor¬ tant thing to understand is this: K.’s attitude to his trial, like that of the ‘man from the country’ to the Law, is ruinous because of its basic ambivalence: not recognizing the court and yet trying to justify oneself before it; wanting a life free of guilt and simultaneously being fascinated by a court that incriminates one; these double premisses cannot lead either to the freedom one would have if indifferent to justice, or to the acquittal an obstinate, methodical and uncompro¬ mising defence would no doubt result in. K.’s error, like that of the ‘man from the country’, lies precisely in living as a divided self and only being capable of half-measures: illogical, impulsive, continually vacillating between obliviousness and worry, they manage neither to ignore the trial (or the law) completely, nor to desire the absolute at any price. K. reacts to the parable in the same way he has to the other experi¬ ences of his trial. Unable to distance himself sufficiently to realize how equivocally his double behaves, he remains a prisoner of his non-critical perspective and identifies himself unreservedly with the man he thinks of as a victim, like himself. ‘So the door-keeper deluded the man’, said K. immediately, strongly attracted by the story. ‘Don’t be too hasty’, said the priest, ‘don’t take over an opinion without testing it. I have told you the story in the very words of the scriptures. There’s no mention of delusion in it.’23

But should not this ‘sei nicht iibereilt’ - ‘don’t be too hasty’ apply equally to the reader and the critic? It is tempting to believe that it should, if critical studies of The Trial are anything to go by. If most of them are muddled, and manage neither to appreciate the

86

Towards a typology of the mirror in the text

reflexive nature of the parable nor, a plus forte raison, to isolate its meaning,24 this is due to the incorrigible tendency of the critics to identify with Josef K., just as K. identifies himself with the ‘man from the country’. Such a tendency is, however, understandable. In such a model example of the internally focused novel, it is difficult to avoid seeing everything through the eyes of the protagonist. But such narratives do give the reader some advantages over the character. Although this superiority is limited, it does exist in at least two respects: having the whole text at his/her disposal, the reader enjoys a synoptic view of events which can point up the incoherence of a character’s behaviour; in the light of one or more mises en abyme that are not focused on the protagonist, the reader is able to form his/her own opinion and reveal what is hidden by a single narrative perspective. Without generalizing too hastily, one can therefore say that conditions always combine so that the reception of the fictional mise en abyme by the reader is qualitatively superior to that of the character - unless, at the end, the narrative accords the character a moment of truth, thereby equalizing the respective receptions. We can now move on to a further aspect of the problem. As I have said, the narrative always trades a similarity for a real¬ ization - usually an imperfect realization. We can now add, without inconsistency, ‘unless it raises its offer in order to get some other narrative commodity thrown in at a discount! ’ The market value of a fictional mise en abyme fluctuates sufficiently to allow all kinds of speculation, and is in fact negotiable, to varying degrees of profit. Homer had a particularly keen business sense - for instance in the song in which Demodokos takes centre stage, this star treatment suggests that every bard deserves the eminent social position he enjoys amongst the Phaeacians. This is proved by Odysseus’ immi¬ nent adoption of the role of professional minstrel, which he will retain for a long time. The audience of The Odyssey are thus all willy-nilly potential benefactors: the honours demanded by someone whose profession is worthy of the ultimate hero are not refused. But only seeing this aspect of the famous episode ignores the text’s justification of this image of the bard demanding social recog¬ nition, which is based entirely on the market value of the bard’s wares. Make no mistake: Odysseus’ tears when he listens to Demodokos

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y

hymning the fall of Troy betray more than emotion. Shed by one of the most famous eye-witnesses of this event, these tears, over-deter¬ mined in the narrative, attest the divine inspiration of the bard and of his poem - of Homer and of The Odyssey. We should note, however, that this internal narrative is not a mise en ahyme as I have defined it25 - or, more precisely, it cannot be one. Because in the event the point of the poem is not simply to gain an appropriate compliment, but to have its claims recognized. These clearly relate to the genre of the work: the ambition of the narrative is to be considered as a separate and complete epic, to rival the archetypal epic it sees as the norm. It is therefore logical, in order to satisfy this criterion, that Demodokos offers us a sort of summarized version of The Iliad in his second song, after having evoked in his first the argument between Achilles and Odysseus over precedence, thereby recalling their respective and equal merits. Celebrating the archetypal epic at the heart of The Odyssey, putting Odysseus on the same footing as Achilles and receiving his double approbation, is the surest way for Homer’s work to confirm itself as an epic, to silence those who might criticize it as insufficiently heroic (warlike) in character, and to treat this poem of Odysseus on a par with the poem of Achilles - The Iliad.26 The aim of rivalling a famous antecedent in the hope of surpassing it seems common to all narratives, but this is by no means admitted to as such or in the same way. Cervantes, for example, can be dis¬ tinguished from Homer on this point in that after attacking the chivalrous novel, Don Quixote is sufficiently self-assured to reflect its own first part in its second, complimenting itself with utmost enthusiasm. This is how its first self-recognition is described: When he [Samson Carrasco] saw Don Quixote ... he fell upon his knees before him, saying, ‘Good Master Don Quixote give me your greatness his hand; for by the habit of St. Peter, which I wear, you are, sir, one of the most complete knights-errant that hath been or shall be upon the roundness of the earth. Well fare Cid Hamet Benengeli, that left the stories of your greatness to posterity! and more than well may that curious author fare that had the care to cause them to be trans¬ lated out of the Arabic into our vulgar Castilian, to the general enter¬ tainment of all men! ’27

Although such praise becomes common in the second volume,

88

Towards a typology of the mirror in the text

repeated whenever the protagonists meet readers of their earlier exploits (i.e. ‘everyone’), Cervantes also criticizes the earlier volume. This self-criticism concerns matters of composition (he condemns the inserted novellas), but especially details of the plot the inaccuracy of certain material facts, contradictions, omissions and so on. This retrospective self-indictment also works to the greater glory of the part we are reading: by leaving his two heroes to establish the whole truth, the author suggests that the second part of his work surpasses the celebrated first part, and that in trying to rival his own achievement he has in a way surpassed himself. Structurally, Cervantes’s second ingenious coup - the first, of course, being the constructing of the second part wholly on the reputation of the first, using it in the same way that the first part had used novels of chivalry and inserted novellas - was to include in his book the work of his plagiarist, Avellaneda. The publication dates of The Second Part (1615) and the False Quixote (1614) reveal that Cervantes had this idea while he was working on this Second Part: this is also shown by the sudden disappearance of self-criticism in favour of criticism of Avellaneda. From Chapter LIX onwards, the first part gets nothing but praise: all the blame is transferred on to the impostor’s work as soon as it appears. The allegations of inaccuracy - Avellaneda, unlike Cid Hamet, is not a ‘faithful historian’ - should be interpreted as a criticism of Avellaneda for betraying the facts by showing himself unable to impose a poetic fiction on them. Although the substance of the criticism hardly varies throughout, its tone matches the increasingly humiliating snubs delivered to the work of the unfortunate ‘chal¬ lenger’.28 Initially acerbic and ferocious, it becomes solemn when the author, anxious to discourage in advance any attempt to copy or to continue his work, decides to put a stop to this by ending his novel: In the meanwhile the wise and prudent Cid Hamet Benengeli addressed this speech unto his witty pen: ‘Here it is, O my slender quill, whether thou be ill or well cut, that thou shalt abide hanged upon those racks whereon they hang spits and broaches, being thereunto fastened with this copper wire. There shalt thou live many ages, except some rash, fond-hardy, and lewd historian take thee down to profane thee. Nevertheless, before they lay hands upon thee, thou mayst, as it were by way of advertisement, and as well as thou

Narration revealed

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canst, boldly tell them, ‘Away, pack hence, stand afar off, you wicked botchers and ungracious souters, and touch me not, since to me only it belongs to cause to be imprinted “Cum bono privilegio Regiae Majestatis.” Don Quixote was born for me alone, and I had my birth only for him. If he hath been able to produce the effects, I have had the glory to know how to write and compile them well. To be short, he and I are but one selfsame thing, maugre and in despite of the fabulous Scribbler de Tordesillas, who hath rashly and malapertly dared with an ostriche’ coarse and bungling pen to write the prowess and high feats of arms of my valorous knight. ‘This fardel is too too heavy for his weak shoulders, and his dull wit over-cold and frozen for such an enterprise . . . ’29

This manoeuvre to dissuade all potential rivals not only gives a view of the high opinion Cervantes had of his ability; it is also a negative image of the procedure in The Odyssey. This is because it is not a question here of deserving a title and achieving a flattering equality, but rather of preventing others from achieving this, and proclaiming with characteristic baroque pride through this noli me tangere that the creator will rule unchallenged - as the mise en ahyme of the book itself revealed. These two examples, in which narrative contracts have been concluded thanks to quotation and self-quotation, should not make us lose sight of a question we have not yet broached: that of the relationship between the protagonist/receiver and the protagonist of the fictional mise en ahyme. This relationship is inherently reflexive. But in the terms in which it is expressed in Rotrou’s Saint-Genest, this trivial con¬ clusion explodes into questions: Genest And the death of Hadrian . . . Will be represented with extreme skill And so truthfully That you will allow our liberty In representing Caesar to himself; And that you will doubt whether, in Nicodemus, You are seeing the actual effect, or merely the acting of it.

Maximin Yes: to think that I will, with pleasure, Be a spectator of the action I also act out.30

90

Towards a typology of the mirror in the text

There is no difficulty in becoming the spectator of one’s own story: to ‘represent Caesar to Caesar’, an actor in the narrative merely has to play the role of Caesar or a similar one.31 But to become the spectator in the very action in which one participates presupposes a work whose protagonist becomes the reader of his/her own adventure enacted by him/herself. Apart from Don Quixote, a variety of such works exists. Without trying to undertake an exhaus¬ tive survey, or even drawing the necessary theoretical distinctions, I shall cite three examples that each seem to come from different categories: (i)

Heinrich von Ofterdingen, which aims neither to foster nor to break the realistic illusion and whose onirism attenuates the transgressional character of a duplication which in turn pro¬ motes it (fantasy would have a similar effect); (ii) Brentano’s Godwif2 which breaks the initial realistic illusion by instituting a second, and where the receiver, who is supposed to be non-fictional, can be brought face to face with his story without compromising verisimilitude; and (iii) Don Quixote, where the Activity which is stated from the start makes a narrative scandal out of the fact that the characters are claiming to judge the first part (from which they have as it were escaped) in the second part (which of course springs from the same source): an exceptional way of exploiting illusion, this intrusion by fictional readers into the realm in which only their fiction can be read is precisely the means whereby they can venture beyond their own world.

3

The narrative of the narrative

This wish to escape, which characterizes the heroes oiDon Quixote, is experienced to varying degrees by all narratives. It sometimes leads them to adopt a superstructure that reinstitutes the imaginary presence of its producer/receiver; it can also lead them to create origins for themselves and to tell the story of their own creation. This discovery of a mythical genesis or antecedence is a device intended to enable the narrative to appear to precede itself, and not only betrays the difficulty the work has in denying its context and

Narration revealed

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thinking of itself as a pure work of art; it reveals its need to provide itself with a rational foundation to justify its presence here and now. For how has it come to exist, in this form? What is its history, and its ‘pre-history’? Is not the past which leads up to it its own, and thus worth recalling? Can it even be understood without presenting this past in some form? In certain literary genres, these questions must obviously be answered. Thus an epistolary novel must contain a justification of how the intimate documents it presents were collected, collated and published: this is a consequence of its claim to non-fictive status. But although this is a requirement of the genre, it does not follow that all novels of letters must adopt the same fictive explanation or construct it on the same basis. Although the author most frequently delegates his/her prerogative in this respect to an extradiegetic publisher who explains in a prologue, an epilogue and/or in footnotes the relation¬ ship s/he claims to have with the letters (the solution adopted by Richardson, Rousseau and Goethe), s/he can also combine this with a more refined device and ensure that the ‘story of the novel’ can be reconstructed from the ‘story in the novel’ (Laclos’s solution).33 It takes only a small step from this to conclude that this mutual relationship between the story of an adventure and the adventure of a story can exist in the pure state, and outside the epistolary form. The existence of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past would be enough to justify this; as would the realization that these questions the epistolary form raises are questions posed by the enunciative situation itself,34 and are sufficiently general to concern all narra¬ tives35 and to lead them to give at least a tangential response to them. When this response is explicit, it is often made via (a) an episode in the plot which thus becomes the basis of the enunciative reflexion. It can however also be made via (b) a limited or (c) an extended fictional mise en abyme36 which thus combines two functions: duplicating the narrative as story, and presenting its aetiology. A prime example of this combination can be seen in La Vie de Saint Alexis. Commemorating a Christ-like figure in order to hark back to the momentous time of the origin of Christianity, the poem is in two sections which correspond respectively to the Galilean period (the time of secrecy) and to the Jerusalem period (the time of revelation to the public) of Jesus’ life. However, it does make one

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Towards a typology of the mirror in the text

essential innovation, as compared with the gospel. It makes the saint’s death the turning-point of the narrative and locates it cen¬ trally, i.e. as early as the end of the first part. This structure is necessary as a consequence of the incompatibility between Alexis’s refusal of honours and the glorification of him after his death, but it is potentially problematic in that the narrative tells us that the saint lived incognito in order to avoid these honours, keeping his identity secret up to, and including, the time of his death. But does not this ‘non-divulging’, which derives from the main protagonist’s silence, preclude the time of recognition succeeding the time of secrecy? Or, to put it more radically, how could La Vie de Saint Alexis have been published if Alexis remained anonymous? Is this hagiography a fiction? For this genre, such a suggestion is sacrilege. So the poem decides to parry it, or rather to preclude it, by producing at the heart of the text the saint’s autobiographical letter which makes the text seem natural and justifies its existence. In this way, the present is linked to the past and takes over from it, the tradition is intact and the narrative is authorized by becoming an echo of the posthumous letter. Some narratives prefer to this kind of legitimizing of their creation the admission that they owe their existence to themselves alone. If earlier texts do not yet claim (like the modern narrative) that nothing precedes or follows them, they already37 affirm that they alone anticipate and succeed themselves. This claim gives rise to a particular kind of metalepsis: the self-reference of the narration itself, to which I shall return in chapter 5 in my specification of the three great types of mise en abyme, which we have already seen in Gide and Jean Paul. I shall therefore just note here (the example being in any case too famous to dwell on) the highly conscious way in which Cervantes uses this technique in The Second Part (chapter IV) of Don Quixote. After the protagonists have discussed the first part with the Bachelor Samson Carrasco, whose role consists precisely in rep¬ resenting this first part throughout the second, the conversation continues thus: ‘Perhaps the author promiseth a Second Part?’ quoth Don Quixote. ‘He doth’, said Samson, ‘but saith he neither finds nor knows who hath it, so that it is doubtful whether it will come out or no . . . When he hath found this history, that he searcheth after with extraordinary

Narration revealed

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diligence, he will straight commit it to the press, rather for his profit than for any other respect.’ To this said Sancho, ‘What! doth the author look after money and gain? ’Tis a wonder if he be in the right; rather he will be like your false-stitching tailors upon Christmas Eves, for your hasty work is never well performed. Let that Master Moor have a care of his business, for my master and I will furnish him with rubbish enough at hand, in matter of adventures, and with such different successes that he may not only make one Second Part, but one Hundredth.’38

But we are already reading this second part which is being put off until later. We still have in mind the words that began it: ‘Cid Hamet Benengeli tells us in the Second Part of this History, and Don Quixote his third sally . . .’. What is the significance of this telescoping of present and future, and of the apparent autonomy of these two characters in search of an author? Have we moved from pure fiction into immediate reality? For this to be the case, the second part would need not to be under the patronage of the same Moorish author, i.e. as true and fictive as the first part. We are clearly caught in a vicious circle presented by a book that anticipates its own future while denying its own existence on the pretext that it is not a book, but reality. This dizzying exploitation of illusion has been frequently imitated, but Cervantes’s finesse seems only to have been equalled by Jean Paul.39 What has been most frequently carried forward from Don Quixote - for example in Queneau’s Les Enfants du limon where a character gives the results of his investigations to a young writer called Queneau who will include them in his novel Les Enfants du limon - is the idea of recurrence which allows the book to include itself in its plan or in its plot. The fact that this idea of recurrence itself recurs is instructive: the narrative is not obliged to play the baroque game of being and seeming, or the romantic game of the real and the ideal, but whatever its historical context, it must confront the basic arbitrariness of its purpose and reply (even if only by saying that they are insoluble) to the perennial questions: where and who is this ‘person’ who is telling the story? To whom is the story addressed? And from how far away?

7 The spectacle of the text and the code

A further question seems inevitable, following immediately on from these previous ones: ‘How is the story told?’ The linguistic model we have hitherto used can certainly be applied to this question, not once, in fact, but twice, since it involves not only the mise en abyme of the whole code, whose appearance here, in the context of the tri¬ partite structure ‘utterance-enunciation-code’, was heralded in chapter 1, but also the mise en abyme of the text, which, as a sub¬ category of the mise en abyme of the utterance, should normally have appeared between the fictional reflexions dealt with in chapter 2 and the enunciative reflexions in chapter 3. For various reasons I have withheld this subcategory and reserved my examination of it for a separate chapter, and I shall now give it the attention it deserves. At the risk of pushing at an open door, I shall firstly show that its existence is self-evident. Like the double-sided reality of linguistic signs, the utterance can either be apprehended in its reference to something else or grasped in itself. The way it is constituted therefore produces two different sorts of mise en abyme, one (fictional) duplicating the narrative in its referential dimension as a story told, the other (textual) reflecting it in its literal aspect as an organization of meaning.

1

The evidence of the text

We do not have to start afresh when dealing with this new sort of elementary mise en abyme. Our previous premisses allow us to

The spectacle of the text and the code y

95

dispense with some proofs and to underpin others, and it is sufficient merely to indicate that the textual mise en abyme is also located within the ‘hermeneutic circle’ inasmuch as it presupposes a pre¬ comprehension that will be confirmed, rectified or refined by the comprehension it permits. To paraphrase Mobile, whose authorinstructor spoon-feeds the reader in this respect, the reader could not have concluded that this ‘quilt’ is assembled a bit like Mobile unless s/he had already grasped that ‘this Mobile is assembled a bit like a quilt. ’1 On the other hand, the problem of the optimal perception of the textual reflexion needs some development, since it raises the ques¬ tion of what governs the morphology of all metaphors of the text. A schematic description may be helpful here [figure 6].

S\jJTTERANCE

global U

reflexive U'

DIMENSION^\

literal

referential

L

.L

P «

p'

Figure 6

The global utterance U represents the narrative that is the object of the mise en abyme, and the reflexive utterance U' represents the subject of the mise en abyme: the reflexion of U by U' can occur theoretically in four ways (two sets of two). In the second set (that of the fictional mise en abyme, which I have already dealt with), the referential dimension of U is represented by either the referential or

96

Towards a typology of the mirror in the text

the literal dimension of U'. In the first set (that of the textual mise en abyme, on which I am concentrating here), the literal dimension of U is represented by either the literal or the referential dimension of U\ But it would be mistaken to infer from this theoretical situation that it is irrelevant whether L is reflected by L' or R'; although the two representations are formally equivalent, they are not felt as equivalent by the narrative. By virtue of the principle that the literal dimension can only be perceived at the expense of the referential dimension, and vice versa,2 the mise en ahyme has a marked pro¬ pensity for homogeneity, preferring the horizontal (L' — L) rather than the diagonal (R'-~L) relationship.3 And yet the mise en abyme must take R into account: since L' only exists in conjunction with R', the mise en abyme must neutralize the potential interference of R' by one of two strategies: either giving L' a diffuse or evanescent R', or giving R' a signification that is sufficiently docile to allow it to compete with the literal reflexion - i.e. in both cases making a pact with a structural thematic of which I shall just mention the main elements here. The emblematic metaphor of the text as ‘fabric’ reactivates the etymology of the ‘text’ and is especially favoured. It is a topos that has appeared already in this study,4 text and textiles both being interwoven - hence the frequent use of terms like ‘web’, ‘embroider¬ ing’ and ‘weaving’ to describe the novelist’s work - both constitut¬ ing a texture, i.e. an interlinked arrangement of elements, a relational network, or, if one prefers, a structured Alongside ‘fabric’, which seems to be predestined to symbolize the text, three other thematic fields seem to provide suitable images for the organization of the text: physiology (and more particularly anatomy), art and the technical. Although it is generally accepted nowadays that the text is a living being whose organs can be listed or imagined, the textual mise en abyme seems unable to use the symbol of text-as-body, since, at this level, it seems difficult - if not impossible, unless it can be proved otherwise - to introduce it into the diegesis.6 This is not true of works of art, although their superabundance of meaning risks encumbering the reflexion by blurring precisely what they should be highlighting - a pure interplay of relationships. It is therefore no coincidence that of the art forms available, the literal mise en abyme chooses ones void of content, non-signifying semiotic

The spectacle of the text and the code

97

systems such as music or, as Philippe Sobers’s Le Parc shows, nonfigurative painting: Lakeside battle, blue-and-red, white-and-blue uniforms; horses, bugles, guns with bayonets . . . Landscapes: path through a field, beach, low open sky, a black boat . . . And finally the canvas with pink-and-grey marks, interspersed with blue: the canvas where there is no realistic spectacle; or rather it seems that partial scenes are sketched out and immediately intermpted, locations that are barely hinted at by a detail of colour, but are held together by the colour itself, or by an invisible thread; forms whose composition is governed by hidden, but rigorously held, principles, constituting a spectacle that is being formed, a key to all spectacles, and, in sum, a kind of apparent and subterranean closed image of the infinite.7

Machines are equally abstract, complicated constructions that seem inherently to satisfy the thematic needs of literal reflexion since, on the one hand, they comprise components and cogs that can be an ideal correlative for the equipment of the text, and, on the other, they have considerable advantages over other images: their ‘degree zero’ meaning, and the fact that they are autonomous pro¬ ductive products - i.e. automata. There is, however, one thing that simultaneously combines the textile, the work of art and the technical - relating to a technique that has not yet quite supplanted the craftsman - and that is able to provide the image par excellence of the textual machine - the weaving loom. The two mechanical looms in operation in Impressions d ’Afrique would no doubt merit an examination as detailed as their own intri¬ cate workings.81 shall refer to the first loom in another context, and the description of the second is too long to be quoted in full here. A ‘single’ machine if ever there was one, it appears as a kind of computer whose complex programme, carried out by the infallible movements of the shuttles, is calculated in such a way as to allow the selection, standardization and weaving of the multicoloured yarn from which, at the required rate, the ceremonial dress of the fiction will be woven. The princely costume is a masterpiece, on a par with the most accomplished paintings and music, and, like Impressions d Afrique, it illustrates a shipwreck and flood scene, presented as a veritable destruction and recreation of the world.

98

Towards a typology of the mirror in the text

These examples show that the specific quality of a textual mise en ahyme is as follows: whatever thematic field it draws its illustrations from, and whatever the active meaning its connotations may lead to (e.g. Roussel), the textual mise en abyme always aims to represent a composition. Inasmuch as it allows a simultaneous grasp of the elements that are in play (or active) and of the relationships between them, this assembling of articulated elements inevitably recalls the miniature model whose explicative and exploratory qualities I drew attention to previously. In other words, by making the way the narrative functions intelligible, the textual reflexion is always also a mise en abyme of the code, whereas the latter characteristically reveals this way of functioning - but without being mimetic of the text itselff

2

The monstration of the code

This definition of the mise en abyme of the code - or metatextual mise en abyme - being adequate at this stage, I shall illustrate it with just one example, taken from Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past which, as is well known, does not eschew the more or less explicit narrativizing of the problematics of its own writing. Thus we find in Elstir’s ‘seascapes’, described in Within a Budding Grove, the visual equivalent of the famous episode of the ‘madeleine’ and of the ‘transport’ of memory it provokes. The narrator’s fascination at these paintings is highly motivated since their ‘charm’ derives from the fact that they exemplify the author’s own aesthetic theory10 and since they symbolize perfectly the operation that dominates the activity of Proust’s text, namely ‘a sort of metamorphosis of the objects represented, analogous to what in poetry we call metaphor’.11 Elstir’s images are diegetic metaphors in that their analogical relationships are projected on to contiguous, or more exactly recipro¬ cal, relationships, since it is through a mutual exchange of character¬ istics that they merge the elements of representation and give it the ‘multiform and powerful unity’12 that Proust called ‘the master’s touch’ in his article on Flaubert. These images are illustrated at particular length in ‘Le Port de Carquethuit’, whose systematic description, as well as being a passage of bravura writing, is a veri¬ table fictionalized poetic theory,13 in that the land and the sea, each

The spectacle of the text and the code

99

repeatedly described in a vocabulary relating to the other, again manage here to efface the distinction between the subject and the object of the comparison, between what is reflected and what is reflecting, and, after their transubstantiation, to give the desired effect of consonance: It was, for instance, for a metaphor of this sort - in a picture of the harbour of Carquethuit... - that Elstir had prepared the mind of the spectator by employing, for the little town, only marine terms, and urban terms for the sea. Whether because its houses concealed a part of the harbour, a dry dock, or perhaps the sea itself plunging deep inland, as constantly happened on the Balbec coast, on the other side of the promontory on which the town was built the roofs were over¬ topped (as they might have been by chimneys or steeples) by masts that had the effect of making the vessels to which they belonged appear town-bred, built on land, an impression reinforced by other boats moored along the jetty, but in such serried ranks that you could see men talking across from one deck to another without being able to distinguish the dividing line, the chink of water between them, so that this fishing fleet seemed less to belong to the water than, for instance, the churches of Criquebec which, in the distance, surrounded by water on every side because you saw them without seeing the town, in a powdery haze of sunlight and crumbling waves, seemed to be emerging from the waters, blown in alabaster or in sea-foam, and, enclosed in the band of a variegated rainbow, to form an ethereal, mystical tableau.14

This metatextual mise en abyme is not invalidated as an example by being accompanied by a rather sly reflexion of the utterance.15 We do not therefore need to show that it appears elsewhere in an unadulterated form16 to note that it too appears more or less fre¬ quently according to the degree of similarity between the code and the utterance/referent; and that because of the impossibility of assigning precise limits to it (which is a consequence of this variation in similarity) there is no reason in principle why the textual mise en abyme could not extend to (a) an aesthetic theory; (b) an aesthetic debate; (c) a manifesto; (d) a creed; (e) an indication of the purpose assigned to the book by the author or by the book itself17 - as long as this theory, debate, manifesto, credo or goal are, like the examples in the endnote, adopted sufficiently obviously by the text to allow the meta textual reflexion to operate as ‘instructions’ to enable the

100

Towards a typology of the mirror in the text

reader to perform his/her task more easily: imitating, as if in a mirror, the actions of a reflection; reading the work in the way it wants to be read. And yet the problem is that the aim of the text is not always reducible to the level of simple ‘instructions’. Although it is gener¬ ally conveyed through mises en abyme of the code or of the enunci¬ ation, does it not in a sense go beyond them? Or, to put it more radically, is it just possible that by using the linguistic model to conduct our study we have blinded ourselves to a kind of reflexion that our guiding discipline forbade us from considering, and that we shall have to pursue our investigation outside the model we have adopted, which has so dominated our study up to now? A quotation from Roussel will answer this question, while coinci¬ dentally recalling our previous conclusions: Imprisoned on his column, Nai'r’s right foot was held by thick inter¬ woven cords forming a snare which was fixed to the solid platform: like a living statue, he made slow and regular gestures, quickly murmuring series of words he had learnt by heart. Before him, on a specially designed plinth, a fragile pyramid, made of three pieces of bark knitted together, captivated him; the base, turned towards him, but noticeably raised up, he used as a loom: at the side of the plinth, within his reach, was a store of fruit pods covered in greyish vegetable matter like the cocoons of larvae about to become chrysalids. By pinching a small piece of these fragile envelopes and pulling his hand gently towards him, the young man created an elastic thread like gossamer strung out in the woods in springtime; with these almost imperceptible filaments he made a subtle and complex fairy-like creation, his hands working with incomparable agility, crossing, knotting and interweaving in all sorts of ways these dreamlike liga¬ ments which combined gracefully together. The silent phrases he recited regulated his perilous and precise schemes: the smallest error could irreparably compromise everything, and without the automatic aide-memoire provided by the formulae he had learnt word by word, Nai'r would never have achieved his goal.18

It will be noted that this goal of the scriptor is not the only one mentioned in the text, which also tells us about the aim it pursues through its own composition: weaving itself ‘in springtime’, it aims to change the world by using it as the primary matter of its meth¬ odical elaboration. This telos of the text, to which an arche must

The spectacle of the text and the code

101

correspond, invites us most insistently to add a further elementary reflexion to our inventory.

3

The fiction of origin

This new mise en ahyme, because of its ability to reveal something in the text that apparently transcends the text, and to reflect, within the narrative, what simultaneously originates, motivates, institutes and unifies it, and fixes in advance what makes it possible, seems to merit the name of transcendental mise en abyme in our inventory. But we should make it clear that this does not imply that because this reflexion can reveal an ultimate meaning outside the narrative, one can attribute to literature - reflexive literature - the power to document the being who originates it. Contrary to any sort of ontology (or at least any monolithic ontology), it is important to note that: 1

2 3

4

this originating reality being by definition out of reach or already duplicated by the time it comes into play, the transcendental mise en abyme can only put forward a fiction (or a metaphor) of it - even if, textually, this fiction functions as an origin; this substitutive fiction is always both the cause and the effect of the writing that it brings into play;19 because of this implicit reciprocal relationship, writing and the metaphor of origin have a marriage of convenience, the latter appearing as the sublimated double of the former; both, in the end, raise a historico-philosophical problem in that they are both ultimately dependent on the way in which a given work, at a given moment, thinks of its relationship to the truth and behaves with regard to mimesis.

In order to study this behaviour in action, and to observe narratives in turn proving this equation by assigning to the variable what they themselves verify in their narrative, one could trace a path through works such as (a) The Odyssey; (b) the Lais of Marie de France; (c) The Divine Comedy; (d) Le Quart Livre\ (e) Don Quixote; (f) Mallarme’s Sonnet en X; (g) Le Docteur Pascal; (h) the Remembrance of Things Past; and (i) Quelqu 'un or Cette Voix by Pinget.20

102

Towards a typology of the mirror in the text

The obvious interest of such a journey would lie in tracing the diachronic development of this fictive mimesis of the origin of the text, which would enable us to grasp, through its major predecessors, the destiny and importance of a literature dominated in turn by the reign of the metaphysical, its movement into crisis, its subversion. One would also note that in each of these historical periods, the themes provoked by transcendental reflexion change, as, moreover, does the formal structure of the narrative.21 But I shall proceed in a different way. Rather than following a direction that could merit a book in its own right, and taking an approach that would, moreover, run counter to the typological bias of this study, I shall just take one example of transcendental mise en abyme, but choosing it in such a way that its representative nature obviates the need for further examples, and also puts itself into perspective and confirms its own historical position by referring to other metaphors of origin and contrasting itself with them. One might suspect that such an over-determined reflexion could only be found in a text that outlines the great Western metaphysical and literary tradition, and indeed that the best example of the tran¬ scendental mise en abyme might be found in Beckett’s novels. And in fact a reading of the following long description shows that Watt’s emblematic picture fulfils this double purpose: The only other object of note in Erskine’s room was a picture, hanging on the wall, from a nail. A circle, obviously described by a compass, and broken at its lowest point, occupied the middle fore¬ ground, of this picture. Was it receding? Watt had that impression. In the eastern background, appeared a point, or dot. The circumference was black. The point was blue, but blue! The rest was white. How the effect of perspective was obtained Watt did not know. But it was obtained. By what means the illusion of movement in space, and it almost seemed in time, was given, Watt could not say. But it was given. Watt wondered how long it would be before the point and the circle entered together upon the same plane. Or had they not done so already, or almost? And was it not rather the circle that was in the background, and the point that was in the foreground? Watt wondered if they had sighted each other, or were blindly flying thus, harried by some force of merely mechanical mutual attraction, or the playthings of chance. He wondered if they would eventually pause and converse, and perhaps even mingle, or keep steadfast on their ways, like ships in the night, prior to the invention of wireless telegraphy. Who knows,

The spectacle of the text and the code

103

they might even collide. And he wondered what the artist had intended to represent (Watt knew nothing about painting), a circle and its centre in search of each other, or a circle and its centre in search of a centre and a circle respectively, or a circle and its centre in search of its centre and a circle respectively, or a circle and its centre in search of a centre and its circle respectively, or a circle and a centre not its centre in search of its centre and its circle respectively, or a circle and a centre not its centre in search of a centre and a circle respectively, or a circle and a centre not its centre in search of its centre and a circle respectively, or a circle and a centre not its centre in search of a centre and its circle respectively, in boundless space, in endless time (Watt knew nothing about physics), and at the thought that it was perhaps this, a circle and a centre not its centre in search of a centre and its circle respectively, in boundless space, in endless time, then Watt’s eyes filled with tears that he could not stem, and they flowed down his fluted cheeks unchecked, in a steady flow, refreshing him greatly.22

The first point to draw from this sad spectacle is that by inscribing decentring at the very centre of the text, the metaphor of origin guarantees the unfolding of a text deprived of any anchor; the second is that the deliberate use of the symbol ‘makes [the narrative] think’ (Ricoeur) and leads it to ask, through the protagonist, whether the image that expresses it is not liable to fluctuate. Was the picture a fixed and stable member of the edifice, like Mr. Knott’s bed, for example, or was it simply a manner of paradigm, there today and gone tomorrow, a term in a series, like the series of Mr. Knott’s dogs, or the series of Mr. Knott’s men, or like the centuries that fall from the pod of eternity? A moment’s reflexion satisfied Watt that the picture had not been long in the house, and that it would not remain long in the house, and that it was one of a series.23

Hence the consequence implied in my previous remarks: a metaphor of origin will not reveal all its meaning until it is put back into the series to which it belongs. In this case, the risk we are taking by diachronically isolating this one example seems the less for two reasons: firstly because the ‘metamorphoses of the circle’ we could pursue here have been recently explored by Georges Poulet, to whose remarkable study we could if necessary refer;24 and further because even a brief consideration of the intertextualities of Watt

104

Towards a typology of the mirror in the text

shows that it is not absolutely necessary to be aware of all the meta¬ physical, theological, mystical or secular interpretations that have emerged over the centuries from the immemorial image of the centre and its circumference to establish the background against which it appears here. One interpretation alone is sufficient, but indispensable: that proposed by The Divine Comedy, to which Watt explicitly refers. To re-read Dante in the light of Beckett is to note initially the dizzying fascination the centre holds for the medieval poet (as well as for Beckett), which is mastered in Dante by the submission of poetic language to the founding Word. Revitalizing the cliche that ‘God is a sphere whose centre is everywhere, and whose circumference is nowhere’,25 the metaphor of divinity as absolute circularity and centrality is modulated in various ways in Dante and culminates in the beatific vision in which God appears to the poet in His most perfect form: as a circle and a point: ‘God’, writes Dante, is ‘/7 punto, A cui tutti li tempi son presently the point at which all times are present; Ove s’appunta ogni Ubi ed ogni Quando, at which each place and each moment come to a point together. ’26 This pivot, which assembles time and place, is not only a point that concentrates: it is also a centre that diffuses, radiating outwards, like a stone thrown into a pond, giving birth, without loss of energy, to a multitude of concentric circles that gravitate around it. The first two circles, which are eternal, are those of the Son and of the Holy Ghost; the others, which are created, reflect in the world the mystery of the Trinity - and to the centrifugal movement of God must corre¬ spond the centripetal movement of the creature who is called on to cross all the circles to reach mystically the point at which time and space no longer apply. In other words (which are no doubt more appropriate to the profound design of the poem) Dante’s voyage is therefore to be conceived in terms of a ‘crossing’ of language27 - that is, an event symbolizing the return of poetic language to the origin to which it is summoned. To tear language away from its Babel-like dispersion, to concentrate it and to elevate it of the level of its origin - this is the goal of the poetic quest in The Divine Comedy. As we have read, even if the quest in Watt is also this in the final analysis, the dramatic impulse of Beckett’s text lies precisely in the

The spectacle of the text and the code

105

inability to fix the point, and consequently in the need to validate this failure through an image of origin which consecrates it: the image of a ‘fallen’ centre. The fact remains that this centre, despite having fallen, still has the power of dilation: it may well no longer be the ‘Father of the circle’, as it was in Plotinus and Dante,28 but it still has sufficient generative power to reproduce itself at all levels of the word in which it participates. Thus it symbolizes the discovery that ‘there is not the least Biblical authority for the conception of language as a gift specifically from God’,29 and immediately takes the text a thousand miles away from the Cratylic tradition of the word. Once the Logos, which hangs over the entire history of Western metaphysics, no longer subtends words, once the central point, which was the location of the master Word, is sent spinning, language, far from being the ‘shepherd’ and the ‘seat of being’, loses its ontological status.30 Reality and discourse are no longer coincident,31 and every affir¬ mation exhausts itself in the vicious circle of hypothesis. In the face of such a debacle, nothing remains but tears, hence those of Watt, shed over the self-containment of language. As might be expected, the loss of order witnessed in the long description quoted above goes hand in hand with a perversion of the formal structure and the themes of the narrative. The structure, while circular, does not go round in circles, whereas the themes seem like a detailed parody of The Divine Comedy, since they involve a quest whose stages never lead to a growth in knowledge, and one that takes Watt back to his starting-point, Watt as he was namely a walking question. A fruitless search, vicious formal circles, derisory rhetoric, writing adrift - these are therefore the consequences of a metaphor of origin that from the start excluded everything, save a generalized decentring of the narrative. From our typological point of view, this comment is significant since what it implies is that all transcendental mises en abyme are (at least virtually) also mises en abyme of the utterance. To repeat: by proceeding towards that which continually makes the narrative possible, the narrative itself is modelling itself on its metaphor of origin as much as the metaphor is on the narrative. In such circum¬ stances, a mimetic relationship between the two is inevitable.

106

Towards a typology of the mirror in the text

And yet it is not only the mise en abyme of the utterance that is involved here: if the transcendental mise en abyme can only be duplicated in an enunciative reflexion on condition that the meta¬ phor of origin is not situated in an unattainable ‘elsewhere’ or ‘erst¬ while’,32 the mise en abyme of the Principle of the text is conversely inseparable from the metatextual reflexion. The reason for this coincidence is clear: since the transcendental mise en abyme deter¬ mines by definition what makes the text possible, it can only state the hidden authority of the text. It might be said that what makes the text possible is not the same as what makes possible a simple mode of operation; but in fact the former cannot be reduced to the latter, the transcendental mise en abyme always being the foundation of the mise en abyme of the code and always surpassing it; in this way the transcendental mise en abyme can never be put on the same footing as any other mise en abyme, since it is linked to that which determines all of them. In fact, if the transcendental mise en abyme is a metaphor of the primary instance that constitutes the meaning of meaning and enables signs to communicate, does it not follow that it reflects the code of codes, namely that which regulates the possibility of bringing elementary reflexions into play, governs the form of those which are exploited by the narrative and ensures that they form one type rather than another? The question answers itself.

The emergence of types

Two problems remain at this point: the first concerns the way elementary mises en abyme exist; the second their relation to the types.

1

Reflexive disposition and narrative output

I may have already suggested, by repeatedly insisting on the way elementary mises en abyme tend to combine at the same time, that I was trying to isolate them, that any distinction between them is purely theoretical, and that none of them is uncompromisingly pure and simple. This suggestion is confirmed by the facts, and it could not indeed be otherwise; once they are produced or perceived by a diegetic character, reflexions of the utterance or of the code inevit¬ ably lead to a corresponding duplication of the author or of the reader; the enunciative reflexion is normally based on a doubling of the utterance; and the transcendental mise en abyme is always accompanied, as we have just seen, by a subsidiary reflexion of the utterance and the functional principle of the narrative. The importance of this system of alliances (which can be either obligatory or voluntary - since there are of course some coalitions which mises en abyme freely enter into) lies in whether the group¬ ings it leads to are large or small. These groupings are of two types,1 and lead us to stop considering the mise en abyme only from the strictly taxonomic angle some theorists would no doubt prefer, but rather from a resolutely ‘economic’ point of view. To recognize the

108

Towards a typology of the mirror in the text

validity of this point of view, which to my mind is the only one that can take account of the device in a dynamic way, respecting the way it actually functions, is to recognize that 1 2 3

the significance of a mise en ahyme is to be measured in terms of its narrative ‘output’; this ‘output’ is greater the more the mise en abyme is recog¬ nizable, extensive and/or associated with other reflexions-,2 and that it is consequently rather futile to concentrate interminably on the dogmatic and casuistic question of whether an utterance is reflexive or not;3 if it is only possibly one, its textual ‘invest¬ ment’ is very likely to be negligible; a barely perceptible, furtive or isolated mise en abyme is always a minor one.

2

Levels and transitions

But these remarks neither resolve everything nor manage to conceal that our typology is incomplete. This incompleteness is not because the introduction of the ‘economic’ point of view makes it null and void - we shall shortly see that it does not replace the typology; rather, it is closely dependent on it; but, more fundamentally, it is because it is not sufficient to do as we have done, characterizing the way in which each level of the device is compartmentalized, if we wish to set out the logic of the device as a whole. We must also show how these levels and their component elements interact, establish the principles underlying the continuous and discontinuous struc¬ ture that governs the movement towards the ultimate units, note the margin between one and another, the links that bind them, the incompatibilities that intervene at certain stages, in short, describe and define the rules of formation and transition that allow a single apex to arise from a multiple base, through various intermediate divisions. Since the single and triple essence of the mise en abyme leads to the departitioning of the upper two stages of the model introduced in chapter 1, an ‘ascending’ analysis like this can be limited to two transitions: that from ‘distinctive features’ to elementary mises en abyme; and that from elementary mises en abyme to types. The former is unproblematic. Figure 7 takes up our earlier

The emergence of types

109

elementary mise en abyme

distinctive features

fictional

a

a

enunciative

a.

b

textual

a

c

metatextual

a

a

transcen dental

a

e

Figure 7

schemata, taking account of the broadening and refinement of the device available to us previously, and shows that the architecture of the substructure is highly stable: each element of the higher level being exactly superimposed on those elements which support it, there is therefore a perfect continuity between the elementary mise en ahyme on the one hand, and the constant a and the variables a, b, c, d or e, which determine its specific mode of reflexivity, on the other. In short, at this first level of articulation, the mobility of the formative system is nil. Is it the same at the second level? On the contrary, everything points to the mobility here being extreme, since it is precisely at this level that difficulties arise when we try to elaborate a classification of types according to a continuous gra¬ dation. There is much evidence that the difficulty indicates that the level of the types is displaced in relation to that of the elementary mises en abyme, and that the transition between these two levels can only operate via a series of discontinuous planes. The clearest evid¬ ence lies in the fact that the same elementary mises en abyme can participate in the composition of each type, provided that they are directly linked to a ‘mise en abyme ’ of the utterance. This assertion leads to two others: (a) some specific forms of association or combination are not as such able to effect the transition between the second and third level; and (b) although an elementary mise en abyme (a metatextual one, for instance) can exist without participating in the composition of a type, each type presupposes the presence in it of a mise en abyme of the utterance with which other elementary reflexions may or may not be associated.

110

Towards a typology of the mirror in the text

This latter assertion, although it does not yet allow the definition of types by relating them to the principle(s) that permit(s) their particular formation, is a general law of transition and indicates the direction in which research into the rule(s) of formation should go. In fact, since it appears that the ‘mise en abyme ’ of the utterance is the only term that is always found in the formulation of the three types, the inevitable implication is that this ‘mise en abyme' must also govern their formation. To appreciate how this formation is elaborated, we need to relate a sufficient number of formed types to the mises en abyme of the utterance that constitute them: it then becomes clear that what governs the institution of types and the transition from type I (simple duplication) to type II (infinite dupli¬ cation) and to type III (paradoxical duplication) is in fact the degree of analogy between the ‘mise an abyme ' and the object it reflects. More precisely, it is according to whether the basic reflexion reflects a similar work (resemblance), the same work (mimetism) or the work itself (identity) that it engenders respectively type I, II, or I I If

TYPES

I

II

Ill

simple duplication

infinite duplication

paradoxical duplication

resemblance

+

-

-

mimetism

-

+

-

identity

-

-

+

DEGREE OF ANALOGY

Figure 8

3

The logic of the abyme

As figure 8 indicates, the transition from the similar to the same is sufficient for type I inevitably to evolve towards type II, because unless it is absent from the representation it duplicates,5 each mimetic reproduction lays itself open to echoing, at the structural level, the verse of the psalm that forms the title of one of the chapters

The emergence of types

111

in Hugo’s L ’Homme qui rit: abyssus abyssum vocatf Governed by a truly compulsive repetition, mimetic reproduction is in fact con¬ demned to take on a serial form and to repeat continuously the movement of its own resurgence. It is easy to show, by a simple reference to heraldry, that this proliferation of figures within the figure is part of the very logic of the abyme. Let us suppose a shield B, placed en abyme within a shield A, and mimetic of it:

This familiar figure first shows that A’s acceptance of the ability to be reproduced produces a lacuna within the identity of A, which is partially lost (in the abyss) through the shield that is added to it in other words, the addition of B to A in fact subtracts from it;7 from then on the only way B can adequately represent A (which by its presence it has spoiled) is itself to include in its centre a shield (C) which in turn . . ,8 An infinite illusion, as one sees, or an unlimited interplay of substitutions, since each term in the series, always displaced from itself, can only take on the form the previous shield prescribes for it by incorporating a new shield, which, in turn, makes a hole in it.9 I shall not dwell here on the complicity between this structure of supplementarity and other models of infinite relief.10 But it does seem essential to note on the other hand that infinite duplication in literature is condemned to remain at the level, if not of the pro¬ gramme, then at least of the sketch. The reason for this incomplete¬ ness is not hard to imagine and derives from the very structure of a representation whose implicit depth comes up against the limits of the narrative as discerned by Lessing. Not that a linguistic work cannot summarize itself; but to enclose the summary of this

112

Towards a typology of the mirror in the text

summary, and, within this, the summary of the summary of the summary, is incompatible with the constraints of linearity that govern it. Even if it were not, these successive summaries, alter¬ nately interrupted and resumed, would exceed the reader’s patience and rememorative competence:11 since the regenerative power of memory is limited, the degree of embedding must also be; and even if it were not, how could it create an impression of vertigo by presenting itself successively? Only instantaneity of representation can provide a compelling and truly vertiginous effect. The proof of this lies in the unrestrained use of this device in advertising posters, while in the nature of things it occurs only in literature as (a) a project; (b) an emblematic reference; or (c) a partial realization.12 The case of Jean Paul is particularly significant, since although his novels theorize type II they are reduced in practice to producing type I (Titan) or type III (Flegeljahre). I have said that the point at which type III emerges depends on the identity of principle between a mise en abyme and a book. The question is therefore how this identity can be posited. It seems that this pseudo-identification can happen in two ways: either by the injection into the diegesis (a) of the title of the book itself, or (b) of an equivalent expression; or (c) the inclusion of the book in a reflexive sequence that substitutes it.13 The former option (much in vogue in Symbolism, and hackneyed now), seems from the narrative point of view more economical than the latter, since it allows much greater room for manoeuvre while still ensuring the coincidence in the surest and most rapid way.14 In fact, the title affirms identity with such vigour that it precludes in advance any attempt to annex anything different; and in addition, thanks to its extradiegetic status, its inclusion in the diegesis is sufficient to make the narrative ‘bite its own tail’.15 This ‘Ouroboros’ - the snake biting its own tail - is not an emblem of type III by accident. The logical difficulties presented by a whole that contains itself are well known: narrative self-embedding is an equal source of aporia,16 Deriving here from self-reference, aporia infringes the law of tertium non datur at three levels; at the level of causality, since a self-embedding work exploits recurrence and presents itself as the product of its product; at the level of temporality, since it projects itself into the future, like Don Quixote, while being a narrative that was either finished in the past or is

The emergence of types

113

emerging in the present;17 and at the level of spatiality, since it represents itself as part of itself and is enclosed by what it contains. This ‘simulation of war [that] requires a simulation of peace’18 is the perfect illustration of Barthes’s conception of ‘autonymy’19 and has the effect of turning the narrative back on itself and making it irresolvable: once utterance and enunciation interchange, every¬ thing, in fact, becomes reversible. Finally, standing back, how can the range of the typological out¬ line sketched out above be evaluated? It is certainly not for me to say whether it confirms Foucault’s view of duplications, expressed in a thought-provoking article, that ‘their exact description, their classi¬ fication and the reading of their laws of operation or of trans¬ formation, could form an introduction to a formal ontology of literature.’20 But by showing that narratives, by producing type I, II or III or no type at all, are respectively keeping their distance from the abyme, going into it in depth while at the same time filling it in, using it as a tool of composition by exploiting aporia or suppressing it by pretending it does not exist, my study has perhaps formed an introduction to this introduction.

PART III Diachronic perspectives

f

9 The mise en abyme and the nouveau roman

1

Sections

What can we expect from this final section, the diachronic perspec¬ tives that can now (and only now) emerge? Undoubtedly, the revelation of a dynamic, or even ‘organic’, view of the device, although we must not delude ourselves as to the scope of such a view. Of course, it is theoretically possible to seek out all the varieties of the mise en abyme in literary history, but to do this it would be necessary to establish how its three types were distributed through¬ out this history, to set out how they each developed and how they coexisted, to note the transformations they underwent, and to analyse how each example replaced and transformed previous incar¬ nations. It therefore seems appropriate to take a more limited approach, which will reveal some key changes in the development of the device. Two options seem open: to study type III, which occurs rarely enough to be exhaustively described; or to examine the mise en abyme as a whole at a certain point in its history. The point of the first option would be to show that one indefinitely repeatable form can be used in different strategies, and that in each of its occurrences, its value depends on the context in which it is set. The reason why its role is always specific to each different work is plain: since it is related to all the aspects of a text, this structure cannot transform these aspects without the reverse occurring as well. So the conclusion of such a study would be that wherever this type of mise en abyme appears (as a constant), a variable acts on

118

Diachronic perspectives

it, ensuring that the figure has an inexhaustible range of specific characteristics.1 However, the Foreword to this book and the title of this chapter indicate straight away that I have chosen the second option. Perhaps because I expected more from it: but why the nouveau roman ? For the following reasons: 1

2 3

4 5

If the examples in my second section are representative, the mise en ahyme has been strongly in evidence in four different eras: the baroque;2 Romanticism; Naturalism and Symbolism;3 and the nouveau roman.4 The current vogue of the mise en ahyme is due to its massive revival in the 1950s. From the start of the nouveau roman, the mise en abyme was associated with it, and immediately became one of its distinctive elements.5 Like the nouveau roman, the mise en ahyme seems to have undergone an internal development that merits examination.6 The mise en abyme is an excellent touchstone for investigating the implications of a fictional enterprise that is crucial to our culture.

However, such a choice has practical difficulties - principally the range and time-scale spanned by the nouveau roman. I shall there¬ fore proceed by taking two five-year periods, and treating each synchronically. The first will cover 1954-8 and generally takes in the inaugural period of the nouveau roman\ the second (1969-73) brings me up against what the historic Cerisy-la-Salle colloquium of 1971 called the ‘new’ nouveau roman. Omitting the intervening decade will not prejudice my purpose; rather, this gap accentuates the contrast between the two periods and brings out the changes that occurred. I shall examine the periods one by one (rather than alter¬ nate between them), in order to concentrate on the general evolution rather than that of any individual writer. I shall only include four authors, whom I shall discuss in alphabetical order, selected because they are indisputably nouveaux romanciers, and because they use the mise en abyme both insistently and inventively. Furthermore, if only one novel per author in each period is dis¬ cussed, and given that my methodology rules out any attempt to compensate for any gaps by straying into the intervening period, it

The mise en abyme and the nouveau roman

119

y

would seem possible to concentrate on the following seven works: L 'Emploi du temps (1957) by Michel Butor, La Jalousie (1957) by Alain Robbe-Grillet, and L’Herbe (1958) by Claude Simon in the first section; and Ou (1971) by Butor, Les Lieux-dits (1969) by Jean Ricardou, Projet pour une revolution a New York (1970) by RobbeGrillet and Triptyque (1973) by Simon in the second section.

2

Symbolism and relief (I ’Emploi du temps)

Although there is no doubt that mirrors and reflexions play a power¬ ful role in Butor’s imaginary worlds,7 nothing would be gained from a Bachelardian interpretation of the mirrors, reflectors, windows and stained glass that appear throughout L 'Emploi du temps. Butor’s fascination with them is too controlled to be anything but primarily literary, and shows that the book is dominated by the theme of reflexion. To see whether this involves the novel reflecting on itself, we need to apply the typology we have elaborated and then to consider the elementary types of reflexion this application will reveal. Of all the fictional duplications an initial assessment reveals, the clearest is without doubt the long description of the hero’s night¬ mare and awakening.8 This sequence, built entirely around an antithesis, is among the most elaborate in the book. In several registers it marks the opposition of two terms that alternate in time, the first, with negative connotations, being a prerequisite for the second, which has a positive role. As nocturnal anxiety gives way to the promises of the new dawn, opacity gives way to growing lucidity, and impotence to incipient power. This is the basic oppo¬ sition of the whole book, of which this is the central passage, and it is therefore obvious that each of the sections of this diptych reflects the larger one that encloses it. However, this text within a text does not only allegorically sum¬ marize the fiction as a whole. Functioning as a link between the plot (which is essentially that of a thriller and a love story) and the pact Revel makes with the town of Bleston, it transforms the ‘story of an adventure’ into the ‘adventure of a story’ (Ricardou), and thereby invests the previous themes with a deliberately ‘scriptural’ tend-

120

Diachronic perspectives

ency.9 Furthermore, by associating the awakenings of a literary vocation with the first glimmerings of daylight (but not with the day itself, which, to the writer, can only be eschatalogical), the mise en abyme justifies, in advance, an inconclusive conclusion and provides the essential meaning of the novel: since it is a creature of the inter¬ mediary world of dawn, writing can never be concluded. As a traditional companion of the mise en abyme, this dream of Revel’s should have alerted the critics and led them to reveal the reflexive nature of this exceptional passage. If in fact they have hardly ever noted its significance, this is no doubt because their attention was distracted by another symptom of self-reflexion: the intermittent descriptions of imaginary works of art. Reflecting the main themes of the novel - murder, fire and the labyrinth - these complex configurations owe their power of duplication to the fact that Revel never stops learning from their example and interpreting his existence through their spectrum:10 when, at the end of his stay, he says that the Cain window is the ‘key symbol dominating my life during this year’ (p. 295), this is because the works of art concerned have the prerogative of explaining Revel’s present existence in the light of Bleston’s past. For Revel, the past is symbolized above all by the Cain window, the tapestries in the Museum and the New Cathedral. The com¬ parison with Proust is therefore obvious. But the works of art in L’Emploi du temps are more numerous, more varied, and, in a sense, more literary than those in Remembrance of Things Past. Furthermore, they are drawn from a wider historical and cultural background, since each one provides a different historical spectrum relating to several specific periods: the mid-sixteenth-century window relating to the Middle Ages and the Bible, the early-eighteenthcentury tapestries relating to Renaissance humanism and GraecoRoman antiquity. What is striking is that the time spans represented by these ‘spectral’ objects finally overlap: ‘the principal harmonics’ of the Cain window ‘intertwine with those of the tapestries in the Museum like the fingers of two clasped hands’ (p. 295). Such com¬ plementarity can be easily explained. To any Westerner, the JudaeoChristian and the Classical traditions seem exceptionally close. However, the New Cathedral, which dates from the nineteenth century (the mythic era of Progress), and is not, strictly speaking, connected with these two traditions, represents the desire for com-

The mise en abyme and the nouveau roman

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pleteness which appeals to Revel. By comparing it to a ‘work which, although undoubtedly flawed . . . (and almost chronically so), is enriched by a profound, incontrovertible dream, by a latent procreative potential and by a moving appeal for freedom and success’ (p. 121), he recognizes in the Cathedral, despite its flaws, a prefigur¬ ation of the work he himself will undertake, which, when finished, will give a meaning to his stay in Bleston. We still have to define the role of the ‘detective novel’ by describ¬ ing, as succinctly as possible, its relationship with its reader, Revel. Intent on finding a way out of the oppressive labyrinth, Revel buys a book that, as he reads and re-reads it, gives him more and more landmarks. But as his insight grows, he realizes that this book which is guiding him only partially describes his experience, that it con¬ tains omissions and errors and that the time has come for him to immerse himself in another book that will be more true to life and more comprehensive, and that, moreover, will lead him to self-fulfil¬ ment. From then on, the way Revel spends his time (l’emploi du temps) finds its raison d ’etre and henceforth it is his own book that will preoccupy the hero completely. The point is obvious and has a general application: ‘The Bleston Murder’, the tapestries and the window are to Revel what Remem¬ brance of Things Past was to Butor and what L Emploi du temps should be to its reader: the opportunity for his/her consciousness to be awoken and developed and to become independent. This then provides us with the context needed to reconstruct the implicit model of Butor’s use of reflexion. Let us turn first to Butor’s famous mirror-imagery. Revel’s whole adventure can be interpreted as a search for mirrors (in works of art, the detective novel and, lastly, in his own writing) - or rather as the search for the best possible mirror. But how can one tell which is the most effective one? By its ability, one might say, to reflect fully the context of the hero’s life. In other words, the prime function of Butor’s mirror is to provide a panoramic view of the outside world without the spectator having to move,11 to focus on, and thus to grasp, the invisible. It is therefore no coincidence that L ’Emploi du temps has Van Eyck’s spherical mirror as its emblem.12 By referring back to the Entretiens, one can easily verify that there is a singularly appropriate relationship between the novelist and his favourite painter,13 for Butor, with reference to the Arnolfini Marriage,

122

Diachronic perspectives

defined literature as ‘a mirror in which we not only see ourselves and the author, but a mirror in which we also see the background against which we are set.’14 The ‘reflecting power’ (Proust) of the literary work lies in what Butor calls elsewhere its ‘symbolic’ nature: ‘By the “symbolism” of a novel’, he explains, ‘I mean the sum total of the relationships between what it describes and the real world in which we live.’15 By laying great stress on this relationship between the work of art and the extralinguistic reality outside it, Butor preserves the refer¬ ential role of literary discourse, thus distancing himself from trends of thought that say that literature is only concerned with itself. For Butor, the novel is not entirely enclosed within the world of letters. Like a linguistic sign, it must ‘stand for’, or be ‘equivalent to’, something else, and in the final analysis it can only be defined by its ability to represent what is set out around it, not passively, of course, like a copy, but in a revelatory way, using its undeniable ‘detective’ power. So what is the effect on the mise en abyme of Butor’s poetic, where sense corresponds to reference - that is, the way in which discourse relates to extralinguistic reality? Essentially that where there is an exact correlation between text and outside world, self¬ reflexion can only be fully understood if this primary reflection is taken into account. Under these conditions, it is natural that our enquiries should follow the passage from self-reflexion to reflexion in order to determine how the writer moves from reduplication to duplication. These remarks lead to a further consideration: in the same way that Gide’s ‘retroaction’ only became mise en ahyme when it revealed itself as such in the novel, Butor’s reflexion can only be seen when it itself is reflected in the novel. This reflecting of the reflexion is achieved, as we have already seen, by the works of art described within the text. They are the only means of representing both the reflexion and what is being reflected. But far from being autonomous, this reduplication (as we have already said) is dependent on the reflexion of the pre-existent world that generates it; as a key part of a process whose raison d'etre escapes its control, this reduplication is one of the terms of a relationship that can be expressed by the follow¬ ing formula: the ‘works within the work' reflect the novel in the same way that the novel reflects reality. The strength of Butor’s

The mise en abyme and the nouveau roman

123

emphasis on this parallel makes us see it as the nub of his theory of reflexivity: But since, in literary creation and in the re-creation we achieve by careful reading, we are trying out a complex system of very varied relationships of meaning, if the novelist seeks in all sincerity to com¬ municate his experience to us, if his view is realistic enough, if the form he uses is comprehensive enough, he is necessarily led into examining similar kinds of relationships within the work itself. The external symbolism of the novel tends to be reflected in an internal symbolism, certain parts playing the same role in relation to the whole as the whole plays in relation to reality.16

In the case under examination here, this relation is extremely dynamic in that the external symbolism always varies, and therefore constantly modifies, the internal symbolism that is dependent on it. It follows that, revised as it is throughout the novel, the mise en abyme is resistant to reflection as mimesis, but is perfectly suited to reflection as transformation. No doubt the windows and tapestries, the New Cathedral and the detective novel reveal certain essential characteristics of the fiction that contains them. But they cannot superimpose themselves on it, invariably giving the impression that a displacement has occurred. This can be explained by the mobility of the reflecting elements themselves and by what results from this, namely qualitatively variable relationships that ultimately are elab¬ orated between the imaginary works and the book in which they are contained. Although it ‘models’ L ’Emploi du temps by giving it its themes, its generic structure and consequently its essentially hermeneutic code, the detective novel, for example, is only a seed that the main story brings to fruition. Nor can the New Cathedral be seen as an exact parallel with the text because it is, conversely, a prefiguring of the Great Work for which L ’Emploi du temps is merely the prolego¬ mena. It is precisely because they point to something that is, or is being, realized beyond themselves that the embedded works are always situated conceptually before or beyond the work we are reading. It is therefore very logical that Revel’s writing seems destined never to be completed, that the narrative cannot be self-contained and that the reflexion/self-reflexion continues well beyond the final

124

Diachronic perspectives

page. However valid it seems in the present, L'Emploi du temps is no exception to the rule that governs internal duplications: it too is an ‘open’ work that demands to be surpassed, and it expects the reader whose eyes it will open to undertake a critique of it, and to revitalize it by producing a work with a greater integrative power.17 This explains Butor’s remark (which goes beyond Hegel and evokes F. Schlegel’s Butorian concept of ‘progressive Universalpoesie’):18 ‘the world progressively produces its own critique and invents itself, painstakingly, in us.’19 In L ’Emploi du temps, this ‘relief’, whereby another work takes over from, and supersedes, the primary work, is theorized and prepared at length in the teaching of the vicarious novelist Burton, whose name is a virtual anagram of Butor’s. And yet the enunciative mise en abyme created by this double of the author curiously avoids mystification as much as it can; Butor’s narrative may well act as a ‘rear-view’ mirror to capture both its context and the fleeting images of the novelist and his readers, but there is no real oscillation between what is internal to it and what is external. Is this because Butor spurns the trick that Cervantes and Gide had exploited and exhausted, or because such illusionism is not his forte? More prob¬ ably it can be explained by Butor’s wish not to blunt the addressee’s critical activity with too many mirages: if Burton appears, it is to initiate his students to literature and to help them understand a work - not to play with them or to dispirit them. He gives them lessons in three ‘subjects’. The first relates to the aim of the writer’s discourse (transcendental mise en abyme)\ the second to the literal organization of the novel (textual mise en abyme)\ and the third to how the novel functions (metatextual mise en abyme). I shall limit myself to emphasizing the points relevant to my interests, without going into detail. The first conversation sketches out an answer to the question ‘What is literature?’ and ‘Why write?’,20 dealing with Butor’s expectation that his reader will go beyond the text, and providing a motive for the appearance in L ’Emploi du temps of the emancipation of the novel from the detective novel which represents this ‘going beyond’. This is the basis of Burton’s allegorical-metaphysical theory: All detective novels are built on two murders, the first of which, committed by the killer, merely invites the second, where the killer is

The mise en abyme and the nouveau roman

125

the victim of the pure and unpunishable murderer, the detective who puts him to death not by the vulgar methods the killer himself is reduced to (poison, dagger, gun with silencer, strangulation with a silk stocking), but by the explosion of the truth, (p. 147)

In other words, the whole of the detective’s existence is directed towards that prodigious moment when the power of his explanations, of his revelation, of the words he uses to reveal and unmask (spoken in a solemn and sad tone as if to accentuate their terrible impact and their illumination, which is so sweet to those he’s releasing, but also so cruel, so dismaying, so blinding), when the power of his word annihilates the guilty party and provides the death the detective needs, the only event that is sufficiently definitive to be a definitive proof, when he transforms reality, purifying it solely through his just and penetrating vision. (Ibid.)

What can we conclude from this? That Burton’s practice is not up to his theory, since in ‘The Bleston Murder’ - an impure murder the detective guns down the murderer, in the Old Cathedral to boot, which betrays the genuinely reactionary character of a work that celebrates the status quo antel That this visionary power of the word applies not to Burton’s detective novel, but to Revel’s own novel? In fact, these two explanations come down to the same thing: because he does not practise what he preaches, Burton pronounces his own condemnation: living a lie, he invites the true word that will annihilate him and allow his spiritual son to become, in his turn, the ‘king’: The detective is the child of the murderer, Oedipus, not just because he solves a riddle, but also because he kills the man who gives him his title as detective, the man without whom he would not exist as such (if there were no crimes, or no obscure crimes, how could he material¬ ize?), because this murder has been foretold to him since his birth, or, if you prefer, because it is part of his nature, because through it alone he becomes the king, becomes really himself, with this power superior to those granted us by everyday life. (p. 148)

Burton’s teaching takes on a more explicit form when, on the pre¬ text of praising his art, he describes the most noteworthy textual qualities and narrative innovations of L 'Emploi du temps'. He spoke in his own name, hailing in the best works of this genre the appearance of a sort of new dimension within the novel, explaining

126

Diachronic perspectives

that here not only were the characters and their relationships trans¬ formed before the reader’s eyes, but so too was one’s previous knowl¬ edge of their relationships and even of their story; the final, fixed aspect of this story, sanctioned (as he showed us the following week) by the annihilation of the guilty party, by the pure murder whereby the detective attains the height of his existence, this final aspect only appearing afterwards, seen through the other aspects, in such a way that the narrative is no longer the simple two-dimensional projection of a series of events, but rather the restoration of the architecture and space of the events, since they appear differently according to the per¬ spective from which the detective and the narrator see them ... (P- 161)

To these clarifications of L ’Emploi du temps as the ‘work in pro¬ gress’ are added some pointed remarks on the double temporal series which, according to Butor-Burton, Todorov21 and others, charac¬ terizes the genre of the detective novel; The author of ‘The Bleston Murder’ pointed out to us that in the detective novel, the narration is done backwards, or, more exactly, superimposes one temporal series on another: the days of the inquiry, after the crime, are superimposed on the days of the drama that lead up to it - naturally enough, since, in reality, the mental effort dealing with the past occurs temporally while other events are happening. (p. 171)

This ‘backwards’ narration which reverses chronology is the same as that traced in L ’Emploi du temps: ‘thus’, writes Revel, so that we can be in no doubt, ‘in my case, while noting what seemed important in the present, and also recounting what happened last autumn, I have got up to this second Sunday in May ...’ (p. 172). But what we should also note is that by the time Revel relates Burton’s theory, his own practice has already gone one degree further, since his own, more complex narration already comprises three temporal series ...22 These examples provide much corroboration for the preceding analysis and suggest at least four conclusions: first, that the mises en abyme in L ’Emploi du temps form a system and reflect all the major aspects of the narrative; second, that they have a common theme of ‘going beyond’; third, that they are of type I; and fourth, that only the implementation of this type can serve the dominant themes of the narrative.

The mise en abyme and the nouveau roman

127

To demonstrate briefly this last assertion by a reductio ad absurdum, one need only consider what the effect of using type III would have been on the novel: it would have combined in one func¬ tional unit mises en abyme that need to be as separate and noncumulative as possible, and would have seriously compromised the pedagogical-critical intention of the work; it would have condemned the book to self-enclosure and would have deprived it of any future perspective.23

3

False bottoms and double-crosses (La Jalousie)

At the time when it was still usual to associate him with RobbeGrillet, Butor used a unique argument to try to distinguish himself from the other novelist: ‘In Robbe-Grillet’s novels, there is no reflexion on the work of the novelist within the novel: the problem that I pose, of the relationship between people and works of art, does not appear at all. To my mind this is an enormous difference.’24 This remark is not only of interest in that it provides a retrospec¬ tive validation for the previous analyses, which in turn confirm it; it also does Butor justice without denigrating Robbe-Grillet. For Robbe-Grillet’s conception of reflexivity is as follows: ‘Henceforth, the novel itself imagines itself, questions itself, and judges itself, not through characters indulging in pointless commentaries, but through the constant self-reflexion (both at the level of the narrative and of the writing) of each element: gesture, object and situation.’25 One striking aspect here, which takes us to the heart of RobbeGrillet’s conception of duplication, is the irrevocable condemnation of the ‘novel about a novelist’ of Gide, Huxley and Butor. Not of course that Robbe-Grillet refuses to include doubles of the author. But he does so on one condition: that they play the fictional game to the full and even make the fiction explicit and denounce it as such. There is no place here for spokespersons or ‘vehicles of the truth’: discursive, humourless author-substitutes are undesirable: in order to have a voice, the representatives of the author must show themselves to be as ambiguous as the text they inhabit.26 As for the second point (‘the relationship between people and works of art’), it again seems difficult not to subscribe in general to what Butor says, for although Robbe-Grillet’s novels do subject

128

Diachronic perspectives

their own reception to mise en abyme, this does not mean that he is practising any kind of ‘external symbolism’: given that the ambition of these works is to exist in isolation, the affirmation of their auton¬ omy naturally implies a breaking off of relations with an extralinguistic reality to which it does not wish to be beholden, as well as an insurmountable aversion to immediately becoming relative by taking as their theme their own inclusion as a mere ‘moment’ in some continuing development. One comes to realize that this double refusal implicitly determines the theory and practice of RobbeGrillet’s reflexivity: the suspension of any referential aim leads to the work turning back on itself and emphasizing solely its self-repre¬ sentation; feigning ignorance of the process of ‘relief’ culminates in the narrative corresponding to itself and consequently favouring a mimetic, rather than a transformational duplication. One can there¬ fore justifiably formulate the (tauto)logical underpinning of this closed economy of the text as follows: the more the novel reflects itself, the less it will be able to mirror anything other than itself. One can certainly claim that this is a limited conception, com¬ pared to Butor’s extensive relativization. But from our point of view, the only relevant fact is that from the literary angle - that is, seen in terms of their originality and textual profitability - RobbeGrillet’s mises en abyme are no less wide-ranging than Butor’s reflexions and self-reflexions. Let us consider, for example, the role of the book that appears within La Jalousie: is its only function to provide a repertoire of roles and some parallels with the main plot, as all the critics seem to agree?27 There is serious reason to doubt this, if one carefully con¬ siders the way in which the reflexion is used. For let us recall that, in the traditional novel, all mises en abyme are to a greater or lesser extent guaranteed by two connected processes: the first demands that the literal sense of the reflexive sequence be ‘blank’ in order that the metaphorical meaning show through as clearly as possible; the second, that only those agents are used whose integrity is above suspicion.28 Now Robbe-Grillet cannot and will not accept this double guarantee. He cannot, since by choosing to attribute precise obsessions to the hollow presence from whose ‘point of view’ the whole narrative is written, he ruled out making any segment of the text ‘objective’; and he will not, in that making the subject of the reflexion credible would have made the fiction naturalistic. But it

The mise en abyme and the nouveau roman

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would be a considerable underestimate of the novelist’s ingenuity to conclude from this impossibility and undesirability of using the double guarantee that it precludes any use of reflexion. Painting things, in his own way, as black as possible, Robbe-Grillet will stop at nothing to discredit as much as he can this ‘realistic’ use of refle¬ xion in the traditional novel: rather than blurring its subjective character, he will make it explicit29 by using the only representation appropriate to such a sly and improbable story: an ‘image that is reflected, frankly distorted’30 and contradictory. If we re-read an oft-quoted passage, we shall confirm that this ambiguous reflexion makes exegesis particularly fraught: They have never made any value judgement about the novel, speaking instead about the places, the events and the characters in it as if they were real: a place they remembered (but in Africa), people they knew, or whose story they had been told. Their discussions have always steered clear of questioning the probability or the coherence of the narrative, or of any of its qualities. But they do often criticize the heroes for doing certain things, or for certain of their traits, as they would do when speaking of mutual friends. They also sometimes deplore the twists of the plot, saying ‘that didn’t happen by chance’, and they then construct a different series of probable events based on a different hypothesis, ‘if that hadn’t happened’. Other possible divergences from the actual plot then arise along the way and all lead to different endings. There are very many variants, and even more variants within the variants. They even seem to enjoy this proliferation, exchanging smiles, getting excited in their game, no doubt slightly intoxicated by it ... ‘But, unfortunately, he came back earlier that particular day, which was unforeseeable. ’ Thus Frank sweeps away all the fictions they had built up together. There’s no point in making these alternative suppositions, since things are as they are: one can’t change reality, (pp. 82ff.)

The beginning of this passage is transparent enough: the scene is both an enunciative and a metatextual mise en abyme, and represents an appreciation of La Jalousie that is based on false premisses, and is criticized as such. A. and Frank fail to appreciate the text as text because they have succumbed to the realistic fallacy which Valery rightly called ‘literary superstition’.31 But reading on, this initial clarity becomes blurred and leads to an interpretative dilemma: should we carry on and equate these lovers of hypothesis with the

130

Diachronic perspectives

readers described as ‘public-bar tacticians’32 in the tableau in Dans le labyrinthe ? In this case, one would have to conclude that the subjective speculation and interpretation (‘that didn’t happen by chance’, ‘but unfortunately’) are null and void in that the only thing that counts is the objectivity of the text as object (‘you can’t change [the] reality’ of the novel)-, or putting it another way, the conclusion would have to be that the role of reading lies not in fantasizing on the basis of a story, but rather in an immanent combination of its ele¬ ments. Or, on the contrary, should we see in A. and Frank’s latitude with regard to the given text a recognition of the imaginative activity that is for Robbe-Grillet often synonymous with fiction ? In support of this latter thesis, one could point out that the key term ‘fiction’ could not have negative connotations here and that, far from being repre¬ hensible, the free multiplication of conjectures, alternatives and vari¬ ants defines precisely the game played by the author of La Jalousie. The phrase ‘you can’t change reality’ would still need to be inter¬ preted from this angle. But its meaning becomes clear once one thinks of it in the light of the programmatic opening of Les Gommesf3 and one therefore would have to recognize that both interpretations would be possible were they not mutually exclusive, and that, in these circumstances, it is ambiguity itself that is the ultimate meaning, in that a text cannot at once refute and confirm, or simultaneously affirm the positive and the negative, without, precisely, marking itself as fiction.34 This admission through dichotomy that the text is fiction recurs, in an exemplary form, in a passage in which the ‘African novel’ again holds centre stage: The main character in the book is a customs official. The character is not an official, but a senior member of staff in an old commercial com¬ pany. The affairs of this company are in a bad way, approaching the crooked. The affairs of the company are in good shape. The main character, we learn, is dishonest. He is an honest man, he’s trying to sort out a messy situation left by his predecessor, who was killed in a car crash. But he had no predecessor. The company was only founded recently: and it wasn’t an accident. Anyway it was a ship (a large white ship), not a car. (p. 216) If the successive, term-by-term oppositions, with their Rousselian rhythm of creation and destruction, are essential here, it is none the

The mise en abyme and the nouveau roman

131

less significant that they primarily concern the identity of the ‘main character in the book’: to deny him this title after having granted it him implies, surely, thatZ# Jalousie is a ‘passion without a character’, and that its ‘narrator’, also without title or name, ‘deprived of any personal pronoun, deprived of the voice which usually confirms the presence of the speaker ... is there, a thinking void.’35 And yet one should note that, from the middle of this passage onwards, the binary oppositions give way to a complex, non-synthetic system which allows, again, the construction of two interpretations. The first derives from the narrative perspective and, in the men¬ tion of elements which had hitherto been confined to the embedding book, sees the manifestation of the sudden delirium to which the passion of the ‘protagonist’ has led. To quote J. Alter: One realizes that the growing disorganization of this part of the para¬ graph expresses a sudden explosion of emotion on the part of the protagonist, who cannot stop himself confusing his own obsessions with his thoughts on the African novel. This emotion leads him to project a personal and confused meaning on to the ‘things that are only what they are’, and to destroy logical order by a triple system of incompatible statements.36

But instead of insisting on the psychological motivation of the passage, one can equally well emphasize its logical development oppositions which are binary and, in a way, paradigmatic, giving way to a kind of reasoning which, by reference to Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, one could call a ‘kettle-argument’37 - and which one could show, governs the textual organization of La Jalousie itself. But in fact we do not have to choose here between a phenomeno¬ logical (realistic) reading and a formal one; since the novel itself deliberately exploits the two images implied in its title, it would be reductive and anachronistic only to consider one of them. Although La Jalousie does not quite constitute a Rorschach test for the critic (as the African novel does for the husband - or rather the impersonal narrative agency), it does reveal the ideology of the critic, precisely because of this basic double meaning - although the two readings encoded in the text are far from equivalent, judging by the care and frequency with which the text reflects variations on these themes.38 Representing as it does ‘the best image and . . . also the best

132

Diachronic perspectives

analysis’39 of the novel, the famous ‘native tune’ provides a complete demonstration of this:40 Because of the singular nature of this kind of tune, it is difficult to determine whether the song has stopped by chance - for example because of the manual work the singer must perform at the same time - or whether the tune had actually come to its natural conclusion. In the same way, when it starts up again, it is so sudden and abrupt, with notes which hardly seem to constitute either a beginning or a continuation. At other times, however, something does seem to be ending: every¬ thing points to it: a gradual diminuendo, a return to calm, the feeling that nothing else remains to be said; but after the note that seemed to be the last one, another comes, without the least gap, with the same facility, then another, and still others, and the listener imagines he is again at the heart of the poem ... then everything stops, without warning ... Doubtless it is the same song continuing. If sometimes its themes become indistinct, they return a little later, firmer, virtually identical. And yet these repetitions, these tiny variants, these interruptions, these reprises, can lead to modifications - although hardly noticeable ones - and, eventually, lead far away from their starting-point, (pp. lOOff.; cf. p. 149ff.)

Of course, one could still deny the evidence: the critic in thrall to realism - although ignoring this in the embedded novel - could point to the strict focus of the narrative perspective, and the vocabu¬ lary of appearance - ‘seem to constitute’, ‘something seems to be ending’, ‘the listener imagines'', ‘doubtless’ - and thereby repress the uncomfortable fact that the variants are not psychologically motivated. It is piquant to note that one critic - Bruce Morrissette, a great uncoverer of mises en ahyme - has been led to miss this one (amongst others41) because of his prejudiced way of reading: he writes: ‘Almost all the corrections we need to make to the serious criticism of Robbe-Grillet’s work stem from two fundamental errors. The first is the erroneous notion of disconnected, non-causal literary structures, that the novelist himself is supposed to foster by creating false scents such as the ‘native song’ in La Jalousie,’42 Is this tune, which takes the reader to ‘the heart of the poem’, a false scent?43 Although he does not usually take things literally, J. Alter is not mistaken on this point: although asserting that ‘the conclusion of the passage on the “main character” indicates none

The mise en abyme and the nouveau roman

133

the less that it basically represents the husband’s reaction, rather than any commentary by Frank, A., or (improbably) the author’, he admits that ‘the description of the author ... here shines through the consciousness of the character’,44 inviting us thereby to consider the question of the novelist’s doubles. If the text suggests that the singer is to Robbe-Grillet what the tune is to the novel, the essential thing to note is that the voice of the singer is never unequivocally located or described: sometimes it is a weak voice, sometimes a full, strong and healthy one (p. 100). In other words a naturalistic device here is turned against naturalism: La Jalousie, therefore, already subscribes to the principle that the later novels will illustrate spectacularly: the more plural the text, the more it presupposes a mobile and contradictory narrative voice, without an origin. This is the reason why the mises en ahyme do form a system and constitute, like the text they reflect, a group of variable and correlative units: if they are clustered within the novel, and return once or more, each time slightly different, this is because it is of primary importance that the voice at the origin of the narra¬ tive becomes indeterminate.45 As for the singer himself, his rather disparate character is explained by his diversity of function. With multiple attributes, he is a sort of jack of all trades, a workman whose fine talent appeals to the heroine, and whose task is to rebuild the old bridge of the novel with new logs - the very logs the author uses to blur the chronological markers a realistic reading would look for. To build something solid that has the gratuitous attraction of a spell (while undermining mimesis) - this seems then to be the primary ambition of a novelist ever conscious of the fact that eroticism lies at the origin of his work, and for whom writing is first and foremost a kind of construction.

4

Abyss and circularity

(I'Herbe)

Instead of offering the aficionado of mise en abyme the many and varied elementary reflexions of La Jalousie and L ’Emploi du temps,46 L ’Herbe signals its use of the genre in repeated mentions of a tin of biscuits or boiled sweets, made of iron, rusted all over, with, on the top, the picture of a young woman in a long white dress, reclining on the grass in a languorous yet stiff pose, with only the tips of her

134

Diachronic perspectives

toes, or rather of her shoes, peeping out with ridiculous modesty from under the bottom flounce of the dress, and next to this woman (who holds in her hand an identical box, on whose lid the same image of her is repeated, as in an infinite series of mirrors), a small, curly-haired white dog, all of which (the lady, the poodle and the meadow) is framed in flowers and knotted ribbons of periwinkle.47

Is this classic illustration of the mise en abyme itself a mise en abyme, as a metaphor of one of the narrative’s major aspects? Appar¬ ently so, at least as far as the themes it mobilizes are concerned, although the subject of this duplication is problematic. Should we see in the woman a symbol of the dying aunt to whom the text con¬ tinually relates her by analogy or contrast? Or a symbol of the deceptive abyss of reality which Louise, like Montds in Le Vent,48 gradually recognizes?49 No doubt both, which doesn’t, however, rule out a third interpretation: is it not in fact clear that the codifi¬ cation makes the figure symbolic, and able to subject the contents of the tin itself to mise en abyme ? This functional reading can account for some of the peculiarities of the text. It explains, for instance, why the tin cannot be opened until the lid has been described (and, conversely, the lid never appears without the box);50 it explains, moreover, why the novel is so concerned with the contents of the box, making a methodical inven¬ tory of them and producing, at the heart of the text, the major relic it contains: the old aunt’s account books. If these books fulfil the role of a kind of ‘second narrative’, the novel provides an innovation in this procedure in one essential point, adapting it perfectly to its purpose. Far from using them to introduce a first-person narrative into a third-person one (Journal intime), the novel impersonates the notes, makes them pathetic and repetitive, and manages, by litotes and by the repetition of dates, to give a direct intuition of time as anonymous, cyclical, meaningless and destructive. The descriptions of the small objects and of the photograph on either side of the quotations from the notebooks are in line with this interpretation: futile and pathetic bric-a-brac, these souvenirs, as circular as the ring that opens the narrative, are also links, ties whereas the photograph presents the fascinated protagonist with a normative mirror, compelling her to repeat the old aunt’s renun¬ ciation.51

The mise en abyme and the nouveau roman

135

The proof of the relation between the theme of the circular and the repetitive on the one hand, and the emblematic image on the other (in that the latter is a spatial expression of what the former evokes primarily in time), comes in the complicity between the emblem and a clock doubtless only there as a reminder, the position of its hands being unimportant, the main thing being that there was a dial and hands, in other words a self-enclosed circuit, untiringly repeated, the dial here being not in the centre of a marble cenotaph, but situated on the side of the column on which there was a shepherdess, with a crook, in a full, gilded dress, sitting down, or rather reclining, gracefully leaning on the case that contained the mechanism, (p. 90)

The lesson of this juxtaposition (which is inevitable, in that the narrative can only express in temporal succession the infinite regres¬ sion evoked by the lid of the tin)52 is that, in a narrative obsessed with the bottomless, the infinite must be translated in terms of the dominance of the circular.

5

Initial conclusion

We must now bring this rapid analysis to a close and set out the conclusions to which it has led us. Despite the respective originality of L’Herbe, La Jalousie and L ’Emploi du temps, their distinctive use of the mise en abyme converge on four points: 1 2

3

4

the nouveau roman of the 1950s implements only type I (even if it occasionally evokes type II (L ’Herbe))\ the elementary mises en abyme that the nouveau roman exploits are as distinct as possible and are more varied and more frequent than in the traditional novel; instead of only occupying the centre of the narrative, the fic¬ tional reflexions are dispersed throughout its length, form a network and have a clear tendency to repetition; and even when they do not predominate (La Jalousie), the textual and metatextual mises en abyme assume an importance far beyond that in earlier narratives.

136

Diachronic perspectives

At the risk of over-simplification, I shall mention two historical causes one could assign to such a development: (a) ‘this questioning self-reflexion is a response to a change in our image of the world’;53 (b) this affirmative self-reflexion is a challenge to the prevailing Sartrean doctrine, defending as it does the autonomy of the text (Robbe-Grillet) or, at least, the specificity (Butor) of literature. As for the growth of textual and metatextual mises en abyme, this can probably be explained as follows: once it had proclaimed that there was no such thing as a natural narrative, the nouveau roman could no longer reflect a story without simultaneously reflecting the narrative organization subtending it; inasmuch as its undeniable novelty went beyond the ‘horizon of expectation’ of its early readers, it had to make its encoding explicit, thus reducing its resist¬ ance to their interpretation.

10

The mise en abyme and the new nouveau roman

What is the significance for the mise en abyme of the experiment started by the new nouveau roman around 1970, which is still continuing today? Simply a confirmation of the tendencies I have just described? A more refined use of the same approach? An unforeseen change? A virtual ‘eviction’? Even if at first sight it is in fact impossible to opt for any of these hypotheses, one still has the impression that within the space of ten years the hand dealt us by the narrative has changed, giving rise to an approach that is not the same or an improved version, but a different one - and one that presented the mise en abyme of the 1950s with a stark choice: either to exploit hitherto untapped resources and function in a new way, or to disappear and admit its inability to serve the current intentions of the text.

1

Reflexivity and dislocation (O u)

In order to find out whether the mise en abyme in Oil opted for the second alternative, we must again use our typological grid, bearing in mind the two factors that determine the emergence of the device: (i) the reflexion of the whole of the narrative in one or other of its major elements; and (ii) the diegetic or metadiegetic status of this reflexion.* 1 Given these conditions, one must agree that, despite the echoes and interferences which necessarily result from the way in which Oil elucidates one site in and through others,2 the novel does not

138

Diachronic perspectives

contain any mise en abyme of the utterance - furthermore, it cannot, because a totalizing reflexion and a text inscribed in the ‘place/notplace’3 of space are fundamentally incompatible. Analytical or syn¬ thetic summary cannot make a discontinuous, polyphonic and in part non-linear utterance homogeneous, and must therefore with¬ draw from a ‘multi-faceted book’;4 a plural text cannot make a pact with something that would deny its plurality, and it must therefore banish any reflexion compatible with factor (i) above. Since factor (ii) entails the existence of the enunciative mise en abyme, the question is obviously whether the utterance of the enun¬ ciation of the utterance which occurs in Ou is in line with this factor, or whether it presents a contrary, non-receptive intention. Here again, the answer is clear: since the subject of the enunciation is not a character in a narrative taken on by Michel Butor, but rather Michel Butor intervening as the author5 to reflect his activity within the text, this subject is extradiegetic - and hence does not in any way go beyond its narrative sphere. It therefore follows that the meta¬ enunciation to which Od intermittently resorts cannot constitute an enunciative mise en abyme in the sense that I have always used this term.6 One must not, however, rush to conclude, from these initial nega¬ tive points, that Ou has purely and simply rejected the mise en abyme. One must rather recognize that it does use it elsewhere. One can show, for instance, that Ou reflects the qualities of its own text in its description of the monuments of Angkor: The first characteristic of the monuments of Angkor, apart from being buried away in the tropical forest, is the sublime expansiveness of the ghost town whose homes they enliven. Here, all is composed, prepared, transitional, reverberative and resonant. Each monument corresponds to another, and is linked to other ones, as is shown particularly clearly on the map, where they are aligned on immense axes and, in the ruins themselves, by the use of elegant access roads ... (p. 47)

that it reflects the activity and aim of its producer through the use of the Shalakos and the Marrow heads: Who are the Shalakos? The Warriors defend the house at ground level against their enemies; the masks around the Long Horn watch over the house of the universe. The six giants expand the house of

The mise en abyme and the new nouveau roman

139

man to the proportions of the house of the universe, they give it roots in all six directions; moreover, they establish the village as the com¬ municating middle term between the renewable universe and the six new houses throughout the village where they dance, renewing the village itself thereby ... (p. 372; cf. also p. 380)

that it reflects the always inadequate and always developing recep¬ tion of the novel: The verses that run throughout the text, like running water under ice, can only be a very distant reflexion in the mirror of a traveller of a masterpiece that has hardly begun to be studied, for although there is already a considerable amount of ethnographical literature on the Zuni and on the Shalakos in particular, the singularity of this spectacle, its simultaneous appearance in eight different scenes, has hitherto so disoriented observers that they have only been able to describe numerous separate details of it ... (p. 340)

that it reflects its telos, which appears, through the myth of the foun¬ dation of the Zuni tribe, as the search for a central, utopian place where the world and language can be anchored: I went out I looked in all directions north-west south-east direction of the dawn damp breath of the west wind I imitated then I attained the place called gushing water from the very beginning my father said to me you are there, (p. 318)

But despite these examples of mise en abyme, one must ask why they seem less productive in Ou than they were in L ’Emploi du temps. There are four possible reasons for this functional attenuation: 1 2 3

the mises en abyme in Ou are cryptic, not clearly demarcated, and are therefore difficult to isolate and rarely compel attention; they function in a referential text, whereas the mise en abyme is designed to operate in the fiction; they lose some of their raison d ’etre in a book that challenges its own unity by its typographical design and challenges its linearity by the use of non-discursive texts;

140 4

Diachronic perspectives

finally, they suffer on account of the disappearance of the mise en abyme of the utterance, in that this disappearance weakens the reflexive system itself.

Is this attenuation of the device characteristic of the new nouveau roman as a whole? On the contrary, it seems that outside the Butorian novel the use of mise en ahyme is excessively vigorous. One book in particular takes it to ultimate heights - Ricardou’s Les Lieux-dits.

2

Total reflexion (Les Lieux-dits)

If this work is a veritable godsend for my study, this is because it conforms absolutely to a formula not adopted by any previous text. This formula has a double nature and can be expressed as follows: ‘the whole mise en abyme’ (which explains the exhaustive panoply of examples exhibited by the novel, and the impression it gives of being a ‘compendium’ of the device); ‘and nothing but the mise en abyme \ since the narrative takes narcissism as its principle and its smallest elements seem ‘to belong to a sort of mathematics of reflexion that determines everything, through which everything passes.’7 What is the role of elementary mise en abyme and of the types in a book whose ambition is to embrace the phenomenon of reflexion in its totality? What is the link between the ubiquitous mise en abyme and the fundamental theoretical debate set out and judged by the text?8 These are the points we must consider. An unsurprising answer to the first question would be simply to note that Les Lieux-dits gives saturation coverage of all of the var¬ ieties of duplication we have noted. No less remarkable than this exhaustive approach is the tendency of the elementary reflexions in the book to divide into two groups: the vast majority existing in a pure form, exclusively as metaphors of the rules governing the func¬ tion of the narrative; and the rarer examples - which have a wider compass - constituting reflexive nodes, the prime example being the vast canvas in the musee Crucis. Explicitly designated as an allegory, this picture (which is also a model) does not just occupy the centre of the exhibition hall (‘salle

The mise en abyme and the new nouveau roman

141

d’exposition')-, it also has the remarkable ability to provide a syn¬ thesis of the eight landscapes that surround it. Now these eight views have a precise function: they provide the programme both for the ‘tourist’ itinerary of the characters (the eight ‘lieux-dits’ ‘aforesaid places’) and for the general composition of the novel (the eight corresponding chapters). The representation that duplicates them9 is presented to the reader as follows: In the centre of the painting, above a ridge with an oak tree casting diagonal shadows on the left-hand side, a tall Calvary cross stands out against the stormy sky. To the left of the tree, on a distant hill, one can make out the tall towers and fortified walls of a castle. Finally, on the far left, in the foreground, a soldier in a helmet and chain mail holds the banner in his hand. A breeze furls off to the left the silken fringes of the flag. On the undulating white background, a red Maltese cross appears consequently distorted, (pp. 17ff.)

However, faced with mise en abyme governed by a text that is as yet unknown, the reader is at a loss to grasp completely the relevance of the duplication: unable to relate any figure to any ‘aforesaid place’, s/he recognizes the reflexive nature of the elements high¬ lighted in the description, which were introduced in previous sequences - namely the cross (‘la croix’) in the ‘centre of the picture, the crusader (‘le croise’) ‘in the foreground’, the banner (‘la banniere’) that gives the chapter its title, on which is set the emblem of the crusades (‘les croisades’): the red cross (‘la croix rouge’) on a white ground. Certainly, the reader would have to be well versed already in Ricardou’s concerns to be able to appreciate that the phrase ‘la croix et la banniere’ here functions as the play on words which governs the text.10 But even if the reader were a novice in this area, s/he could not fail to understand that the repetitions and variants this ‘cross’ (‘croix’) is subjected to in such a limited textual space mark it as the focus of the text and as its main impulse;11 further, once s/he learns that the phrase ‘croix de par Dieu’ is ‘an exact synonym of “alphabet”’ (p. 109 - ‘etre a la croix de par Dieu’ meaning (literally and metaphorically) ‘to be still learning one’s ABC’), s/he will be certain that the cross is the principle on which the narrative is based and that by placing it reflexively at its centre, the intention is to revitalize the original sense of the word ‘literature’12 to acknowledge as its only basis the material which produces it.

142

Diachronic perspectives

The continuation of the description is no less instructive: The right half of the painting is more simple: no soldier, no walls, no cross. A range of three solitary, distant hills. On the slope, their veg¬ etation - a few trees towards the summit standing out among anony¬ mous greenery - is being ravaged by fire. At ground level, there are many patches of glowing red. Occasion¬ ally, curling columns of fire rise up, quickly obscured by the dark clouds that issue from them. Thus, with trunks of flame and smoky foliage, the magnified, mobile and ultimate image of the destroyed forest rises up. Rising diagonally, the smoke turns pale, changes on the left-hand side to form ponderous white storm clouds across the sky. Below, between the cross and the inferno, the area that is already destroyed appears, with ashes, wisps of smoke and branches burnt to a cinder. There is therefore an undeniable double contradiction. While the fire spreads from left to right up the slope of the hill, the breeze, as shown in the direction of the smoke, blows the other way. It therefore is at variance with the steady breeze that, at the other side of the picture, furls the flag out to the right. ‘This excess of apparent inadvertencies proves that the painting is an allegory, doesn’t it?’ ‘No doubt, sir’, replies the guide, (pp. 20ff.)

Without pondering on the textual modulations of the ‘red cross’ - here ‘the cross and the inferno’ - or on the themes these modu¬ lations give rise to, one can dwell on the stress laid by the latter para¬ graphs on the ‘double contradiction’. We learn that this proves that the painting is an allegory. Does this mean that it proves that the canvas is reflexive, and should be read as a re presentation of the conflict that the text both instigates and hosts? This is certainly the case; but one is also quite justified in inferring that the ‘double contradiction’ is an allegory ... of the raise en ahyme itself, once it is recognized that ‘the contradiction of the movements of the banner and of the smoke’ designates ‘a mirror effect’ (p. 33). A further, related duplication is even clearer: the packet of Pall Mall cigarettes described appropriately (and contradictorily) to ... Cendrier (the French for ‘ashtray’). This description, introduced by a phrase that, in Les Lieux-dits, is a herald of duplication, also shows its reflexive character in the explicit use of the word ‘reflexions’ (‘reflets’), in the mention of a

The mise en abyme and the new nouveau roman

143

resonant ‘band of cellophane’ and, at the end, in an explicit reference to heraldry. Besides providing, in its colouring, an inverse counter¬ part to the famous red cross on a white banner,13 the cigarette packet (which is compared to a page of writing) bears four inscrip¬ tions {pall mall famous cigarettes, in hoc signo vinces, wherever particular people congregate, and per aspera ad astro), as well as the ‘central coat of arms’ which is described in particular detail: On either side of an oval shield, which is surmounted by a crowned helmet looking left, two lions rampant, also crowned, face each other, holding the shield in their claws. Symmetrically, this sets their re¬ spective left and right sides against one another. Their hind legs are supported on a device set on a curling strip of material: in hoc signo vinces, ‘by this sign thou shalt triumph’. According to legend, shortly before a decisive battle, a cross appeared in the sky, along with these four words, above Constantine’s army. It is said that he inscribed the sign on his standard, and triumphed. If the visitor devotes sufficient attention to this emblem, it will be noted that a number of differences challenge the apparently identical symmetry of the two supporting lions. The one on the right is larger than its counterpart, and has a more impressive mane. Despite the heraldic idealization, all the indications are that the beast on the left is not in fact a lioness: its pointed ears would imply some other species, such as a panther. It is therefore justifiable to wonder if, far from supporting the central shield, each of the ferocious pair is not in fact trying to tear it away from the other. In the context of this opposition, the obvious superior¬ ity of the animal on the right is apparently balanced by the success of the one on the left in holding the attention of the helmet. Moreover, it should not be overlooked that, for convenience, the design has reversed the usual disposition of the coat of arms: heraldry assumes, naturally, that the shield is seen from behind. For right we should therefore read sinister, and for left, dexter, (pp. 83ff.)

In order to avoid erroneous interpretations and to ensure that the meaning of the description does not remain obscure, it is followed in the text by an extensive explanatory gloss (pp. 86ff.). Primarily explaining the number symbolism the reader might not have the key to, this commentary tells us that the ‘battle’ corresponds to the book itself, whose construction is on an eight-by-eight principle and which ‘has been divided into eight chapters with eight equal sec¬ tions’ (p. 138), and confirms that the multiple oppositions instigated

144

Diachronic perspectives

by the duplications do symbolize the tension between realism and poetry, tourist guide and novel. And yet, does this clarify the whole of the mystery? On one essen¬ tial point at least the explanation of the allegory does not cover all of the allegory. For it is left completely to the reader to discover that by mentioning the instrument of victory the mise en abyme foretells the outcome of the battle. The prediction, in fact, is clear: if victory will go to the camp inscribing ‘croix de par Dieu’ on its banner, it is certain that the novel will win the day. But another indisputable lesson is no less obvious. What distin¬ guishes it from the last one is that it discerns the primary referents of ‘hoc signo’ in the packet of Pall Mall cigarettes and its numerous ‘mirror effects’. The conclusion is clear: since it proclaims its own renown, the miracle-sign is autonymous and is primarily applicable to duplication, which represents itself again through the sign. What should we make of these two readings? Should we choose between them and declare ourselves for language, or alternatively for reflexion? On full consideration, it seems rather that writing and duplication have a common cause: or, rather, that carrying the banner of language comes down in terms of the text to fighting under the sign of the mise en abyme. The following (reversible) theorem therefore follows from the above sequence: the triumphant self-affirmation of language coincides with the mobilization of duplication. This clarifies many things: is not the book which is dedicated to Ed. Word constantly trying to prove the validity of this precept? Insisting as it does on the ability the mirror and the coat of arms share to reverse symmetrically what they represent, does the book not suggest that duplication is providential, in that it can reverse the function of representation and emphasize that the text only relates to itself?14 This certainly seems to be the lesson of The Garden of Oppo¬ sitions. Although the room for manoeuvre allowed to this textual opponent seems limited by its occurrence late in the book (in the pen¬ ultimate chapter), it carries the contradiction so effectively to the heart of the diegesis that it telescopes the earlier and later parts of the story15 and manages to challenge its apparently secondary structural importance by establishing a domination over the whole of the field it derives from. Abetted by a generic and stylistic shifting, the revolt

The mise en abyme and the new nouveau roman

145

by this fragment against the whole that contains it presupposes a two-stage strategy: ‘on the one hand, the appropriation by a narra¬ tive of a phrase or a vocabulary; on the other, using such phrases or such a vocabulary in another narrative, in order to subvert it.’16 Once we start dealing with a pseudo-diary in which each day is dis¬ tinguished from the previous one by having the term ‘today’ written at its head, this term has only to irradiate into the primary narrative for the latter to become a satellite narrative; conversely, in order to undo this attempt to annex the primary narrative, the embedded (and supposedly earlier) narrative has only to quote textually from the former, thereby admitting its dependence on it. One begins to realize that this mutual seizure by one narrative of the other can only lead to the denaturalization of the text and the loss of any sense of origin. For is it Father La Fourmi (author of the opuscule) who is imitating his predecessor (the author of the book itself), or vice versa? The question cannot be answered, since the introduction of this reciprocal relationship itself precludes any distinction being drawn between cause and effect, the original and the apocrypha. However, it is not only the interchange between the macrocosm and the microcosm that gives the text its internal vacillation. It is linked to type III also in that it is a thing in and for itself, and is ex¬ clusively preoccupied with expressing itself. This surely is what emerges from the text’s own exegesis of The Garden of Oppositions. If it asserts that ‘the lines of red and blue ants, their feet going beyond the word-axis on either side, were just a metaphor of the text, according to Crucis’ (p. 136), is not the implication that the ants of the primary narrative should also be interpreted in this way as should, by extension, all of the elements of the fiction? To say that ‘all of it... is always just metaphor (p. 78, cf. also p. 160), is in fact to signify that the only adequate reading of the book is one that takes everything as figurative, according to the principle that ‘the fiction is an immense metaphor of its own narration’,17 or, similarly, that ‘great narratives18 are marked by the fact that the fiction they propose is nothing more than the dramatization of their own operation. ’ Les Lieux-dits is a fine example of such a narrative, worthy in this respect of Mallarme and Roussel,19 and is ‘an allegory of itself’ in that its themes are provided by the reflexions of its materiality and by the way it incessantly turns back on its own processes. The way the fiction defines the text where it takes shape,

146

Diachronic perspectives

and the various ways in which the fiction is engendered, explain that alongside its great reflexive constellations,20 the novel also contains in turn a mise en abyme of the mise en ahyme itself (pp. 10ff.), a ‘fable of the anagram’ (p. 39), a ‘parable of the linguistic distinction between paradigm and syntagm’ (p. 41), a textual rule whereby ‘birds of a feather flock together’ (ibid.), a symbolism of thematic recurrence (pp. 49 and 91ff.) or of transplanted functions (p. 57), a theory of metaphor (p. 66), two definitions of Rousselian fabrication (pp. 87ff. and 150ff.), an essay on the theme, the operators and the scope of the book itself (pp. 107ff.) and an explanation of the draughtboard that serves as its grid (p. 138). I shall not embark on an analysis of all the different metatextual mises en abyme, but taking the most important one (p. 107ff.) as an example, we can note that it takes the form of a bookseller who only sells books ‘to fulfil a metaphor’ and introduces himself as an ‘allegory of the writer’. On the subject of this double of the writer, the enunciative mise en abyme is sustained by the metatextual mise en abyme and not vice versa, for the important thing is not to reveal, by some artifice, the identity of the author, but conversely to intro¬ duce his stand-in as a function of the text, a pure paper-being:21 ‘In short,’ said Olivier, ‘your perfect erudition would be able to offer us an infinite guide to the book.’ ‘Certainly.’ ‘So much so that in a thoroughly distorted way (the scope of which is just dawning on me) all of the guide’s activity is irredeemably enclosed within the novel. ’ ‘Exactly.’ ‘One might therefore conclude that the whole of the doctrine whose roots you are showing us is merely an emanation of the novel itself in its battle to impose its language and its fiction on the guide and on objects. ’ ‘Perhaps.’ ‘Thus you, Mr Epsilon, here before us in your store of books, were always just the invention of a book ...’ ‘That is logical ...’ ‘And we, logically (as you have speciously tried to imply), were two travellers emerging from some formal mythic conflict. Well, far from being convinced by this outrageous argument ...’. (pp. 114ff.)

This revolt of characters wanting to be people in their own right

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(in the spirit of Don Quixote) seems like the last effort of the guide who, knowing himself to be condemned, tries a stalling tactic to delay the victory of the novel. This victory of language has been not just announced, but also prepared from a distance by the mise en abyme: by continually short-circuiting the representative function and showing that the text is not the expression of an author, it has freed the novel from any external dependence. Thereafter the in¬ escapable conclusion is that the novel has generated itself and the question is whether the mise en abyme has played an active part in this self-generation. This question can only be approached by asking another one: if the text presents itself as an area of transformation between two blanks, where and how does it start? Is there a basis on which it builds its production? Or is it created ex nihilo? The latter hypothesis is obviously incompatible with the declared intention of the book: so, apparently, a basis must exist, since nothing will come from nothing. But, on the other hand, can any anterior entity exist if the text truly inaugurates itself? This apparent paradox can be solved: ‘since nothing can be taken as the basis, the basis must be the world “nothing”’22 in La Prise de Constantinople. In Les Lieux-dits, the basis is the material equivalent of ‘nothing’, namely the ‘massive sedimentations of whiteness’, the ‘clouds’ evoked by the virgin page. Thus we observe the text originating from the nomination of its primary material, and forming itself by refracting its own process in other words, producing itself by a series of duplications. Let us consider again its first sentence: ‘Under the clouds, this sombre crest hardly crossed, the whole land sets out its reflexions below.’ According to Ricardou, this opening contains no fewer than three superimposed mises en abyme: The first is a figure of the text itself: the clouds reflect the white page above the beginning of the text; the sombre crest alludes to the first line of writing at the top of the text. The second relates to one of the aspects of the narrative, which is notable for introducing, in a series of adventures, a sort of philosophical conflict that opposes those who believe that things precede words, and those who think that words are the origin of things. The opening sentence can therefore be read in a second way, related to this conflict: it is from the heights of the text that one sees things. The third presents the mise en abyme itself, one

148

Diachronic perspectives

of the elements of the text, in miniature, as if coincidentally: ‘the whole land sets out its reflexions below. ’2^

But this is not all: once started, the process is inexorable since: The third raise en abyme, in that it defines the land as dispensing raises en abyrae, i.e. as an image of the text itself, allows, in an identical way, a fourth, which is the reverse of the first, the argument of the other side in the philosophical conflict which follows: it is from the heights of things that one sees the text. And all the evidence in this first sentence is that this transplanting of functions will be a contin¬ uing process.24

This commentary reveals the essential definition of the activity of the text, namely that it writes itself by reading, and, so to speak, by counter-reading, itself. Feeding on the oppositions it generates, it grows by a process of multiple and continual fission and of reflexive movement to and fro between the novel and the guidebook, the ‘nar¬ ration’ and the ‘fiction’. In fact, There is not a simple mirror relationship between the fiction and the narration, but rather an ever more refined dialectic, which becomes subtler and resists any efforts to immobilize it. The overall strategy is therefore clear. Clearly, self-representation demolishes the idea of representation. Any attempt the fiction makes to represent the nar¬ ration that creates it can only preclude it from representing the world. But, as we have seen, this self-representation is not static. Continually distancing itself further from naturalism, its very activity, curiously enough, questions its activity. By always producing shifts and new impulses, it produces its opposite, metamorphosing the self it is representing. Another, paradoxical precept can be posited: precisely by its self-representation the text transforms itself.25

If this continuous shuttling between two (virtually) parallel mir¬ rors makes one think of type II,26 this reinterpretation - which makes this movement practicable - clearly and spectacularly con¬ firms the conclusions indicated by my earlier analysis (which, in any case, are contained in nuce in the book’s watchword); namely that the text cannot be the sum and product of continual raises en abyme without the nature of the mises en abyme themselves being com¬ promised. Making a generalized use of duplication precludes it from reflecting the totality of the text, forces it to be read in a different way, and removes it from consideration under our strict definition of

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149

the mise en ahyme. But before turning to consider whether the pro¬ found transformation of the concept that emerges in Les Lieux-dits goes hand in hand with a shift in, or a remodelling of, the concept in Ricardou’s theory of the mise en abyme, we must ask whether innovations in Robbe-Grillet and Simon also mark a break in the history of our device. Is it really changing, or only appearing to do so? This is the question now coming into focus, to which my last two analyses will broadly try to sketch out an answer.

3

OUROBOROS AND KLEIN’S SNAKES

(PROJET POUR UNE REVOLUTION A NEW YORK)

The breakdown, in this Projet, of what one might call the ‘digest of the plot’ brings us straight to the heart of this question. This crisis derives from a system of incompatible variants whose introduction blurs the logical, causal and temporal progression of the story told, renders the elements of the plot ambiguous, and, therefore, makes it impossible to comprehend the fiction within a global summation: a narrative in which ‘anecdotes’ thrive and become ‘a “game” in the fullest sense’27 is too contradictory an entity to lend itself to any reduction. Should we conclude that the fictional mise en abyme is condemned simply to disappear in these new narrative circumstances? It is rather the case that, in order to remain effective, it has henceforth to choose between a broad duplication which is, however, limited to the thematic level alone, or a restricted ‘reprise’ of events (a variant), which can, however, also encompass the whole narrative. The first mode of operation is the one chosen in the ‘ideological session’ of pp. 37ff. A veritable convergence of reflexions, this semiserious, semi-burlesque episode would repay detailed study since it in turn reflects: the agents of the book’s reception (the impossibility of specifying

the public, whose anonymity is a strict counterpart of the novelistic revolution which is underway);28 the mise en abyme (notations of time betraying the ‘untimely’ character of the (current) retro-prospective reflexion); the functional principle (allowing each character to change into

150

Diachronic perspectives

the subject or the object of the narration and to assume without warning a detachable personal pronoun); the text (the bringing out of some characteristics of its syntax, its rhetoric and its vocabulary); the subject of the enunciation (‘making present’ the narrative agency in the form of three undifferentiated actors reciting their role, purely mechanically); the theme (discussed in a dissertation whose three sections29 each develop an aspect of the exemplary crime perpetrated by the novel); the intention of the book (the invitation to comprehend that the aim of the Projet is simultaneously to resolve, in a textual revolution, the fundamental problems of writing, and to produce, by discussing them, a ‘general catharsis of the secret desires of contemporary society’ (p. 154) - hence the double reading, ‘Ricardou-esque’ on the one hand, ‘Aristotelian-Freudian’ on the other, justified by the ‘notion of the metaphorical act’;30 and the narrative’s power of invention (the fictionality of the story told revealed by the thematizing of the inductive capacity of words and images). But rather than undertaking a thorough analysis of these various elementary mises en abyme, our investigation will be better served, I think, by concentrating on a remark suggested by the relation between the fiction and the reflexive sequence itself. Since they both (partially) escape from their respective textual space, intervening on foreign territory with a different status and with different spatiotemporal co-ordinates,31 is it not also the case that the mise en abyme too enters into the ‘game’ of the text, and becomes ludic (i.e. aporetic) in its own way? To confirm this, let us turn to the other two great reflexions in the Projet, the ‘audio tape’ and the ‘detective novel’. These duplications, which both use the literal reprise of certain other sequences to allow the narrative to ‘invaginate’ itself, do give the impression of being orifices in which the narrative is engulfed and turns itself inside out, like a glove: At that moment, as I’m still searching through the book, turning the pages almost at random, for the page corresponding to the illustra-

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tion, in order to check the exact circumstances of the sting and to clarify what aid, or modification, the insect brought to the set programme, I come again on the sequence in which the narrator, dis¬ guised as a policeman, bursts into the house of the young redhead who calls herself Joan. The man has stopped a few steps away from his victim, examining with interest her body, which is naked, save for - as has been said her green leather shoes, her black stockings with pink lace garters, and her little golden crucifix . . . But I am struck by a scruple - if I recognize this fragment textually (and not just as an anecdote, which would prove nothing, similar scenes being found in most novels sold in risque Times Square bookshops), I must have seen this book, whose jacket I have forgotten, before, (p. 93)

And yet there is more here than a vicious circle; only invading the primary narrative in order to withdraw from, and then to re-invade, it, the double spiral formed by the book within the book and the audio tape not only turns back several times on itself, but also benefits from a ‘capture of the narrative’32 to extend its circles, and from a conjunction of its spirals to maximize the confusion; literally having neither head nor tail, the Projet suggests that the girl listen¬ ing to the tape in her room heard the cry she made when she fell to her death - as the (detective?) novel reports - on to the subway track (cf. pp. 132ff.). Note, as does Morrissette, that (without going into complete detail as to the new aspects of self-embedding this raises) this is clearly a novelistic version of the Mobius strip or the Ouroboros snake: continually twisting and untwisting, enclosing the text in its rings, creating indefinite possibilities for the permutation of mise en abyme and narrative, ‘form’ and ‘content’, interior and exterior, Projet goes beyond these reversible structures and its paradoxical typology makes one think instead of Minkoff’s vision of recurrent reflexive circuits33 or, extrapolated from the famous bottle,34Klein’s ‘snakes’ which swallow and regurgitate their own tails in all kinds of ways.35 Although not implying that my theory needs to be reformulated, this insistent exploitation and, as it were, exacerbation of type III is all the more interesting for our investigation in that it is also present in a novel that takes as its theme the conflict between the fictional mise en abyme and an irredeemable textual multiplicity: Triptyque.

Diachronic perspectives

152 5

The end of the totalizing illusion (Triptyque)

Finding the same question in both Robbe-Grillet and Simon, despite the profound differences between Triptyque and Pro jet, we can note that in each case the problem of the fictional mise en abyme is posed hierarchically. To put it in the most general way: given a novel aiming to make its individual elements strictly equivalent,36 without any being privileged in any way, under what condition(s) can it use a device the nature of which is to establish a relationship of domination between the macrocosm and the microcosm, the ‘form’ and the ‘content’, and the subject and the object of imitation? Triptyque's reply proves that there is a solution: on condition that several mises en ahyme are used, and that each neutralizes the disparities between them. This reply could be inferred from Simon’s earlier novels, in the sense that they gave reason for both satisfaction and dissatisfaction: satisfaction because they had already succeeded in using the mise en abyme to reveal as representation the so-called reality being reflected; and dissatisfaction because this was counterbalanced by the fact that they had not yet avoided reflexion acting as a combination of the diverse parts of the narrative and leading to the hegemony of a certain theme. It was therefore possible to see that Simon would try to go further: if the lesson of Les Corps conducteurs was that the creation of a hierarchy and reflexion of reality are unavoidable if one uses just one series and one fictional mise en abyme (see figure 9.1), it also suggested that progress would be conditional on duplicating the series and precluding any attempt to subsume them into a non¬ contradictory totality by bringing into play a reciprocal dialectical relationship between them - in concrete terms, by ensuring that each series is enclosed in and unmasked as a text by a mise en abyme belonging to another series (figure 9.2). This is certainly the con¬ clusion Simon had arrived at, which he would certainly have put into practice in the novel if his encounter with the art of Francis Bacon had not led him, as is well known, to add a third series (the seaside resort) to those initially envisaged (the countryside and the industrial suburb). But this chance encounter was no doubt not the only motivation behind the change of plan, which is also explic¬ able in terms of Simon’s predilection for ternary structures - and in

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terms of the development it allowed towards a resolutely plural text. In my view, the decisive factor was that the development from the binary to the ternary had the advantage of making the interplay of relationships between the units of the text more complex, and replacing rather limited binary oppositions (1:1) with subtler asym¬ metrical relationships (1:2). At the macrostructural level, the sig¬ nificance of Triptyque derives from its balancing of three series, each of which exercises supremacy over the others by containing them in the form of representations (figure 9.3):

154

Diachronic perspectives

Thus, at the start, the seaside resort is a postcard in the ‘rustic’ kitchen; conversely a ‘rustic’ scene becomes an engraving in the Mediterranean hotel room. The text systematically equalizes this reciprocity. A reading of the very beginning and the very end of the book soon confirms this. At the beginning, the countryside has a double domination-, it contains the ‘seaside town’ (the simple post¬ card) and the ‘urban suburb’ (the simple poster): moreover it should be noted that the ‘seaside town’ (inasmuch as it opens the book) dominates the ‘urban suburb’ (in that the poster appears later). At the end, this hierarchy is exactly reversed: the countryside is doubly dominated by the ‘seaside town’ (since it is only present there as the picture on a jigsaw puzzle), which is itself subordinated to the ‘urban suburb’ (since the ‘seaside town’ only appears there as a cinema image). Any attempt to construct a global or dominant element in the book therefore founders on the function of the text.37

This function of the text, in making the representations in it (post¬ card, posters, puzzle, etc.) and the ‘realities’ they represent inter¬ changeable, reveals both as being reflexions of the same shimmer¬ ing moire surface, or (less metaphorically) as pure ‘differentiation effects’ within a text whose mimesis is intended to deny precisely the precedence of any ‘thing’ over its imitation.38 We can now turn to figure 9.3 and emphasize two aspects of particular importance to our study. The first aspect, already noted, is that the fictional mises en abyme in Triptyque cross the strict boundaries of our definition: since each one only represents one of the three places, they cannot subject the whole of the text to mise en abyme and thus cannot qualify as distinct and complete mises en abyme. The second aspect to note is that each of them involves self-embedding - but a partial self¬ embedding that tends towards type II. And as soon as they only embed one of the three elements of the text, they must leave the other two to challenge, ‘externally’, this tail-biting closing of the circle. Moreover, the mises en abyme cannot encompass a series that in turn encompasses two different mises en abyme - namely one that encompasses the original mise en abyme and another that encom¬ passes a third series (that in turn encompasses . . .) without instigat¬ ing the perpetual motion of inclusion and exclusion perfectly and repeatedly symbolized in the text by ‘small, tightly-packed, over¬ lapping circles’.39

The mise en abyme and the new nouveau roman

155

These remarks, however, by no means take account of the strategy of the text in all its complexity: although the framework I have described reveals the essential aspect of the book, it obscures a number of elements it would be misleading to omit. For example, in addition to suggesting that the three units are presented successively en bloc, whereas in fact they overlap and are made up piecemeal and discontinuously,40 it implies that each series only contains two simple mises en abyme that reflect the whole of the two other series. But this is a triple over-simplification. First because the mises en abyme proliferate, take over from, and supplement, each other, reflecting the same series on several different occasions;41 secondly because they are themselves plural or of unstable status;42 and finally because, like the pieces of the jigsaw, ‘their curving edges are designed so that none of them, in isolation, bears the complete image of a character, an animal or even a face’ (p. 224) - let alone of a series. If one adds to this that they are occasionally raised to the second power, expressed in particularly devious tautologies (cf. pp. 42-6), and sometimes involved in the ‘capture of the narrative’ (cf. p. 126), the image of a labyrinth is inescapable as a designation of a text in which the reader loses his/her footing on each page. We should none the less note that the mirrors that cover the vertiginous space into which the novel introduces its reader are all mirrors of the fiction. Giving reflexion an importance it never had in Simon’s earlier works,43 Triptyque uses fictional mirrors as an image of the relationships that create and underpin it. We should mention here the algebraic equations and the problem of descriptive geometry whose object (a triangulation, with a bisector and tangents) and expression (‘Knowing angle ABC show: (i) that surfaces ABC and ABC' are proportional in relation to . . .’ - p. 23) mark it clearly as identical to the problem faced by the author. But relationships and proportions are not alone in symbolizing linking and generation by analogy. The postcard, at the start of the novel, does so too. When Simon writes: ‘the colouring does not exactly coincide with the outlines of each object, so that the garish green of the palm trees spreads over on to the blue of the sky, the purple of a scarf or an umbrella encroaches on to the ochre of the ground or the cobalt blue of the sea’ (p. 7), he announces the multiple overlappings in the narrative. He also implies that the book is articu¬ lated through a series of intersections and joints that are either

156

Diachronic perspectives

rhymes (where signifiers are similar) or metaphors (where signifieds are similar). Finally, he indicates his preference for structures that are overlapping or entangled rather than superimposed on each other. This is confirmed by the jigsaw, the pre-eminent metaphor of the text.44 What characterizes its pieces is, as in the postcard, the non-coincidence of the figures and the individual pieces. The shifts the pieces of the mosaic thus establish between form and meaning implicitly refute Saussure’s famous metaphor of the sign as having a recto (signifier) and a verso (signified). Saussure’s idea was that ‘language is comparable to a piece of paper: thought is its recto and sound its verso: one cannot cut the recto without also cutting the verso’:45 the intention of Simon’s work is to undo precisely this oneto-one relation, playing with connotations, following the signifier where it leads, spreading the power of metaphor throughout, in brief seeing in words ‘nodes of signification’ (Lacan) rather than signs (cf. p. 57). This precludes us from seeing the work of writing in the light of an idea that is inherent in the metaphor of the jigsaw: the idea of the montage. In any case, conscious of this danger, Simon himself puts us on our guard by presenting us with an interminable puzzle and by repeatedly comparing its missing pieces with clouds that ‘slide calmly by, their curved or crenellated contours continually changing, forming blisters, inlets and promontories that jut out, curve in and decompose’ (p. 12; cf. also pp. 13 and 97). The import¬ ant thing to note here is that the writer is not dealing with pre¬ existing pieces, but pieces that are created as the narrative ‘slides’ metonymically by: The conglomeration, which is quite large, seems to have grown bit by bit, without any preconceived plan, as small towns and neighbouring villages grew and joined up, finally creating a disordered overlapping of urban, rural and industrial zones, its arterial routes being first major roads, then passing through interminable suburbs, then suddenly flanked by bright shops, going past churches, town-halls, bandstands, then again, rutted, passing between cinder pavements, villas, small gardens, sometimes even between fields of beet, then becoming streets again, with crossroads, with pointless side-streets, forming a complex labyrinth in a sort of cancerous and anarchic growth that spreads out under a low sky on the flat land, with only the occasional hill. (pp. 62ff.)

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And yet Triptyque does not limit itself to reflecting an everchanging text (cf. p. 45), or to making explicit the laws that govern its creation. It also subjects its producer to mise en ahyme. He is given three roles: the clown, the jigsaw-puzzle solver and a kind of megaphone linked up to a computer. The puzzle solver unmistakably represents the author, since the game that occupies him (described as an ‘assembling’ - p. 221) makes the village described in the opening pages of the book materi¬ alize from nothing. In the clown, one can recognize the same disguised self-portrait, glorious or derisive, favoured by a number of artists since the nine¬ teenth century. But while taking up the traditional view of the circus as a symbol of the artistic condition, Simon transforms it, since his clown is primarily a champion punner (cf. pp. 106ff.), doyen of the double meaning, virtuoso of misunderstandings, ‘master of the mysterious passage’46 - all attributes he shares with a writer who also deals in a ‘double language’ (p. 181), cultivates puns, refuses to distinguish between real and figurative meaning, who is revealed as the master of an (also mysterious) passage between two worlds: a passage opened up by metaphor. As for the megaphone that utters the narrative after having thought of it ‘by means of a brain hidden in its base, itself made out of metal, multicoloured wires, relays and connections’ (p. 57), its only difference from the other doubles of the author lies in its mech¬ anical character, which is worthy of Roussel. This ‘depersonalization’ of the writer was, however, predictable from the beginning: in order to institute the generalized equivalence of the textual elements and to make the text irreducible to the ideology of expression and rep¬ resentation, it was necessary for these three series to have no other relation save those correspondences, or echoes, or interferences, or short circuits, or ‘summonings’ (more ‘credible’ than those deriving from any psychological or sociological theory or system, which can always be disputed) allowed (and even suggested) by what are called ‘figures’, through which, as Michel Deguy said, ‘language speaks before we do’.47

158

Diachronic perspectives 5

From reproduction to production

‘What is the significance for the mise en ahyme of the experiment started by the new nouveau roman around 1970?’ was the question posed at the beginning of this chapter. We can now give a reply in the form of a conclusion based on findings from our readings of the four novels. There are four such findings: 1

2

3

4

In the new nouveau roman, the spectacular expansion of the mise en abyme (Les Lieux-dits, Triptyque) happens concurrently with its modification {OH). The advent of a text that is dislocated and hyperreflexive (Les Lieux-dits) or problematical (Projet pour une revolution a New York) or multipolar (Triptyque) leads to the crisis in the fictional mise en abyme. Far from maintaining its predominant position in the nouveau roman, type I is dethroned by type III, which appears here in tandem with type II. Apart from the fictional mise en abyme, earlier tendencies in respect of the elementary reflexions are confirmed and accen¬ tuated.

Since point 1 can no doubt be clarified by points 2 and 3, I shall concentrate on the replacement of one type by another and the incompatibility of the new nouveau roman and the fictional mise en abyme. To approach this from the point of view of the types: although Ricardou’s shuttling back and forth is not strictly speaking related to type II, since it does not include interlocking, Les Lieux-dits (with its infinite interplay of representations), Projet and Triptyque (self¬ embedding to a great depth) suggest that there is a marriage of convenience between the new nouveau roman, self-inclusion and infinite regression. The value we should put on this emerges if we recall Chomsky’s remarks on interlocking and self-embedding: if the speaker or the receptor is incapable of sending (or of understanding) an excess of interlocking statements48 (by virtue of the finite nature of memory), self-embedding utterances are even harder to tolerate. The aim of the strategy therefore becomes clear: by multiplying self¬ inclusion and inclusion/exclusion within an interlocking, inter-

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dependent series, the new nouveau roman not only derides the ideology of realism and cuts itself off from the world by enfolding itself several times within itself, it confirms itself as an unimaginable reality, a challenge to common sense and a paragon of modernism if ‘modernism begins with the search for a Literature which is no longer possible.’49 At another level of analysis, however, it becomes clear that this aporetic option was a necessary development and that the process of change is to be understood through the crisis in the fictional mise en abyme: or rather it is the refusal to refract the whole of the fiction that governs and explains not only the expansion described in 1 above - since on closer inspection this is merely a proliferation of partial reflexions, and therefore of pseudo-wwev en abyme made possible by this very refusal - but also the crisis of type I and the consequent emergence of a new form of type III, which appears simply as a result of a sequence positing its identity with the book that includes it. If everything points to the change in the fictional mise en abyme as being the factor that, behind the scenes, governs the general economy of reflexion in the new nouveau roman, it is of primary importance to understand the meaning of this change and to en¬ compass the problems it raises. I shall do this indirectly, by making what will seem to be a detour, and pondering whether this actual change corresponds to a theoretical remodelling of the concept, and, if so, paying close attention to the theoretical justification for this change. Since no one has developed the conceptualization of the device or explained its function more comprehensively than Jean Ricardou,50 I shall look to him for clarification of any theoretical reinterpretation. My short account of this will be organized around a specific problem, but one of prime importance: Ricardou’s definition of the mise en abyme. The first point to deal with is how Ricardou relates to the definition of the device in the Gidian canon and to my earlier interpretation of it. At first sight, the relationship with Gide does not seem problem¬ atic, since Ricardou follows usual practice: whenever he deals ex professo with the mise en abyme, he begins by rendering unto Gide that which is Gide’s, quoting (in part) the passage from the Journal. But the problem lies in determining the status of these references.

160

Diachronic perspectives

Are they a return to primary sources, an appeal to an authority, a historical excursus, or a passing homage? It is justifiable to see Ricardou, like other writers, as feeling himself bound by Gide’s ‘charter’, since the metaphors he uses (‘enclave’, ‘clot’, ‘microcosm of the work’, ‘mirror’), the descriptions he uses (‘micro-narrative’, ‘story within the story’, ‘summary’) and the hallmarks of the device as he sees it (reflexivity and inclusion)51 seem directly inspired by the convex mirror of Flemish painting and by the shield within the shield. But although he does take up Gide’s definition, what are we to make of the reticence (which is curious, to say the least) that takes the edge off his references to Gide? In writing that ‘this enrichment of the narrative goes back a long way . . . But in any case, no one, apparently, has described it better than Andre Gide’, and that ‘‘it is generally admitted today that Gide was one of those who defined this device most clearly’,52 Ricardou seems, by his concessive style, to give a curious relativity to what should be an exemplary example, to suggest that the principal document in this area is not the last word on it, and thus to avoid any submission to authority that might preclude innovation. A further remark of Ricardou’s confirms this suspicion: Starting from a notion of the mise en abyme that was more or less fixed by Gide, Fernand Meyer produces a variation. Recent use of the mise en abyme has extended and diversified it in such a way that it must now be considered as a range of theoretical and practical possi¬ bilities, rather than a notion to be rigorously and carefully employed.53

This no doubt means that there is room, alongside the strict use of the term, for a broader and looser definition - and that the defence of Meyer in fact puts forward Ricardou’s own case, since even a rapid reading of Ricardou’s theoretical writings gives one the idea that his definition of the mise en abyme represents a break with Gide’s as much as a continuation of it. This break seems to occur in three areas: (a) By asserting that the mise en abyme reproduces the narrative ‘in whole or in part’,54 Ricardou removes the criterion that could distinguish it from what he calls ‘structural metaphor’55 or from the ‘poetic function’ as understood by Jakobson.56 The resulting extension of the concept is summarized in the following defi¬ nitions: ‘A mise en abyme is defined as when another scene, by

The mise en abyme and the new nouveau roman

161

analogy, is reflected in the current one’; . the mise en abyme belongs to a broader domain, that of textual similarities.’57 (b) To achieve a ‘radical modernization of the mise en abyme\ Ricardou (who always preaches by example) proposes using it ‘so that it reproduces all or part of the story, not allusively, but in its entire literality ’58 or so that it repeats the text of a sequence, changing one word (or one letter of one word). But how can the whole of a story be repeated literally ? Here the mise en abyme is being equated with simple (or trick) repetition. (c) The mimesis that should prevail (and does, in Ricardou) between ‘fiction’ and ‘narration’ also affects the interpretation of the device. If each part of the narrative is autonymous and alle¬ gorical, the narrative itself is thereby subjected to mise en abyme. In other words, as far as reflexivity is concerned, Ricardou is nearer to Mallarme and Roussel than to Gide; his conception of the mise en abyme is at work in the infinitely small (at the level of the sentence, the word, or even of the letter - hence his interest in anagrams) as well as in the infinitely large (the narrative as a whole becoming reflexive) - and the only sure way of recognizing the mise en abyme is in the existence of something that resembles, repeats or is a metaphor of something else. With such a broad - and in a sense loose - definition of the device, it is difficult to see how the meaning of the concept could avoid changing or becoming diffuse.59 As we have seen, this diffuseness results from a deviation of meaning that itself derives from a weakening of criteria. In fact the mise en abyme, in Ricardou’s definition (which goes beyond Gide’s), always lacks one of the two hallmarks I have taken as prerequisites: whereas (a) and (b) above invalidate the need to reflect the totality of the fiction, the fundamental element omitted from (c) is the need for inclusion. And yet it is not sufficient to note that Ricardou remodels the concept of the mise en abyme; we must also clarify why he thinks it is indispensable to do so: ‘. . . instead of continuing to apply [the notion of the mise en abyme ] mechanically according to its original meaning, i.e. to be imprisoned by it, we must transform it by extend¬ ing it so that what it used to signify is just part of a wider meaning. ’60 Why must we do this? Once we recognize that the most basic justification lies in Ricardou’s concern to articulate both theory and

162

Diachronic perspectives

practice and to conceptualize what the new nouveau roman actually has achieved or will achieve, we must conclude that, after a certain stage, the mise en ahyme in stricto sensu must become generalized or localized or (which comes to the same) must dissolve, since the principle of its solidarity with a certain metaphysics or ideology and certainly with a certain economy of the text makes it impracticable for it to survive unchanged. If its abandonment has several possible causes,61 the main one can in fact be found in the evolution of the nouveau roman itself. It has been said that at the start the nouveau roman was conceived as a critique of traditional novelistic forms and an exploration of new narrative modes. In the light of the logic of their own work, and of the theoretical advances made between I960 and 1970, some nouveaux romanciers realized that they could not leave realism behind if they did not subscribe to a kind of writing that was in practice a radical experiment with language. Consequently, laying claim to the idea of writing, as well as to the equally basic ideas of text and production, was incompatible with the retention of the old idea of the fictional mise en abyme. Although it had recently been seen as a challenging and progressive device, it henceforth seemed like the hangover from an outdated practice: how could one retain the mise en ahyme of the fiction when the fiction itself became an interplay of series or a multipolar, contradictory whole? How could one avoid the fictional mise en ahyme in turn subjugating the narra¬ tive after being subjugated by it, and forcing the narrative, as a result of the reflexive pact, to shout louder than the laws of language itself ? How could one avoid the centrism implied by the fictional mise en ahyme making the text hierarchical rather than unfocused, making it stable rather than dynamic, concentrating it upon an ultimate and predominant meaning? By the same token, how could one prevent the mise en ahyme of the text, which the novelist often only achieved at the same time as the definitive text,62 from concealing the adven¬ ture of writing and designating a finished object, when the idea should be to show an unpredictable and doubtless inexpressible work in progress ?63 The nouveaux romanciers responded in various ways to these questions. On the theoretical level, Ricardou has tried to answer these ques¬ tions precisely by generalizing the mise en ahyme, in order to make the mirrors produce the text.64 For the debate, in the final analysis,

The mise en abyme and the new nouveau roman

163

revolves around the ideas of reproduction (mimesis) and production. But although using the concept of the mise en abyme in both these contexts obscures the break with tradition and produces a semantic blurring whose subversive character is arguable,65 one must credit Ricardou for his refusal to accept that mise en abyme is mimetic and for having tried to liberate mimesis from the domination of re¬ presentation. Perhaps we can now appreciate what is at stake in the generaliz¬ ation (eviction) that characterizes the transition from nouveau roman to new nouveau roman. If the former used the mise en abyme to reproduce itself and to assert the autonomy (or specificity) of litera¬ ture, the latter uses it to put the text into practice, to produce itself, reflexion by reflexion, within an unimaginable space.66 In transform¬ ing representation into self-representation, the nouveau roman certainly took a decisive step, but one that essentially did not prevent it from remaining a prisoner to Platonic or metaphysical mimesis; by abolishing the hierarchy between ‘form’ and ‘content’, and the precedence of the reflected over the reflecting work, the new nouveau roman breaks out of captivity - i.e. away from the realm of ontology and truth - and promotes the age of reflexion and of language that Mallarme67 and Roussel had heralded.

Conclusion

Let us retrace our steps. We started from the discouraging plurality of the term mise en abyme and attempted to drag it away from this indeterminate state. Did its popularity derive from the aura of mystery produced by its lack of semantic definition? Or did its acceptance into the dictionary of received ideas itself reduce its comprehensibility while increasing its application? To resolve this, it was necessary to return to original sources and to study the appearance, the reception and the use of the concept in literary criticism. After restoring the meaning given to it first by Gide (that of the ‘work within the work’), we noted that most of those who used it confused in this one term a number of distinct realities, and that these realities, curiously enough, could be reduced to three essential forms: simple duplication, aporetic duplication and infinite dupli¬ cation. Although not in line with Gide’s initial intentions, this threefold division none the less corresponded with his novelistic practice. Rather than ignoring this and maintaining that the term proper only related to simple duplication, we looked for further evidence. This in turn implied that the mise en abyme was a single, but a threefold, reality, with an intrinsic logic to it: our task was therefore to elaborate this accurately in a typological structure. This occupied most of our attention. To accomplish it, we used the linguistic model, which multiplied the questions and levels of analysis involved. Once it seemed possible to break down the three types we had discerned into lower-level elements (elementary mises en abyme), which could in turn be divided into a limited number of

Conclusion

165

individual features (essential properties), it was not sufficient just to list and describe the units at each level: it was also necessary to reveal their respective function, to set out their structural laws, to determine the rules for transition from one to another, and conse¬ quently to show how the presence or absence and/or the mode of characterization of each element governed the emergence of each type. This had a double outcome: it confirmed our working hypoth¬ esis, namely that the mise en abyme is a structured reality, despite the apparent variety and randomness of its actual manifestation; and it gave us an adequately rigorous methodology to enable us to trace its diachronic evolution. Limiting this to the study of the device in its most recent forms, we noted that the transition from the nouveau roman to the new nouveau roman was marked by a typological change attributable to the crisis in the fictional mise en abyme - or rather to its disappear¬ ance as such as a consequence of its generalization in these new narrative circumstances. The decisive stage of our analysis came at the end, as we saw this development/disappearance as an index of the break with representational thought, which has dominated the Western literary tradition and from which the early nouveau roman was unable to emancipate itself entirely. This let us glimpse what was at stake in this whole strategy: through a change in form, we can perceive what is under way in and through contemporary literature. To complete our study of the problem, it remains for us to ask whether the fascinating extension of reflexion in the new nouveau roman itself heralds a new stage in the logic of the text. Although the self-representation dear to the nouveau roman was still too rep¬ resentative for the taste of the new nouveau roman, might the virtually permanent reflexion contained in the latter not appear as something of a stopgap measure to some radical minds? However productive and subversive it is, is this uninterrupted duplication really an escape from mimesis? Moreover, does not this generalized reflexion go hand in hand with the ideology in which the subject disappears or remains at the ‘mirror stage’ ? In fact, the disaffection for even a productive kind of reflexivity shown in recent works by Sobers already seems to show that reflex¬ ivity has outlived its usefulness and that the ‘subject in question’ (Kristeva) is revolutionary not because it celebrates ‘language

166

Conclusion

reflecting itself’, as Mallarme wanted, but because of its rejection of the ‘aboli biberon d’insanite pecore’?1 In fact, this reaction was quite predictable: first because reflexivity itself is a difficult line to hold - even its adherents having performed rather unexpected leaps into the exterior world (into Revolution or Pleasure); and secondly because it is historically inevitable that any excessive tendency (here a literature of the Signifier) produces the opposite tendency (a literature of the Signified, of Reference, of Motivation).2 The problem is, however, to establish whether the rejection of any reflexion has a better chance of breaking with mimesis than the practice of generalized duplication which, for a number of years, has characterized the new nouveau roman. Although we might have reason to doubt this and to agree with Derrida that ‘any attempt to reverse mimetologism or to escape from it in one fell swoop by leaping out of it with both feet would only amount to an inevitable and immediate fall back into its system: in suppressing the double or making it dialectic, one is back in the perception of the thing itself, the production of its presence, its truth, as idea, form or matter’,3 it is already clear that the future belongs to that ‘new type of Narcissus’ that haunts Pinget’s Fable f a blind Narcissus in search of his own scattered limbs, irredeemably condemned to disintegration.

Appendices

A

The three lessons of the mirror

The first point to establish is the equivalence of the mise en abyme and the mirror. This equivalence can be proved by reference to the deeply ingrained habit of using the two terms to mean the same thing. As the follow¬ ing few examples show, it is as if critics have instinctively followed the itinerary that leads from the ‘charter’ to The Counterfeiters - or rather as if, adopting Gide’s abjuration, they did not imagine that mise en abyme (the object of a metaphor) could invoke any other image, when it became the subject of a metaphor, than that of a mirror.1 Michel Leiris comments on his description of the famous cocoa tin as follows: ‘I suspect that mingled with this first notion of infinity, acquired around the age of ten(?), was a somewhat sinister element: the hallucinatory and actually ineffable character of the Dutch girl, infinitely repeated the way licentious poses can be indefinitely multiplied by means of the reflections in a cleverly manipulated boudoir mirror’;2 J. Greshoff, who gives a significantly truncated version of the charter, goes no further than ‘the idea of a mirror placed inside the novel, reflecting it’;3 M. Foucault, after having mentioned the ‘infinite configuration of the mirror’ and the ‘reflexion in the mirror’, notes of The Arabian Nights that ‘the mirror structure is explicitly presented here: at its centre, the work holds up a mirror ... in which it appears as if in miniature . . .’;4 J. Rousset sees in Swann in Love ‘a novel within the novel, or a painting within the painting, similar to those some painters have liked to insert in their works to give them the effect of perspective or depth . . . Proust places at one of the entrances to his novel a small

170

Appendix A

convex mirror which provides a miniature reflexion of it’;5 L. Janvier entitles one of his chapters ‘The abyme and the mirror’, and does not fail to exploit a parallel that for him too borders on synonymy;6 M. Raimond calls ‘those novels in which the hero is a novelist writing a novel and conveniently airs the problems of his art . . . fictions “squared”, games of mirrors, which are sometimes of a byzantine complexity’;7 C. Martin assures us that Gide’s device ‘in a word concretizes the interplay of mirrors, of reflexion, which is essential to many of the most “new” nouveaux romans of our time’;8 J. Ricardou, who refers to the artists cited by Gide, defines the micro-story produced by the mise en abyme as ‘a mirror’.9 We must interrupt this already long list of examples to move on to the second focus of discussion: the wide meaning of the concept. Although some writers, like Morrissette and Genette,10 seem disposed to use the term mise en abyme only in the sense of an internal duplication, it soon becomes clear that most of its users do not restrict themselves in this way. Derrida, for example, varies the meaning he himself gives to the term. In De la grammatologie, where it appears in virtually synonymous proximity to ‘‘supplementarite’ and ‘differance\ the term explicitly designates infinite regression: ‘when one can read a book within the book, an origin within the origin, a centre within the centre, this leads us into an abyss (“abime”), a bottomless and infinite duplication.’11 In Dissemination, the (Mallarmean) practice of ‘writing en abyme’ is equivalent to ‘the squaring of writing’,12 in other words to a writing that self-reflexion raises to the second power; whereas in Les Marges the vicious circle and self-implication are suggested by this incisive formulation: ‘this implication of what is defined within the definition, this abyme of the metaphor . . .’13 This movement from one type to another can also clearly be seen in the literary theorist Todorov. Describing the function of the denouement in Les Liaisons dangereuses, he notes that ‘this sequence permits the duplication of the plot and the appearance of the story of the work’s creation, where the whole of the narrative, like an image en abyme, finds so to speak its own constitutive aspect.’14 One might well infer from this example that mise en abyme for Todorov corresponds to self-embedding, if one could not also read in his ‘Poetique’, in respect of a novella in the Decameron that contains a sequence identical to that of the main story, ‘this

The three lessons of the mirror

171

novella therefore gives an example not only of embedding, but also of an image en ahyme.’15 In addition, it is doubtless worth noting (even if the term mise en ahyme does not appear in this context) that Todorov devotes a whole chapter of his Poetique de la prose to ‘Les Hommes-Recits’ - ‘Men who are narratives’,16 and that this interest in alternating narrators and repeated embedding pays homage in fact to our second type of duplication - the infinite type. We should also note that the narrative, according to Todorov, has only one means of stopping these cascading reflexions: resorting to the device of self-embedding as described, this time, with reference to Borges’s Labyrinths. Since Borges’s remarks are directly relevant to my interest here, I shall quote the whole passage: it is describing the equivocal relation¬ ships some books establish between the fictive world and the real world (hence the use of Don Quixote as an example): This play of strange ambiguities culminates in the second part: the protagonists have read the first part, the protagonists of the Quixote are, at the same time, readers of the Quixote. Here it is inevitable to recall the case of Shakespeare, who includes on the stage of Hamlet another stage where a tragedy more or less like that of Hamlet is presented; the imperfect correspondence of the principal and the secondary works lessens the efficacy of this inclusion. An artifice analogous to Cervantes’s, and even more astounding, figures in the Ramayana, the poem of Valmiki, which narrates the deeds of Rama and his war with the demons. In the last book, the sons of Rama, who do not know who their father is, seek shelter in a forest, where an ascetic teaches them to read. This teacher is, strangely enough, Valmiki; the book they study, the Ramayana. Rama orders a sacrifice of horses: Valmiki and his pupils attend this feast. The latter, accom¬ panied by a lute, sing the Ramayana. Rama hears his own story, recognizes his own sons and he rewards the poet . . . Something similar is created by accident in The Thousand and One Nights. There then follows the passage quoted by Todorov: None [of the interpolations] is more perturbing than that of the six hundred and second night, magical among all the nights. On that night, the king hears from the queen his own story. He hears the beginning of the story, which comprises all the others, and also monstrously - itself. Does the reader clearly grasp the vast possibility of this interpolation, the curious danger? That the queen may persist

172

Appendix A

and the motionless king hear for ever the truncated story of The Thousand and One Nights, now infinite and circular . . . ? And Borges notes, before drawing a marvellous lesson from these examples: The inventions of philosophy are no less fantastic than those of art: Josiah Royce, in the first volume of his work The World and the Individual (1899), has formulated the following: ‘Let us imagine that a portion of the soil of England has been levelled off perfectly and that on it a cartographer traces a map of England. The job is perfect; there is no detail of the soil of England, no matter how minute, that is not registered on the map; everything has there its correspondence. This map, in such a case, should contain a map of the map, which should contain a map of the map of the map, and so on to infinity. ’ Why does it disturb us that the map be included in the map and the thousand and one nights included in the book of The Thousand and One Nights ? Why does it disturb us that Don Quixote be a reader of Don Quixote and Hamlet a spectator of Hamlet ? I believe I have found the reason: these inversions suggest that if the characters of a fiction can be readers or spectators, we, its readers or spectators, can be fictitious.17 The reader will have noted what makes this passage extremely interesting from my point of view: it combines in one sequence our three types of mise en abyme: simple duplication (Hamlet), para¬ doxical duplication (Don Quixote, Ramayana and The Arabian Nights) and infinite duplication (the ‘map of England’). This passion for aporia and infinite regression can be found else¬ where in Borges. But rather than continuing in his exciting company, I shall conclude by tracing the thoughts of a critic Borges clearly influenced. In one of the sections of L 'Image fascinante et le Surreel, M.-J. Lefebve concentrates on what he calls the ‘procedure of dupli¬ cation’.18 But when he states that this device ‘consists in intro¬ ducing into a narrative an image of this narrative itself, in exactly the same way as, in the well-known advertisement, the bottle offered by the waiter bears a label showing the same waiter with the same bottle, and so on, ad infinitum ’, he slips straight away from the first to the second of our types. The examples he gives also slide from self-embedding to infinite regression:

The three lessons of the mirror

173

Such interplay of mirrors also occurs in dreams: we dream that we are dreaming. In a dream one night I saw myself on a friend’s bed - he was in an armchair at the head of the bed. He was reading the paper, coughing and turning the pages noisily. The noise eventually woke me up, and, seeing my friend, I said (still in the dream, because I was really still fast asleep): ‘I just dreamt that I was asleep with you next to me’. In other words my dream contained a dream that was the dream itself.19 But the same thing happens in the classic Chinese dream, quoted by Roger Caillois in L 'Incertitude qui vient des reves, where we see Pao Yu dream that he is walking in a garden identical to his own, but where his servants do not recognize him. Entering a pavilion, he finds himself in the presence of another Pao Yu, who is asleep, but who at that moment awakes and says to the first Pao Yu: ‘I dreamt that I was in a garden identical to mine, and none of my servants recognized me. ’ It is easy to imagine that the second Pao Yu, in his dream, met a third, who had been dreaming, and so on.

After paraphrasing the passage from Borges I have just quoted, Lefebve continues: One could cite other examples: The Counterfeiters, whose Edmond [sic] is both a character and the author; Pirandello’s Henry IV, in which the play within the play externalizes on stage the hero’s madness, and then his duplicity. Needless to say, the device is equally suited to pictorial art. Thus, in Velasquez’s Las Meninas we can recognize, in the painter one sees on the left standing in front of a tall easel, Velasquez himself painting the Meninas: it is only because we do not see the front of the canvas depicted in it that we avoid an infinite series of ‘nested’ meninas.20

It would be superfluous to insist on the slippage from one type to another in the descriptions of dreams, but it is interesting to note that for Lefebve it is a literary text that ‘ gives the perfect illustration of this device’ - namely Tristan and Isolde. Alluding to the episode in which Tristan, in disguise, pretends to be mad in order to relate to Isolde, in front of the assembled court, several scenes from their story, Lefebve comments: Thus the mirror is hung up right in the middle of the text. Tristan pretends to be himself. Like a drunken minstrel, he tells of the love of Tristan and Isolde. Now, if the storyteller, as he relates the story to the king, were to introduce the episode of ‘mad Tristan’, as Bedier did in his reconstruction, the device used in Hamlet and the one

174

Appendix A

attributed to The Arabian Nights would be combined in a single trick of literary sleight of hand.

This confirms the conclusion indicated by my previous examples: the term mise en ahyme is used by the great majority of critics to group together a collection of distinct realities that everything invites us to reduce to three essential figures. The insistent use of the image of the mirror is encouraging: if it has supplanted the heraldic metaphor, is this not precisely because of its ability to symbolize this threefold reflexivity? To content ourselves with a brief demon¬ stration of this, let us return to the examples adduced when we showed that the mirror was often a vicarious representation of the mise en abyme. Do they reflect the same thing, or something differ¬ ent in different cases? Although they may change their nature and capture different realities in each case, it seems that these mirrors have to model their reflexion on one or other of our three types; Rousset’s mirror relating to simple duplication; Foucault’s opening up ‘the virtual space of self-representation’21 and of paradoxical reflexion; Leiris’s interplay of mirrors, conveying endless, vertigin¬ ous reproduction; Raimond’s more sophisticated interplay of mirrors combining the characteristics of all these three types - these are just so many indications that the device, which corresponds to the three most significant modes of mirror reflexion, also reveals a basically triple nature.

B

The novel as ‘poetry of poetry’

The idea of reflexivity, elaborated by reference to Kant and Fichte, holds a central position in the conceptual system of early German Romanticism:1 Kantian philosophy is transcendental (i.e. reflexive), in that it contains its own critique and questions its own basis, and Fichte’s Wissenschaftslehre (at least the 1794 version) is built on the ‘thought of the thought’, establishing that the absolute subject can only asymptotically catch up with itself at the end of an infinite series of duplications, through which self-consciousness continually takes itself as its own object; in the same way, literature, for the Friihromantiker, must also become transcendental by incessantly turning back on itself. This ‘poetry of poetry’ is frequently evoked by Friedrich Schlegel in the Athenaum. To quote the famous fragments 116 and 238: Fragment 116: Romantic poetry is a universal progressive poetry . . .

It alone, like the epic, can become a mirror of the whole world around it, and an image of the century. And yet it can also float, to a greater extent than anything else, between the subject and the object of representation, free of any real or ideal interest, holding the centre, on the wings of poetic reflexion: it can perpetually raise this reflexion to a higher power and multiply it as if in an infinite series of mirrors . . . Romantic poetry is still developing; more than this, it is its very essence to be developing, without ever knowing the possibility of ending. Fragment 238: A poetry exists whose sole object is the relation

between the ideal and the real, which one should therefore call, by analogy with the technical language of philosophy, transcendental

176

Appendix B

poetry . . . No doubt a transcendental philosophy would not have much credibility if it were not critical, if it did not represent the producer as well as the product, if it did not contain, in its system of transcendental thought, a characteristic of the act of transcendental thought. The same is true of this poetry. Thus it should combine material of a transcendental nature, and the exercises that lay the groundwork for a poetic theory of the literary faculty (which one finds quite frequently in modern writers), with artistic reflexion and the fine self-reflexion that is at work in Pindar, in Greek lyric fragments, in the elegies of the antique, and, amongst the moderns, in Goethe - it should represent itself in each of its representations, and throughout be both poetry and poetry of poetry.2 Although these two fragments anticipate Lukacs’s theory of the novel by suggesting that the modern work (contrary to the epic, which realizes it non-problematically) can only tend towards syn¬ thesis by reconciling the real and the ideal, the subjective and the objective, through the agency of a reflexion raised to an indefinite power, they interest me primarily here in that the turning back on the self they advocate implies a simultaneous reflexion. 1 2 3

4 5

of a product (of an utterance); of the subject and of the process of production (of enunciation); of the subject and of the process of reception, and hence of criti¬ cism, which Schegel conceives of as the surpassing and com¬ pletion of the work; of the poetics and the ‘philosophy’ of this work; and of the reflexion of 1, 2, 3 and 4, of the reflexion of this reflexion, and so on ad infinitum, as witnessed by the metaphor of a series of mirrors.3

In other words, Schlegel elaborates (with a rigour to which we are unaccustomed after reading Gide’s approximate remarks) a theory of reflexivity by establishing in his own terminology the very distinc¬ tions that coincide with our elementary mises en abyme - but also by initiating a study of types. His bias in favour of the second type conforms to the romantic ideal, but is also problematic: how can one achieve, in a finite work, an infinite reflexion? But it is precisely this paradox that seems fruitful to him, in that it allows the work to become unending and open - or only to close ironically, by recourse to type III. This hesitation between the two types is sufficiently

The novel as 'poetry of poetry

'

177

characteristic to merit attention, and explains (at least partly) the hiatus between theory and practice in Jean Paul; the fact that Jean Paul’s novels are the ideal incarnation of the novel for Schlegel; and the enthusiastic reception of Don Quixote by all the Romantics. If Cervantes’s novel represents for them ‘a system of elementary romantic poetry’,4 it is first because it contains a philosophy and a critique of the novel; second because its second part reflects the first part and the reflexions in the first part; and finally because by putting the evolution of the genre into perspective in its critique of novels of chivalry and of its own inserted novellas, the text suggests that it is itself only one moment in the infinite history of the unfolding of poetic forms.

C

Mallarme’s ‘Sonnet en X’

Ses purs ongles tres haut dediant leur onyx L’Angoisse, ce minuit, soutient, lampadophore, Maint reve vesperal brule par le Phenix Que ne recueille pas de cineraire amphore Sur les credences, au salon vide: nul ptyx, Aboli bibelot d’inanite sonore, (Car le Maitre est alle puiser des pleurs au Styx Avec ce seul objet dont le Neant s’honore). Mais proche la croisee au nord vacante, un or Agonise selon peut-etre le decor Des licornes ruant du feu contre une nixe, Elle, defunte nue en le miroir, encor Que, dans l’oubli ferme par le cadre, se fixe De scintillations sitot le Septuor.

Quoted above in its definitive version, the ‘Sonnet en X’ has occasionally been interpreted by reference to Gide’s mise en abymed wrongly, since the poem does not have recourse to the device of inclusion, as does for example L'Apres-midi d’un faune\ rightly, since all Mallarme’s own commentaries on the poem invite us to see in it a mirror-text primarily designed to reveal that poetic language is essentially self-reflexive. Let us recall that: 1 The sonnet is a ‘model’, related to a linguistic study Mallarme was planning as a doctoral thesis, in which, in his own words, he proposed an ‘epoch-making view of language as reflexion’: its

Mallarme ’s ‘Sonnet en X’

179

primary aim is to illustrate ‘language reflecting itself’:2 ‘this sonnet, which I had thought of earlier, is taken from a planned study on “The Word”: it is “ inverse”, by which I mean that the meaning, if there is one (but I would take consolation if there were not one from the dose of poetry it contains, I think) is evoked by an internal reflexion (‘mirage’) of the words themselves. Murmuring it through several times gives one quite a cabalistic feeling’.3 2 In the same letter, Mallarme presents it as a ‘void sonnet which reflects itself in every way’. 3 While writing it, he had asked a friend to help him: ‘. . . try to send me the true meaning of the word “ptyx”: I’m told that it doesn’t exist in any language, which would be preferable to me so that I could have the pleasure of creating it through the magic of rhyme’.4 4 Initially, the poem was entitled: ‘ A sonnet allegorical of itself ’. This fourth point immediately clarifies the other three: This poem really has no ‘meaning’, or subject, or philosophy, because it is its own subject, its own image, or ‘idea’. Like the ptyx, created out of nothing ‘by the magic of rhyme’, it only contains poetry, in an essential dose, and does not mean anything but itself: it only speaks of the words it speaks. The words themselves are designed, ‘by an internal reflexion’, to describe only their own mean¬ ing. This is the height of the ambition of Mallarme’s ‘Gloire’: to create a void object, outside space and time, which reigns alone, the author and the world abolished, like God originally, in its own inverse reflexion.5

Let us, however, leave paraphrase behind and take a step forward in our understanding of the poem. The best guide here is Dragonetti, who delineates very clearly what is at stake in the poem.6 Focusing his analysis on the alphabetic unity that structures and musicalizes the whole of the sonnet, Dragonetti shows that X is to be interpreted in the light of Mallarme’s abolition of the Word as the unknown thing designating the original fictional language the poet hypotheti¬ cally recreates; he shows that X is an appropriate inverse symbol of reflexion itself because of its symmetrical form; that it refers to the enigmatic word (‘ptyx’) which repeats it in an echo; that this word, in turn, reflects the poem, of which it is the perfect equivalent, as a ‘total, new word, foreign to the language and as it were incantatory’;7

180

Appendix C

and that, challenged by the two negations that surround it (‘nul’, ‘aboli’), it annihilates the poem as well by showing the essential negativity of both of them as fictions. In other words, by proposing the word, the poem not only puts forward an allegory of itself; it offers us an allegory of the poet, whose absence - whose ‘elocutory disappearance’8 - it celebrates inasmuch as this ‘impersonalization’ alone allows ‘the words to take the initiative’, and leads them to ‘illuminate themselves in reciprocal reflexions’9 - i.e. to reflect themselves ‘in every way’. This mirror reflexion in X necessarily evokes, as I have said, the figure of the crossing. It is therefore not surprising that the masculine rhymes in the quatrains become femi¬ nine in the tercets, and vice versa. The ‘scintillations’ of the ‘Septuor’ (‘septet’) which mirror, inversely, the constellation of the poem,10 scintillate in several ways: apart from the repetition of sounds in the rhymes (‘inanite sonore’/‘Neant s’honore’), we should note in particular internal rhyme (‘au nord’/‘un or’), paragrammatic combinations based either on etymological links (‘ongle’ [‘finger¬ nail’]/‘onyx’ [‘onyx’]) or on purely phonetic ones (‘onyx’/‘une nixe’, ‘angoisse 7‘agonise’, ‘lAMpadoPHORE’/‘AMPHORE’, ‘inanite 7‘neant’, ‘LEUR OnYX’/‘pLEURS AU stYX’, ‘PHENIX’/ ‘FEU contre une NIXE’). A perfect illustration of the ‘thought of the thought’11 of poetry, the Sonnet en X is therefore doubly interesting from our point of view: it is a model of integral reflexivity, and it forms the basis of a poetic theory founded entirely on ‘autonymy’.12 It is also in these two aspects that it prefigures not only the ‘total reflexion’ of Ricardou’s current theory and practice of the novel,13 but also J.-L. Baudry and R. Laporte’s referential conception of the book (although they do not explicitly refer to this).14

D

Metaphors of origin

The paradigms that are used as metaphors for the locus of a meta¬ physical narrative are directed sometimes at a central point at the inaccessible heart of the text, and sometimes at a fabulous scene representing the ‘beyond’. But although, following etymology, the primary connotations of the ‘abyme’ (‘abyss’) are necessarily the bottomless, the very deep, the vertiginous and the buried, it does not follow that the bowels of the earth, the underworld, caves and pits are the places in which the primordial is sited. In the same ambiguous way that the adjective ‘altus’ in Latin means both the high and the deep, the ‘abyssal’ can also choose as the seat of its supremacy the Heaven of Ideas or divine transcendence. We may add that, in its wish to be the quintessential expression of a textual order, the originating reality almost always has to coincide with a piece of writing whose authenticity is unquestionable (a manuscript, a parch¬ ment or an original letter) or with an integrative expression (voice, song, music) that not only institutes the text, but is also essentially melodic; and that inasmuch as the text experiences the absolute it imposes on itself as an absence, its rhetoric must reject it into a post¬ humous fictive antecedence that makes the narrative present appear as a displaced time of irredeemable loss, but also a time of memory, of listening from a distance, of deciphering and of the restitutive (and substitutive) evocation of the origin of which a tomb often serves as a monument. One example should suffice: that of the dead nightingale in Marie de France’s Le Lai du Laiistic, where the remains of the bird that is an emblem of love poetry are wrapped in an embroidered silk shroud covered in writing, and kept like a relic in a case which

182

Appendix D

recalls other caskets in literature. R. Dragonetti’s elegant interpret¬ ation of this1 is that Marie’s writing can be understood as a memorial which, in the after-shock of remembrance, celebrates through its mediating signs, the pure, immaterial and musical voice, now lost for ever, of the fabled lay in which it finds its source and its ‘resources’, its motivation and its inspiration. Although these topoi of the origin of the text well outlast the era of triumphant onto-theology, they are historically fated to become blurred once the narrative no longer has an unequivocal foundation. From being unchallengeable in medieval fiction (for instance La Chanson de Roland), the double text is so badly degraded in Rabelais that its value as a foundation is the subject of singular irony: dog¬ eared and chewed away by rats, the ancient and venerable manu¬ script does not allow a transparent reading, but rather requires the services of a quack translator whose reckless liberties with it are excused in advance.2 The ‘great roll’ that dominates Jacques le Fataliste is all the more useful to the narrative’s power of invention in that it only survives pro forma. It undoubtedly confirms the deter¬ minism invoked in the rhetoric of the text, but this determinism, so to speak, does not commit us to anything: although the writing is conceived as the transcription of an original text, the basic unread¬ ability of the manuscript has the effect of confusing what is trans¬ lated with what is translating, thereby guaranteeing the scriptural freedom of the translator, whose own activity is henceforth ‘object¬ less’. This is why mimesis, while remaining the official doctrine of the text, becomes so void of substance that the extravagant coincides with the norm, the accidental with the essential, chance with necess¬ ity, contingence with reason; why everything is possible at any moment; and why the narrative, through its ruptures, its misunder¬ standings and its abrupt changes of subject, admirably proves ‘ how little we are masters of our own destinies, and how many things are inscribed on the great roll’:3 in truth, the narrative does not know where it is going - in other words, by authorizing a conception of the probable that includes the improbable, the semi-serious, semiparodic reference to the indecipherable manuscript gives elbow room to the most audacious forms of novelistic fabrication, from the point of view of both plot and structure.4 In that no metaphor of the origin of the text escapes this process of secularization, my remarks on the double text could also apply to

Metaphors of origin

183

each example of this. I shall therefore limit myself in expanding on this to referring to the parallel between Dante and Beckett which I develop in chapter 7 of Part II, and to noting in passing that the ‘Siren’s Song’ which Rabelais warns against in the prologue to Gargantua finds another avatar (its last?) in Kafka, showing that contemporary literature can no longer have an unequivocal foun¬ dation.5 The metamorphoses of the transcendental mise en ahyme attest, in their own way, to the progressive denaturalization of the narrative: in giving itself an origin, a foundation, a model or any other kind of pre text, the narrative was trying to legitimize itself or to insure itself, bypassing the abyme, in a sense,6 against its arbitrary basis. Nowadays, certain texts experience this arbitrariness - which representational narratives consider the greatest risk - strongly enough not to wish to conceal it any longer. The modern narrative is conscious that the origin can move further away by a series of uncouplings, and that its practice does not confer authority; it verifies Nietzsche’s aphorism that ‘behind each of his caves there [does and must] lie another, deeper cave - a stronger, more comprehensive world beyond the surface, an abyss (“Abgrund”) behind every ground (“Grund”), beneath every “foundation” (“Begriindung”).’7 The modern narrative, in its use of a writing that refers only to another writing that in turn calls up another without the drifting from one sign to another ever stopping, retrospectively proves that the reflexion of a primordial reality was only, in the final analysis, an artifice of the narrative, designed to disguise its real status. For its part, the modern narrative reveals itself to be without any primary or ultimate guarantee and elects to confirm, as is appropriate, its own initiality. Thus it will be seen that it inevitably makes the origin of the text indeterminate, by only putting forward metaphors for it that are suspect or impossible: images of the centre as an absence, or a challenge to the idea that there is any centre, Gordian knots of tangled or incompatible relationships, an unstable mirror in which the narrative, constantly changing, can no longer fix itself.8

E

Reflexivity according to Roussel

Such a broad subject demands an approach that is restricted, yet reveals the essential: I shall limit myself to the ‘text-genesis’ entitled Parmi les Noirs.1 An embryonic version of Impressions d’Afrique, and a ‘complete elaboration of the problems dealt with by Roussel’,2 this tale is likely to be an excellent touchstone in the search for what from my point of view constitutes Roussel’s originality; re-reading the tale in the light of Ricardou’s study 3 will, moreover, kill two birds with one stone, since it is also (and primarily) his own concep¬ tion of the mise en abyme that Ricardou presents and makes explicit through Roussel. Let us recall, to start with, that the procedure from which the text emerges is ‘related to rhyme’ and consists of forming two bases whose virtual equivalence, at the level of the signifier, generates the widest possible divergence at the level of the signified. Provided in this case by the expression ‘Les lettres du blanc sur les bandes du vieux b(p)illard’,4 this double syntagm, which is arbitrary and stimulating because of its very lack of motivation, makes the fiction operate, in that it challenges the writer to ‘naturalize’ it by moving from one basis to the other. This is accompanied by exploiting not only the opposition ‘ billard ’ (billiard table)/‘pillard (thief), but also the ambiguity of the lexemes ‘lettres’ (typographical characters and missives), ‘blanc’ (a piece of chalk and a white man), ‘bandes’ (gangs and cushions on a billiard table), and ‘vieux’ (elderly and worn). Far from concealing this device, as he does in some later texts, Roussel makes it explicit here in at least two different ways: by ensuring that the two rhymes open and close the narrative, he presents them as

Reflexivity according to Roussel

185

‘the alpha and the omega of the text’ (p. 100); and by taking care that the invention of the second rhyme forms the plot, and that the tale significantly ends by the inscription on a billiard table of the phrase ‘Les lettres du blanc sur les bandes du vieux pillard’, he shows that the fiction essentially consists in the narrativization of the device which institutes it. These, though, are only the two most visible aspects. On a closer reading, we discover that in their echoing, the symmetrical polar rhymes establish a ‘mirror’ composition that subjects the text to their demands and leads it to rhyme with itself. Similarly, one learns that the use of semantic extension, of homophony and of anagrams allows Roussel to riddle his text with ideas reflecting the concepts of ‘lettre’, ‘blancheur’, ‘bande’ and ‘vieillesse’. And so Ricardou is quite right to conclude that by his thematic enrichment, the complex interwoven network between the two sequences tends to be composed of elements similar to those it is its mission to unite as its extremities. Charged with assembling that which resembles, it ends up resembling what it is assembling. Thus it makes itself by showing what it is doing, (p. 102)

But there is more, since the two polar phrases can be understood as the statement and the solution of the type of cryptogram called a rebus. The narrative is therefore the story of its deciphering. It follows that the rebuses of Debarras and of Mme Bosse set out, in the centre of the text, an apologia for its own composition. Or rather each rebus, in its solution, designates the activity which establishes it. (Ibid.)

In this respect, it will be noted that this activity is self-referential, since each of the characters, cryptically, shows the reader only his/her own activity, and that the different rebuses have the pri¬ mary function of being mimetic of the fabrication of the text. This initial conclusion, which is corroborated by other evidence (precise numerical information, which makes the tale a ‘text with a cipher’, the metaphors for the turns and about-turns of the narrative, the allegorization of proper names, the scriptural interpretation of the blacks and the whites), leads to another similar one - ‘there is therefore no element here that does not, in a metaphoric link, relate to some aspect of the functioning of the text. In summary, everything . . . must in this perspective be able to be understood figuratively’

186

Appendix E

(p. 104) - which is soon taken over by a third conclusion, which is more extensive and synthesizes all we have noted hitherto: Far from being a thing through which, as they say (regrettably often) ‘the author expresses his personality’, the fiction, through the inter¬ weaving of its themes, is entirely preoccupied with signalling itself as text. It writes, very exactly, that it is nothing. It is only, vertiginously, that which, vertiginously, tries to show what it is. Always separated from itself by the imperceptible, yet constantly renewed, shift into a new designation of itself, its stability is always deferred. Henceforth, to give it any substance, like a signified to which we only need to assign a comfortable thematic organization, would be to ignore the extent to which, from stage to stage, it is throughout, perpetually, a sign of itself. This it assures, opening up a circularity which hence¬ forth is inexhaustible, if it designates in its writing the process of its own production, (p. 105)

This reading of the text, which Ricardou summarizes in the formula ‘I am a piece of writing’, explains moreover why the narra¬ tive feels it necessary to take as its theme the reciprocal implication between writing and reading, finds it urgent to point to the intertextual network in which it is caught and to prophesy its own ‘reprise’ in the work that will bring it to completion and definitively assimilate Balancier, the fictive author of Parmi les Noirs, to Roussel, the undeniable author of Impressions d’Afrique.

Notes

Preface 1

2

Or mise en abime, although I shall not speculate on this difference in spelling, since, according to Littre’s dictionary, either form may be used, both having the same meaning. For my part I shall spell it as Gide did when he introduced the concept into literary criticism. [This term has not been translated since there is no direct English equivalent (and most anglophone writers would use the French form). The whole of Lucien Dallenbach’s book is concerned with the definition and description of this device: for an initial definition, see p. 8. Tr.] Since part II does not have to be restricted to the literature of one nation or of one particular historical period, the texts it refers to (around eighty in all) range from antiquity to the present day. Such a time-span does not compromise the homogeneity of this study, since the condition for allowing a work of literature to be discussed is, by definition, that it contains one or more mises en abyme. Moreover, it serves our purpose of classifying the mise en abyme by making our sample more representative.

Chapter i 1

Andre Gide’s shields

A. Gide, Journal 1889-1939 (Paris, Gallimard, Pleiade, 1948), p. 41, cf. Journals 1889-1949, translated by J. O’Brien (London, Penguin, 1984), pp. 30-1. [Unless otherwise stated, all translations from foreign texts are mine. I have used some standard translations, but where necessary (e.g. to convey Dallenbach’s precise point) I provide a new translation, while referring the reader to a published source (as here). Tr. ]

188 2

3

4

Notes to chapter 1

The only commentary that has ever been given of it is the short one by B. Morrissette in ‘Un Heritage d’Andre Gide: la duplication interieure’, Comparative Literature Studies, 8. 2 (1971), 125ff. In Le Nouveau Roman (Paris, Seuil,1973), p. 49, J. Ricardou quotes a passage from Hugo’s William Shakespeare that seems curiously to herald the passage from Gide: ‘All Shakespeare’s plays except two (Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet) - that is, thirty-four out of thirty-six plays - show one characteristic that seems hitherto to have escaped even the most eminent commentators and critics, ... a duplicate of the action, which runs through the play and reflects it in miniature. Alongside the storm in the Atlantic, there is the storm in a teacup. Thus Hamlet fathers another Hamlet; he kills Polonius, Laertes’s father, and so puts Laertes in exactly the same situation in relation to him as he is in relation to Claudius. He has two fathers to avenge, and there could be two ghosts. Thus, in King Lear, Lear, in despair because of his daughters Goneril and Regan, and consoled by his daughter Cordelia, is paralleled in Gloucester who is betrayed by his son Edgar. The divided, self-enclosing idea, the subplot that imitates and runs alongside the main drama, the action and its satellite, the minor version of the action - the divided unity - this is most certainly a strange phenomenon. . . . These double plots are pure Shakespeare . . . They are also characteristic of the sixteenth century . . . The spirit of the sixteenth century was fond of mirrors; all Renaissance ideas had two levels. Look at altar screens in churches: the Renaissance, with its strange and exquisite art, always reflects the Old Testament in the New. The double plot is everywhere.’ Ricardou sees evidence that Gide’s text echoes Hugo’s in the re¬ petition at the beginning of the passage, of the adverb ‘thus’ (‘ainsi’), which introduces the examples in both texts. Be that as it may, what is certain is Hugo’s opportune memory of this characteristic feature of Shakespeare’s plays when he wrote L 'Homme qui rit. Cf. below, pp. 58ff. On the subject of the mise en abyme outside literature, see, e.g. J. Voigt, Das Spiel im Spiel. Versuch einer Formbestimmung an Beispielen aus dem deutschen, englischen und spanischen Dramas,

Dissertation (Gottingen, 1955); R. J. Nelson. Play within the Play (The Dramatist's Conception of his Art: Shakespeare to Anouilh)

(New Haven, Yale University Press, 1958); M.-J. Lefebve, ‘La Mise en abyme mallarmeenne et la preuve par X’, Syntheses, 258-9 (1967-8), 81-5; V. Anker and L. Dallenbach, ‘La Reflexion spdculaire dans la peinture et la litterature recentes’, Art International, 19/2 (February 1975), 28-32 and 45-8; and C. Metz, ‘La Construction

Notes to chapter 1

5

6

7

8

189

“en abyme” dans Huit et demi de Fellini’, in Essais sur la signification au cinema (Paris, Klinksieck, 1968), pp. 223-8. Gide’s passion for heraldic art, which was contemporary with his writing of Le Traite du Narcisse, is revealed in his letters to Paul Valery. In a letter dated 15 November 1891, Gide exclaims ‘I read a work by Hello on style. And I’m studying heraldry! It’s wonderful. I’d never thought about it before.’ Valery’s ironic response was: ‘You must be curious seen in heraldic terms. How about “D’Azur au dextrochere d’or tenant une coupe vuyde du meme, ou souffre un monstre”?’ This did not stop Gide returning to the subject in a letter written in December the same year: /More treatises on heraldry’ (A. Gide and P. Valery, Correspondance 1890-1942 (Paris, Gallimard, 1955), pp. 138ff. and 141). Semantically the word ‘abyme’ (‘abyss’) evokes ideas of depth, of infinity, of vertigo and of falling, in that order. Consider, for example, the associations unleashed in this passage from Roussel’s Impressions d'Afrique\ ‘Moreover, these fascinating glances attracted her gradu¬ ally towards the edge of the road, which overlooked an unfathomable abyss (‘abime’), bristling with sharp rocks. Unaware of this sudden vision, Ghiriz did not understand his friend’s terror. Suddenly, without being able to make a move to restrain her, he saw Neddou drawn to the precipice by an invincible force. The unfortunate woman fell, banging against one rock after another, followed as she fell by threatening eyes which seemed to accuse her of having offended the Divinity. Ghiriz leant over the chasm and wanted to share his lover’s fate, and all of a sudden leapt into the void. The two bodies slumped down side by side, joined for ever in the inaccessible depths’ (R. Roussel, Impressions d’Afrique (Paris, Pauvert, 1963), p. 259). So it is not surprising that the word usually has connotations of those abysses par excellence - the sea, the sky, the chasm and Hell (witness Hugo’s L’Homme qui rit and Zola’s Germinal'). A. de Foras, Le Blason, dictionnaire et remarques (Grenoble, 1883), p. 6. Littre repeats the definition (and examples) given in this book. Cf. also P. Menestrier, Nouvelle methode raisonnee du blason ou de Part heraldique (Lyons, 1780), pp. 20ff. In heraldic terms, the figure of the shield within the shield is described by the words ‘sur le tout’, and ‘sur le tout du tout’ when the miniature shield contains a further shield. To quote Foras: ‘ “Sur le tout ” - used to describe a shield “en coeur” or “en abime” in a shield containing

190

Notes to chapter 1 two or four (or more) quarters. This exception [definition] is not at all synonymous with “en cceur” or “en abime”. . . . “Sur le tout du tout ” - used to describe a shield placed in one that is already “sur le tout”. Often the two shields are themselves divided or split’ (p. 408). So what these definitions reveal is that the miniature shield cannot reproduce the shield that acts as its frame, since the latter symbolizes the quarters (that is, the relations - wife, mother, grandfather, great¬ grandfather . . .) of the nobleman who bears the central shield. (Cf. the illustrations in Foras, pp. 27 and 400ff., and the shields within the shields reproduced on p. 94 (the shield of the Rosenbergs), p. 133 (the shield of Denmark) and p. 135 (the shield of the Schwartzenbergs).) Cf. alsoT. Veyrin-Forrer, Precisd’heraldique (Paris, Larousse, 1951), fig. 3, p. 25, and the coat of arms of the Due d’Uzes (pi. XI). The only genuinely ‘narcissistic’ figure in heraldry is the ‘bordure’ - which is an honourable device of the secondary order (cf. Menestrier, fig. 19 of pi. 4 - the shield of the Barbesieux which ‘porte d’or & l’ecu en abime d’azur’ (p. 36); Foras, fig. 76, p. 56, and Veyrin-Forrer, fig. 2 of tableau 9, p. 41). It will be noted, however, that this device is less prestigious than that of ‘sur le tout’, in that it cannot represent either ‘artificial’ or ‘natural’ motifs as the latter can. Furthermore it seems not to correspond so well to the image suggested by Gide, since the border only occupies about one-sixth of the shield, which means that the escutcheon occupies too much space. We might therefore agree with B. Morrissette that ‘the whole theory of the mise en abyme is based on a false metaphor or a flawed analogy’ (‘Un Heritage d’Andre Gide’, p. 128). In any case, I would stress that the main thing here is not whether heraldry should rightly or wrongly lead us to be cautious about Gide’s ideas: it is rather that despite the absence of any unques¬ tionable referent, the term mise en abyme has a single definite mean¬ ing - and this, in my view, is sufficient grounds for retaining this term. [Reference to standard British works on heraldry reinforces Dallenbach’s point about ‘the absence of any unquestionable referent’. The following definitions are slightly at variance with their French counter¬ parts: ‘ “Abisme” (also “Abyss”) - term used to describe a minor charge [i.e. anything borne on a shield] in the centre of the shield but drawn smaller than usual.’ ‘ “Over all” (also “Surtout”) - used of a charge which is superimposed over several other charges’ (J. P. Brooke-Little, An Heraldic Alphabet (London, Robson Books, 1985), pp. 30, 154). A further definition reveals that ‘if a second shield be placed upon the fess point [i.e. the central point of a shield], this is called an inescutcheon ... If between the inescutcheon and the chief shield still another be inserted, it is called the “middle shield”, from

Notes to chapter 1

191

its position.’ The definition continues: ‘except in Anglicized versions of Continental arms, these distinctions are quite foreign to British armory’ (A. C. Fox-Davies, A Complete Guide to Heraldry, revised by J. P. Brooke-Little (Chichester, Nelson, 1985) - TV.] 9 Cf. G. Hartlaub, Zziuher des Spiegels (Geschichte und Bedeutung des Spiegels in derKunst) (Munich, Piper, 1951), p. 98. The remarks that follow are largely inspired by this work. 10 Cf. the famous study by E. Panofsky (‘Jan Van Eyck’s Arnofini Portrait’, Burlington Magazine, 54 (1934), 124) and, on the same lines, the more accessible study by M. Butor (.Les Mots dans lapeinture (Geneva, Skira, 1969), pp. 95ff.). 11 .See Journal, pp. 22ff.; cf. Journals 1889-1949, p. 22. 12 See M. Foucault’s superb description (in Les Mots et les choses (Paris, Gallimard, 1966), pp. 19-31), S. Sarduy’s Lacanian commentary (in Barocco (Paris, Seuil, 1975), pp. 85ff.), and J. Lassaigne’sLw Meninas (Freiburg, Office du Livre, 1973). It is possible that the Arnolfini Marriage influenced Velasquez, since Van Eyck’s masterpiece (now in the National Gallery in London) belonged to the Spanish royal col¬ lections from the middle of the sixteenth century to the end of the eighteenth. 13 In this painting Velasquez no doubt recalled what his old master Pacheco had taught him: ‘the image must come out of the frame’ (cf. Foucault, Les Mots, p. 24), although at the same time he seems to be doing the opposite: making the model (and the spectator) enter the frame. Theophile Gautier’s exclamation as he looked at the picture (‘But where is the frame?’) conveys this sense of oscillation. 14 15

16 17 18

Cf. Jean Paul, Titan, quoted below, pp. 36ff. One thinks, of course, of the way Hamlet is used in the Lehrjahre, and in Ulysses, where the reference is even more acrobatic: during the famous discussion of Hamlet, which reflects the book, the librarian raises the reflexion to a higher power by mentioning the self-reflexive interpretation of Hamlet in Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister. ‘D’offrir a la vie un miroir’ in Gide’s translation (Pleiade). The King, who is perturbed by the performance, leaves in a hurry and Polonius stops the play. In fact, the ‘play within the play’ reflects not only the events prior to the beginning of the play, but also future events. The fact that the murderer in the play is the King’s nephew (and not his brother, as Claudius was) is an indication of this and favours the classic psycho¬ analytical interpretation of the scene, since here one can equate the play within the play with the ‘dream within the dream’ (cf. appendix 1,

192

19

20 21

22 23 24 25

Notes to chapter 1 n. 19, p. 243). There is no doubt in fact that Hamlet’s commentary during the play - ‘This is one Lucianus, nephew to the King’ - betrays his secret desire and constitutes a direct threat to Claudius, who recognizes this. But apart from the fact that Gide would hardly have remembered such minute details, the emphasis in the ‘play within the play’ is on the crime committed by Claudius. All Hamlet’s explicit statements show this - for example, in his monologue at the end of Act II: ‘I’ll have these players/Play something like the murder of my father/Before my uncle’, and when he says to Horatio (Act III, scene ii) ‘There is a play tonight before the King;/One scene of it comes near the circumstance/Which I have told thee of my father’s death.’ If this were not the case, the scene with the performance would lose all its dramatic justification. It would be pure exhibitionism on Hamlet’s part and would not disconcert the guilty parties. Thus Wilhelm Meister has to resort to multiple revelatory reflexions: besides the ‘Puppet scenes’ (Book I) and the ‘festivities in the castle’ (Book III), there is also the performance of Hamlet (Book V), the ‘Bekenntnisse einer schonen Seele’ (Book VI) and the portrait of the ‘King’s son’, which appears throughout the book and symbolizes the hero’s aesthetic education. Cf. below, pp. 68ff. Journal, pp. 40ff., cf. Journals 1889-1949, translated by J. O’Brien, pp. 29-31; my italics. Considering the importance of this context, it is astonishing that it is so rarely quoted - and even more rarely exploited - by critics. It is discussed in exemplary fashion by M. Blanchot (La Part du feu (Paris, Gallimard, 1949), pp. 217ff. and I ’Espace litteraire (Paris, Gallimard, ‘Idees’, 1968), pp. 104ff.), who, however, com¬ pletely ignores the ‘charter’! J. Lacan, Ecrits (Paris, Seuil, 1966), p. 298. Cf. Journals 1889-1949, translated by J. O’Brien, p. 26 and passim, and also The Counterfeiters. Ecrits, pp. 93ff. Cf. also the famous ‘schema L’ (p. 53), and p. 181. Journal, p. 252; cf. The Journals of Andre Gide, translated by J. O’Brien, 4 vols (London, Seeker and Warburg, 1947), I. 218. Cf. also p. 215 (I. 186) and The Notebooks of Andre Walter, translated by W. Baskin (London, Peter Owen, 1968), pp. 52 and 112ff. Gide’s use of the mirror here can be compared with that of other Symbolists. One is, of course, reminded of Monsieur Teste (‘ “I am being, and seeing myself: seeing myself see myself, and so on” ’) and of Lz Jeune Parque (‘And in my tender bonds suspended from my blood/I saw myself seeing myself, sinuous ...’). However, one of Valery’s aphorisms better expresses the basis of Gide’s narcissism - not mere

Notes to chapter 1

26

27

193

indulgence, but rather the attempt to overcome the eccentric move¬ ment from self to self of a subject that is (already) called into question: ‘A mirror in which you see yourself, which makes you want to talk to yourself - this evokes and explains the strange text: Dixit Dominus Domino meo ... it gives it a meaning’ (P. Valery, CEuvres (Paris, Gallimard, Pleiade, I960), vol. II, p. 541). This imperfect tense is an extended echo of the present tense that opens the text, which everything leads us to understand as ‘I can see myself writing’: it changes the scene into the reflexion of a reflexion or, as Gide says, into a ‘double mirror’ - which enables the subject to find himself: ‘I had never since written at this table. These last few evenings I have been recapturing my childhood sensations’ (The Journals of Andre Gide, I. 218). Gide’s bliss here is iterative in essence, because only (self-)repetition can give the obsessive person a feeling of his/her own identity, and it reaches asymptotically the end of a series of reflexions that tend to drain away what was irreducible about the present, making it merely a benevolent double of the past, or, better still, of the earlier past of childhood. On the subject of this scene as temporal reappropriation and repercussion, see A. Py’s fine analysis in ‘Les Jeux du temps, du bonheur et de l’ennui dans le Journal d’Andre Gide’, in Sur ‘Les Faux-Monnayeurs’ (Paris, Minard, 1974), pp. 14Off. The illustrative value of the Notebooks (1890) - not to mention the even more limited value oiLe Traite du Narcisse (1891) - seems to be restricted in that it only fully emerges once we know the external details Gide gives us about them elsewhere. These two Notebooks constitute the posthumous journal of a young novelist engaged in writing (in a barely veiled way) about the passion he has experienced. Apart from the difficult genesis of a work (excerpts from which we can read), they also relate the way in which Walter is reflected by his double who precedes him into madness and death. Unfortunately, what the structure of the work does not reveal is the relationship between Walter and the author. If we are to suppose that he is Gide’s double, and that Allain is the double of this double, where then would be the ‘retroaction’? The fact is that it cannot be found in the Note¬ books, but rather in If It Die .... The retroaction consisted in the exorcism the writing of the novel represented for the potential WalterWerther that was the young Gide (cf. If It Die . . ., translated by D. Bussy (London, Seeker and Warburg, 1950), p. 201). One of Gide’s ‘confessions’ allows us to go even further: the work was conceived of as a scientific experiment (with a working hypothesis, which was to be tested against the character of Walter etc.), intended

194

28

29 30

31

Notes to chapter 1 to demonstrate that the renunciation of love was harmful and to con¬ vince Gide himself and also Madeleine Rondeaux of this. The marriage of a writer as a retroaction to the suicide of one of his characters would be a rather moving example - all the more so in Gide’s case - of the complex relationship between the activity of writing and the desire for the other. In the terminology of Genette, who coined the latter word, by analogy with ‘destinateur’/‘destinataire’ (sender/addressee), to denote the internal agent of reception in a narrative. La Tentative amoureuse, in Le Retour de l ’enfant prodigue precede de cinq autres traites (Paris, Gallimard, 1967), p. 44. This retroaction in Gide is not unlike the use of the ‘work within the work’ by another Symbolist writer, Remy de Gourmont. In Sixtine, Roman de la vie cerebrate (1890), the primary narrative is interspersed with travel notes, poems and, in particular, a novel written by the protagonist (d’Entragues), chapters of which appear at irregular intervals. Besides making the book alternate between the two stories, the function of this inserted novel (L’Adorant) is to transpose the quintessential elements of the hero’s experience of love (the hero becoming the narrator), and thus to make the various ways in which art and life interrelate into one of the themes of the book. At first, the infrequently occurring chapters of L 'Adorant reflect an experience after the event, and limit themselves to sublimating it. But, as the narrative progresses, these ‘satellite’ chapters occur more frequently, and end up having a dialectical relationship with ‘life’ - since they go as far as anticipating it - and even safeguarding it. However, the meaning is rather ambiguous: d’Entragues kills off his substitute alter ego before he has even learnt of his own failure in love; and then, when he does learn of it, he seems less inclined to delight in the autonomy of literature (as a good Symbolist should) than to regret having devoted himself to it, and having been rejected. If he continues writing, it is not without a certain amount of bad faith, since, in line with a recurrent theme in fin de siecle literature (Huysmans, Thomas Mann), it is because of an inability to live that one resigns oneself (not without regret for what instinct would dictate) to opting for the dictates of the ideal: a sort of semi-sublimation. The pun seems permissible because of the context of Gide’s ‘charter’, which itself contains a pun, as I have suggested, on the two meanings of the word ‘subject’: ‘the active subject is oneself; the retroactive thing is a subject one imagines’; ‘the subject of the work itself’; ‘the retroaction of the subject on itself’ . . .

Notes to chapters 1 and 2 32 33

e.g. M. Butor, Repertoire III (Paris, Editions de minuit, 1968), pp. 17ff. Cf. Morrissette, ‘Un Heritage d’Andre Gide’, passim.

Chapter 2 1

2

3

4

5 6

195

A critical heritage

C. E. Magny, Histoire du roman francais depuis 1918 (Paris, Seuil, 1950), pp. 269-78 (a chapter significantly called ‘The mise en abyme or the cipher of transcendence’); P. Lafille, Andre Gide romancier (Paris, Hachette, 1954). Cf. e.g. C. H. Savage, ‘The Ideology of Andre Walter’, L 'Esprit createur, 1 (Spring 1961), 17; W. W. Holdheim, Theory and Practice of the Novel. A Study on Andre Gide (Geneva, Droz, 1968), p. 133; Metz, ‘La Construction’, passim. M. Raimond’s La Crise du roman (Paris, Corti, 1966) has a mixture of influences: although he uses the term mise en abyme, which was coined by Magny, he reads Gide through Lafille. This is shown by his dating the charter 1892, like Lafille, and by note 23 on p. 249. Cf. Lafille, Andre Gide, pp. 25, 113, 206 and 462. Until the important - but fairly late - adoption of the theme by B. Morrissette (‘De Stendhal a Robbe-Grillet: modalites du “point de vue” ’, Cahiers de Vassociation internationale des etudes francaises, 14 (1962), 158ff.) and J. Ricardou (‘L’histoire dans l’histoire’, in Problemes du nouveau roman (Paris, Seuil, 1967), pp. 17Iff.). F. Van Rossum-Guyon confirms Magny’s decisive role in the history of our concept (Critique du roman (Paris, Gallimard, 1970), p. 78, n. 3) and Ricardou has told me that he is sure he first encountered the mise en abyme through Magny. It will have been noted that the term mise en abyme itself does not appear in Gide’s text. Created by Magny, it soon ousted Lafille’s rival expressions ‘composition’ or ‘construction en abyme’. The synony¬ mous ‘structure en abyme’ introduced by G. Genette (Figures III (Paris, Seuil, 1972), p. 242) came on to the scene too late to change well-rooted lexical habits. e.g. Morrissette, ‘Un Heritage d’Andre Gide’, p. 134, who, in fact, takes an opposing view to Magny’s! ‘I owe my first actual contact with the notion of infinity to a tin of Dutch cocoa, the raw material of my breakfasts. One side of the tin was decorated with an image of a farm girl in a lace cap, holding in her left hand an identical tin, decorated with the same image of the

196

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9

Notes to chapter 2 smiling, pink girl. I still get dizzy imagining this infinite series of an identical image endlessly reproducing the same Dutch girl who, theor¬ etically shrinking without ever disappearing, mockingly stared at me, brandishing her own effigy painted on a cocoa tin identical to the one on which she herself was painted. I suspect that mingled with this first notion of infinity, acquired around the age of ten(?), was a somewhat sinister element: the hallucinatory and actually ineffable character of the Dutch girl, infinitely repeated the way licentious poses can be indefinitely multiplied by means of the reflections in a cleverly manipu¬ lated boudoir mirror’ (M. Leiris, Manhood, translated by R. Howard (London, Cape, 1968), p. 33). The other images that are customary in this respect are Russian dolls that enclose smaller dolls, Mexican pyramids that enclose one another, and posters, lids and labels whose designs reproduce themselves ad infinitum. Magny is alluding here to a famous passage from Philip Quarles’s notebook. Since I shall also refer to it several times, I shall quote it here: ‘Put a novelist into the novel. He justifies aesthetic generaliz¬ ations, which may be interesting - at least to me. He also justifies experiment. Specimens of his work may illustrate other possible or impossible ways of telling a story. And if you have him telling parts of the same story as you are, you can make a variation on the theme. But why draw the line at one novelist inside your novel? Why not a second inside his? And a third inside the novel of the second? And so on to infinity, like those advertisements of Quaker Oats where there’s a quaker holding up a box of oats, on which is a picture of another quaker holding another box of oats, on which etc., etc. At about the tenth remove you might have a novelist telling your story in algebraic symbols or in terms of variations in blood pressure, pulse, secretion of ductless glands and reaction times (A. Huxley, Point Counter Point (Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1961), pp. 298-9). Aporia appears first on p. 266, in the context of The Counterfeiters'. ‘One thinks of the famous story of the tutor of rhetoric whose pupil will only pay him if he wins his first case and who, to get his bill paid, has to take the budding lawyer to court. . .’ This anecdote seems to be on the same model as that of Epimenides the Cretan saying all Cretans are liars - or that of the famous, briefer saying, which is no less aporistic - ‘I am lying.’

10 Cf. preceding note. The relationship between The Counterfeiters and Point Counter Point is a matter of controversy: see, as well as Magny and Lafille, E. B. Burgum, ‘Aldous Huxley and his Dying Swan’, in The Novel and the World’s Dilemma (New York, OUP, 1947),

Notes to chapters 2 and 3

11

12

pp. 140-56, and D. Fietz, Menschenbild und Romanstruktur in Aldous Huxleys Ideenromanen (Tubingen, Max Niemeyer, 1969). In my view, Gide’s reticence in respect of Point Counter Point cannot be explained in terms of jealousy, since the ‘development’ Lafille refers to remains (and for good reason) at the level of intention. Unless, of course, Lafille is distinguishing here between the (Gidian) ‘device of the shield’ and the ‘construction “en abyme” ’ (to which Point Counter Point would have exclusive rights)? Lafille’s hesitation in these closing pages is revealing. And bearing in mind, no doubt, Philip Quarles’s more general sugges¬ tions. Chapter 3

1

2 3 4

197

Triple meaning

Gide was not loath to make his views known and would in fact have had many opportunities to explain his use of the device - if only in the Logbook of the Coiners (to which, with a kind of logic, the six-headed author of Rhetorique generate (J. Dubois et al. (Paris, Larousse, 1970), p. 191) attributes the charter). It is therefore all the more odd that after 1893 he does not in fact judge it necessary to re-examine an idea that at that stage he was not far from considering as the key to his work. This silence can give rise to various conjectures. One might infer from it that he thought his note of 1893 was adequate, valid and ne varietur. But this silence could equally well be interpreted in favour of the opposite hypothesis, namely that after that date, his practice as a novelist no longer fitted in with the emblem of the mise en abyme. All the more reason not to speculate on this silence, but rather to consider his novelistic practice, which both breaks and explains the silence. e.g. by the best critic of Gide, G. W. Ireland, in Andre Gide: a Study of his Creative Writings (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1970), p. 107. Paludes (Paris, Gallimard, 1964), p. 17. Again If It Die . . . points out the retroactive effect of the book on the writer: ‘I brought back with me, on my return to France, the secret of a man newly risen from the grave, and suffered the kind of abominable sickness of heart that Lazarus must have felt after Christ’s miracle. Nothing that had occupied me before seemed now to have any import¬ ance. How had I been able to breathe the stifling atmosphere of the salons and coteries, where a daily scent of death was stirred up by all their vain agitation? . . . This state of estrangement (which I suffered from particularly when I was with my own people) might very possibly have led me to suicide, if it had not been for the relief I found in describing it ironically in Paludes ’ {If It Die . . ., p. 262).

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Notes to chapter 3 It goes without saying that I do not use this term in its biographical, but rather in its theoretical, sense. By ‘author’ - or, in C. W. Booth’s more precise terminology, ‘implicit author’ (cf. ‘Distance et point de vue’, Poetique, 4 (1970), 515) - I mean the donor of the book, the organizer and the real enunciating subject of the narrative. The ‘narrator’, despite common usage, is merely the fictive enunciating subject, or, in J. Rousset’s definition (Narcisse romancier (Paris, Corti, 1972), p. 11), ‘the internal agent of the narration’. In line with this bipartite division, which tends to rehabilitate the function of the author, I would say that a third-person narrative does not have a nar¬ rator. E. Benveniste, Problemes de linguistique generale (Paris, Gallimard, 1966), p. 252. Hence the famous emblematic phrase ‘I am writing Paludes', which combines the equivocal title and the variable personal pronoun and can apply equally well to Gide and to his spokesman, whose leitmotiv it is. As witness this snippet of dialogue, which is even more ironic than ‘I am writing Paludes’: ‘ “You should put that ...” - “Oh, for pity’s sake, don’t go on, my friend, don’t tell me I should put that in Paludes.” - “In any case, it’s already in it ...” ’ (p. 94). There are other occasional elements that are signalled by the duplicity of the author or the complicity of a character’s remarks: the botany/ biology lesson Vincent forces on his audience, and the engravings in Armand’s bedroom, for example. The ‘equivalent’ of the story being told, the natural-history lesson takes examples that illustrate the world of the narrative and the laws that govern it: a hybrid or bastard that develops like ‘terminal buds’ (The Counterfeiters, translated by D. Bussy (London, Knopf, 1928), p. 137) even more so ‘those that are farthest away from the parent trunk’ (ibid.); a ‘struggle for life’, which is no less a process of selection in the novel than it is in the vegetable and animal kingdoms; fish from the depths (‘abimes’, cf. pp. 138ff.) that were thought to be blind, each of which, like a focal character perceiving and illuminating things from his/her own point of view, ‘gives forth and projects before and around its own light’ (p. 139): there is no element of this ‘natural’ world that is not simul¬ taneously a metaphor for something in another realm, that of the fiction. This metaphorical capacity also characterizes the ‘symbolical picture of the ages of life’, whose ‘chief value lies in its intention’. But rather than showing how this too reflects one of the main themes of the novel, I shall restrict myself to noting what in my view makes these examples particularly instructive - the fact that neither consti¬ tutes, strictly speaking, a ‘secondary narrative’.

Notes to chapter 3 10

11

12

13 14

15

16

17

18 19

199

‘A novel is a mirror carried along the road’ (Stendhal, recalling SaintReal’s formula, in Le Rouge et le Noir (epigraph to ch. XIII of Part I)). On the mirror as a symbol of the novel in Stendhal, cf. G. Blin, Stendhal et les problemes du roman (Paris, Corti, 1954), pp. 57ff. To do this, it is important not to limit ourselves to Edouard’s Journal: the long and decisive conversation at Saas-Fee is of prime importance for our purpose. Echoing Gide’s own statements (Logbook of The Coiners, translated by J. O’Brien (London, Cassell, 1952), p. 23), the way Edouard characterizes this subject (The Counterfeiters, pp. 17Off. and 189) applies not to the virtual novel, but clearly to the novel we are reading. The remarks on the pure novel (The Counterfeiters, p. 67) take up in every respect those of the Logbook of The Coiners, pp. 3Iff. As usually understood. On Remembrance of Things Past as a ‘novel of the novel’ and a ‘novel of the novelist’, see Genette’s discussion in Figures III, p. 237. It is therefore not by chance that the Logbook of The Coiners is dedi¬ cated to the author of Colere and Journal de Colere (cf. in this respect the context of the charter!), which are fictions in the same genre, and Le Pour et le Contre (which is less so). ‘The illogical nature of his remarks was flagrant - painfully obvious, to everyone. It was clear that Edouard housed in his brain two incompat¬ ible requirements and that he was wearing himself out in his desire to reconcile them’ (p. 174). e.g. on pp. 32ff.: ‘I must be careful to respect in Edouard everything that makes him unable to write his book. He understands a great deal, but he is for ever pursuing himself - through everyone and everything. Real devotion is almost impossible for him. He is a dabbler, a failure. A character all the more difficult to establish since I am lending him much of myself. I have to step back and put him at some distance from me to see him properly. Classical art: “ You both love each other more than you think ” (Tartuffe).’ This correspondence and discordance had already been practised in Paludes, as is shown in the sentence ‘Tityre is me, and is not me’ (P- 57). Raimond, La Crise du roman, p. 249. We should recall that Gide thought initially of incorporating the Logbook of The Coiners into the novel - ‘In short, I see this notebook in which I am writing the very history of the novel, poured into the book in its entirety and forming its principal interest - for the greater irritation of the reader’ {Logbook of The Coiners, p. 23) - and that he

200

20 21 22 23 24

25

26

Notes to chapter 3 no doubt decided to publish it separately precisely in order to avoid its forming the ‘principal interest’, but also, probably, to add a further dimension to the mise en abyme. By taking up for his own purposes the material that, at an early stage, was intended to become ‘in some way “Edouard’s notebook” ’ (ibid., p. 11), Gide duplicated the Journal and thereby drew this sarcastic comment from Maurois: ‘if you were crafty, after such a journey, you would publish not only your logbook, but also the journal of this logbook, and your companion would publish the journal of the journal of my husband’s logbook (quoted by Raimond, La Crise du roman, p. 249, n. 21). As I have done in appendix 1. Which would involve ignoring the lessons of Paludes and The Counter¬ feiters ! Titan, 32nd Jobelperiode, in Jean Paul, Werke in drei Banden (Munich, Hanser, 1969), vol. II, p. 604. Cf. e.g. the ludic explanation of a letter that recalls the famous struc¬ tural slip in La Religieuse: Flegeljahre, ibid., vol. Ill, pp. 20ff. ‘... the notary was insistent that the question of the title of their book be settled: Vult suggested “Flegeljahre”; the notary unequivocally stated how repugnant such a flashy, yet barbaric, title was to him. “All right; in that case let the duplicity of the work be indicated on the very first page, as modem authors do anyway: let us say, for example, Hoppelpoppel oder das HerzThis was the title that stuck’ (ibid., p. 75). Cf. Flegeljahre, p. 62. Note that similar expressions can be found as chapter titles (‘Musik der Musik’ - ch. XXV; ‘Traume aus Traumen’ - ch. XXXVI) and in the body of the text (‘in die Liebe verliebt’, or ‘Heimweh nach dem Heimweh’, for example). In LouisRene des Foret’s Le Bavard we can see the narrative expansion of such a formula, as the narrator, who is condemned to speak without having anything to say, declares: ‘Then it came to me in a flash: what I had been searching for for so long was already to hand. I would speak about my need to speak’ (Le Bavard (Paris, Union generate des editions, 10/18, 1963), p. 149). Jean Paul, Vorschule der Asthetik, ed. J. Muller (Leipzig, Felix Meiner, 1923), p. 180, quoted by J.-L. Nancy in ‘Sur le trait d’esprit (Witz)', Poetique, 15 (1973), 383ff. In § 42 of the Vorschule, Jean Paul had given the following definition of the circular witticism which, as we shall see, applies perfectly to the paradoxical structure of certain works: ‘In addition, as well as word-play, there exists a kind of element of wit that I shall later call, by analogy with circular logic, the circular witticism (“der witzige Zirkel”), which disappears into itself and

Notes to chapters 3 and 4

27 28 29

where equality equals itself. Modern philosophers of identity - who, by dint of this proposition, include myself - set out and use circular logic and circular witticism as concentric circles. When the Anthology differentiating between object and subject - says “to anoint the ointment”, or when Lessing says “to spice up the spice”, these are witty, but are devoid of even a distant idea of similarity: the identical has simply become dissimilar. This is also, for instance, the habit of French wit, with its after-shock: “the pleasure of taking or giving pleasure”, “the friend of his friend”, etc. There is also no distance in such word-play as “an exchange of letters by letters of exchange” ’ (Vorschule der Asthetik, p. 170, in Nancy, ‘Sur le trait d’esprit’, p. 376). Flegeljahre, p. 63. See appendix 2. Flegeljahre, p. 63.

Chapter a

1

2

3

4

201

Mise en abyme and reflexivity

i.e. ‘the mind [or the narrative] turning back on its states and actions’ (P. Foulquie, Dictionnaire de la langue philosophique (Paris, PUF, 1969), p. 620. It is therefore not surprising that critics talk so rightly of ‘novelists en abyme ’ (D. Moutote, Le Journal de Gide et les problemes du moi (Paris, PUF, 1968), p. 532), of a device ‘that places the problem of the work at the heart of the work’ (Lafille, Andre Gide, p. 25) or of the reflexion of ‘the story of the novel within the novel’ (Holdheim, Theory and Practice, p. 133). From our perspective, the validity of Jakobson’s model lies in how productive it is. Its- tripartite division is more distinctive than Hjelmslev’s dichotomy between ‘form of expression’ and ‘form of content’, and it seems better suited to deal with the variety of dupli¬ cations which this section has already suggested. As for the general question of the use of linguistic models in literary theory, this has recently become such a hackneyed question that I shall not seek to revive it. ‘Considering the mise en abyme in the most general way, I note that its dimensions are necessarily limited: never, it seems, can the micro¬ story be longer than the story it reflects, without itself becoming the reflected story. In other words the embedded story can only evoke the embedding story in the form of a resume’ (Ricardou, Problemes du nouveau roman, p. 189).

202 5

6 7 8

9

10

11 12 13

14 15

Notes to chapter 4 P. Ricoeur, Finitude et culpabilite II (La Symbolique du mal) (Paris, Aubier, I960), p. 22, and Le Conflit des interpretations (Paris, Seuil, 1969), p. 286. E. A. Poe, Selected Writings (London, Penguin, 1976), p. 156, my italics. E. Zola, Rome (Paris, Fasquelle, 1922), vol. II, p. 316. ‘The very next morning he began this story closely based on his current state of mind and in which he no doubt amused himself by transposing, in an extravagantly logical way, the drama he was naively acting out with Sixtine’ (R. de Gourmont, Sixtine, roman de la vie cerebrale (Paris, Mercure de France, 1923), p. 88). T. Gautier, Mademoiselle de Maupin (Paris, Garnier-Flammarion, 1966), p. 267. We may note in passing that the idea of introducing As You Like It into the novel was perhaps suggested to Gautier by Nerval. Gautier writes about Le Prince des sots: ‘the plot was a troupe of jugglers entering a feudal castle, on the pretext of giving a perform¬ ance, to carry off a beautiful girl imprisoned by a tyrannical father or husband, and contained a little play within the main one . . .’ (T. Gautier, Histoire du romantisme (Paris, Charpentier, 1907), p. 76). Thus the influence of Hamlet can be found too in this ‘play in the castle’ studied so well in R. Chambers’s La Comedie au chateau (Paris, Corti, 1971). Examples would be: (a) Sigmund and Sieglinde in Thomas Mann’s Walsungenblut; (b) Roy-Dauzet in Robbe-Grillet’s Les Gommes; (c) the oratorio called ‘Dr Fausti Weheklag’ in Thomas Mann’s Doktor Faustus; (d) the correspondences between the story itself and the tapestry in Maupassant’s Une Vie; and (e) references to the Rougon novels through the repetition of a segment emblematic of them in the archives of Le Docteur Pascal, by Zola. Zola, La Fortune des Rougon, in Les Rougon-Macquart (Paris, Gallimard, Pleiade, I960), vol. I, p. 301. The Counterfeiters, p. 263. ‘ “I don’t know if what he says is true, but it’s more amusing than the best novel in the world” - ‘‘That’s not perhaps what a novelist will think”, said Vincent (ibid., p. 134) - ‘ “I told you it was as good as any novel”, cried Lilian, enthusiastically’ (Les Faux-Monnayeurs, p. 195; cf. The Counterfeiters, p. 138). There could be no stronger hint that Vincent’s lesson is ‘as good as’, i.e. the ‘equivalent’ of, the novel. The Counterfeiters, p. 137. To concentrate the mind on this question, we could, for example, consider the case of the Vinteuil septet, whose analogies with Remem-

Notes to chapter 4

16 17 18

19 20

21

22

203

brance of Things Past as a whole have been emphasized by two critics at least (G. Bree, in Du temps perdu au temps retrouve, introduction a Toeuvre de Marcel Proust (Paris, Bude, 1950), p. 225, and J. M. Cocking, ‘Proust and music’, Essays in French Literature, 4 (1967), 26). R. Jakobson, Essais de linguistique generate (Paris, Editions de minuit, 1963), p. 220; my italics. M. Riffaterre, ‘Paragramme et signifiance’, Semiotexte, 2. 1 (Spring 1975), 16. In this respect we should recall that when Jakobson characterizes the poetic function he emphasizes three essential features: (i) ‘the object of the message itself’, it ‘reveals the palpable aspect of the sign’ (Essais, p. 218); (ii) it cannot be seen as interchangeable with poetry itself, in that its appearance does not imply the disappearance of other functions; (iii) it ‘projects the principle of equivalence from the selection axis on to the combination axis’ (ibid., p. 220). The relations between these three inseparable attributes allows us to rule out any oversimplified or erroneous interpretation: once the first statement is understood in terms of the third, which is always the case in Jakobson, it seems impossible to deduce from the thesis that it is the nature of the literary text to be an end in itself the idea that it will always reflect itself. To do this would be to ignore the essential elements of Jakobson’s theory. Cf. G. Genette, ‘Vertige fixe’, in Figures (Paris, Seuil, 1966), p. 85. Hence Valery’s otherwise untenable precept: ‘To show in the same phrase (in the same narrative) its own reflection, its own response, its own nothingness, its own basis’ (CEuvres, vol. II, p. 575). Cf. e.g. J. Sturrock, The French New Novel (London, Oxford Univer¬ sity Press, 1969), pp. 4, 54, 89ff., 109, 149, 155, 188, 202ff., 206 and 221. It is in this vein that D. Lanceraux, in an article that in other respects is interesting, writes about La Route des Flandres: ‘this narrative trans¬ formation occurs when Georges discovers “through . . . this sort of chestnut-coloured mud in which I was stuck ” a dead horse “already apparently semi-absorbed into the earth”. It seems valid to interpret this change in two ways: as regards the fiction, as the presence of a great baroque theme; as regards the narration, as an effect of the depersonalization felt by those who try to write from their own experi¬ ence - Georges, for instance, or the writer who speaks through him if one accepts that since Le Vent many episodes or situations are to be deciphered as so many dramas mimetic of the process of writing itself ’ (‘Modalites de la narration dans La Route des Flandres\ Poetique, 14

204

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28

29

30 31 32

Notes to chapter 4 (1973), 241). Have we not good reason to be seriously dissatisfied and concerned about this sort of commentary, which seems to turn Simon’s text into a mere cryptogram to be elucidated or, as Lanceraux says, ‘deciphered’? Comparing the mode of production of such a nar¬ rative to a ciphering is to misunderstand totally Simon’s writing, and, no doubt, any similar sort of writing. But what is the justification for this view of the text as a riddle? - ‘if one accepts that since Le Vent many episodes or situations are to be deciphered as so many dramatic enactments of the process of writing itself. ’ Now, why since Le Vent ? For the following reason: given that Le Vent (1957) is rightly seen as Simon’s first nouveau roman-, given further that, as everyone knows, nouveau roman equals mise en abyme, ‘it seems valid’ to decipher a certain phrase from La Route des Flandres (I960) (and not other phrases, since everything that does not fit into this universal scheme is simply ignored, leading to a piecemeal reading of the text) as a ‘dramatic enactment of the process of writing itself’. But this ‘validity’ derives from a proposed reading rendered problematic by its monolithic and anachronistic character and, to tell the truth, by its inadequacy in the face of the text it describes. Cf. N. Chomsky, ‘La Notion de “regie de grammaire” ’, Langages, 4 (December 1966), 86ff. Cf. G. Genette, Figures II (Paris, Seuil, 1969), p. 202. This interruption is produced by the intercession of a time and/or a place that is non-contiguous with those of the primary narrative. Cf. Rousset, Narcisse romancier, pp. 69ff. Examples would be: (a) the ‘legend of the door-keeper’ in Kafka’s The Trial-, (b) ‘Clelia ou les vengeances romaines’ in Balzac’s La Muse du departement\ (c) ‘L’Adorant’ in Gourmont’s Sixtine\ (d) Edouard’s Journal in The Counterfeiters-, and (e) the ‘Tale of Eros and Psyche’ in Apuleus’ Golden A.w. Examples would be: (a) the saint’s letter in La Vie de Saint Alexis-, (b) the count’s dream in Kleist’s Die Marquise von O . . .; (c) the picture of History in Fontane’s Unwiederbringlich-, and (d) Vinteuil’s septet in the Remembrance of Things Past. Examples would be the puppet scene and the festivities in the castle in Wilhelm Meister; ch. XVIII of the first part of Anna Karenina; Vincent’s biology lesson in The Counterfeiters. Morrissette, ‘De Stendhal & Robbe-Grillet’. Cf. on this E. Lammert, Bauformen des Erzahlens (Stuttgart, Metzler, 1967), pp. 142 and 175ff. Examples would be (a) the magician in E. T. A. Hoffmann ’ s Prinzessin Brambilla-, (b) the singer in Robbe-Grillet’s La Jalousie-, and (c) the

Notes to chapter 4 33

34

35

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companion of the English lord in Goethe’s Die Wahlverwandtschaften. Examples would be (a) Sandoz in Zola’s Rougon-Macquart series; (b) the painter Martin de Vere in Butor’s Passage de Milan-, (c) the ‘Kunstrat’ in Jean Paul’s Titan-, (d) Doctor Pascal in Zola; (e) the priest in Kleist’s Die Marquise von O . . .; (f) in Joyce’s Ulysses-, (g) in Ricardou’s Les Lieux-Dits-, (h) in Goethe’s Werther\ (i) in Scott’s Waverley; (j) in Apuleus’ Golden Ass; (k) in Kleist’s Die Marquise von O.... Frequently such characters qualify under a number of headings. Thus the perfect narrative functionality of David Gellatly, the author’s spokesman in Waverley, is revealed by his being an out¬ sider; simple-minded; having a prodigious memory (it is of course a historical novel!); and having a feeling for music (he sings a hymn) see Walter Scott, Waverley, or ’Tis Sixty Years Since (Edinburgh, 1814), vol. I, pp. 169ff. Writing from a perspective very similar to mine, Philippe Hamon has shown how the realistic-naturalistic novel finds it necessary to use such types as impeccable sources of authorial information, in ‘Un Discours contraint’, Poetique, 16 (1973), 428ff. However, as a rule such a work must be ancient and prestigious, i.e. as metadiegetic and as extraordinary as possible! In this respect, it would be worth while making a diachronic study of the ‘organs of the truth’ chosen by individual texts: it would be a perfect approach to the historical interests and the historical development of literature. Thus, the fact that machines attain the rank of equivalents of the narrative in Roussel, and that engineers often act as metaphors for the agency that produces the text, marks a definite historical and ideological turningpoint. Which is why my study only overlaps very episodically with that of F. C. Maatje, Der Doppelroman, eine literatursystematische Studie liber duplikative Erzahlstrukturen (Groningen, Wloters-Noordhorff, 1968): the distinction he establishes between ‘Verdoppelung’ and ‘Duplikation’ (cf. p. 103) is not relevant to my purpose. Some examples, which range from the insertion of a book to a short segment: Swann in Love in the Remembrance of Things Past-, the performance of ‘Lovers’ Vows’ in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park; that of ‘Chaos vaincu’ in Hugo’s L 'Homme qui rit; the lyrical passage in Scott’s Waverley, the mention of paintings in the visit to the Louvre in Zola’s L'Assommoir-, and the intradiegetic title of J. de Lacretelle’s Le Pour et le Contre. Inasmuch as the mise en abyme reduces the narrative-as-referent more or less drastically to a resume, it is a privileged starting-point from which to attack the problem of catalysis in the narrative.

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Notes to chapters 4 and 5 e.g. the mise en abyme can have a symbiotic relationship with nar¬ ration (the revolution in Kleist’s Die Verlobung in San Domingo', with description (the paintings of whale hunts in Melville’s Moby Dick)\ with dialogue (the conversation with a double meaning on the Knights Templar between Schach and Victoire in Fontane’s Schach von Wuthenow); with a reported narrative (the tale in The Golden Ass, letter LXXVIII of the Lettres persanes, Paludes in Paludes, etc.). Once one defines the mise en abyme as an original unit determined only by the reflexive function it has in the narrative, it becomes clear that the device cannot be seen as identical to other elementary struc¬ tures in poetics. It is therefore understandable that the term mise en abyme is occasionally used by narratologists, but that the particular reality to which it corresponds has not been the subject of sustained study on their part. And since it is doubtful whether a poetics (in the strict sense) of such a grafted-on function is possible, I prefer to use the terms ‘theory’ or ‘typology’ to describe this study, even if the study takes its terminology and methodology - i.e. its greater part - from the general theory of the narrative.

Chapter 5

1

2

3

Fiction and its doubles

After all, the way in which the mise en abyme overlaps with the story being told cannot be seen as a further parameter, even if the time-scale of the mise en abyme goes beyond either the starting-point or the end¬ point of the time-scale of the fiction - or fills in a gap in it. In principle, this ‘fictional’ mise en abyme can be defined, to use Genette’s terms, as either an analepsis, a prolepsis or a complete internal anaprolepsis. In other words it doesn’t have to ‘catch up with’ the past or anticipate the future in an extradiegetic way; if that were its only role it could certainly not be called a mise en abyme (an example would be the depictions of the fall of Troy in the Aeneid). As for paraliptic or reparatory reflexions, they are all in all no more than an (albeit spec¬ tacular) variant of the simple mise en abyme; if they were not revealed as such by the context, they could have no function, nor even exist. Since a story, like ‘any word can always evoke everything that in one way or another can be associated with it’ (F. de Saussure, Cours de hnguistique generate (Paris, Payot, 1973), p. 174). Such as the novella called ‘Die wunderlichen Nachbarskinder’ in Goethe’s Die Wahlverwandtschaften which, according to Walter Benjamin, is an ‘antithesis’ of the thesis posited and developed in the primary story. Cf. W. Benjamin, ‘Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften’ in

Notes to chapter 5

4 5

6

7 8 9

10

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207

Gesammelte Schriften 1.1, ed. R. Tiedemann and H. Schweppenhauser (Frankfurt on Main, Suhrkamp, 1974), p. 171. Examples would be the saint’s letter in La Vie de Saint Alexis and the theatrical performance in Keller’s Kleider machen Leute. As Michel Butor says in conversation with G. Charbonnier, ‘It’s not the real story, with all its obscurities and meanderings. It’s a consider¬ able simplification’ (G. Charbonnier, Entretiens avec Michel Butor (Paris, Gallimard 1967), p. 129). Cf. C. Levi-Strauss, La Pensee sauvage (Paris, Plon, 1962), p. 36. On models in general and their greater or lesser potential for revelation according to whether they are scale models (a model showing how the original works and what rules determine its operation), analogue models (where one system of relations is translated into another, and the two systems are isomorphic) or theoretical models (where the representation and the original are structurally identical, but the latter is idiolectically verbalized rather than actually constructed), ch. XII of M. Black’s Models and Metaphors (Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1962) should be consulted. Valery, CEuvres, vol. II, p. 574. On this term, cf. A. J. Greimas, Semantique structurale (Paris, Larousse, 1966), p. 96, and Du sens (Paris, Seuil, 1970), p. 276. Cf. S. Hock, Uber die Wiederholung in der Dichtung, SeparatAbdruck aus der Festschrift fur W. Jerusalem zu seinem 60. Geburtstag (Vienna and Leipzig, W. Braumiiller, 1915), pp. 3 and 15. This explains why the same sort of miniature model is used in both ‘obscure’ and ‘limpid’ texts; the former use it to make their message less ambiguous; the latter reveal themselves as texts through it. Because of this functional and ideological adaptability, one can say that the mise en abyme is not in itself proof of a text’s ‘modernity’ although it can become this if the context is suitable. The mise en abyme acts as a ‘mercenary’ as far as texts are concerned. In a distant echo of Isaiah’s revelation, one of the last chapters is called ‘Paradise regained on Earth’. The credit for having forcefully pointed this out must go to L. Cellier, in ‘Victor Hugo et le roman initiatique’, Centenaire des Miserables. Hommage a Victor Hugo in Bulletin de la faculte des lettres de Stras¬ bourg, January-March 1962 (Strasbourg, 1962), pp. 213-23. Prinzessin Brambilla, in Poetische Werke (Berlin, Aufbau-Verlag, 1951), 6 vols., vol. V, pp. 652-3. On this proliferation of meaning, see Jean Starobinski’s elegant study ‘Ironie et Melancholie (II): La “Princesse Brambilla” de E. T. A. Hoffmann’, Critique, 228 (May 1966), 438-57.

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Notes to chapter 5 On romantic irony, see W. Benjamin, Der Begriff der Kunstkritik in der deutschen Romantik, in Gesammelte Schriften, pp. 72ff. It follows that all mises en abyme modify positively or negatively the determination of the text: whereas original transposition increases the feeling of freedom and produces a sense of ‘lightening’ (ludism, romantic irony), the carbon copy over-determines the logic of the events of the narrative, makes the denouement inexorable and re¬ inforces the element of destiny (Zola’s Madeleine Ferat). Ricoeur, Finitude et culpabilite II (La Symbolique du mal), pp. 25 and 323. On this tripartite division, cf. Lammert, Bauformen, pp. 54ff., and, of course, Genette, Figures III, pp. 77ff. Quoted by Lammert, Bauformen, p. 139. Jean Paul, Flegeljahre, p. 149. J. Rousset, Forme et signification (Paris, Corti, 1964), p. 146. Examples would be: (a) the poems in many German Romantic novels, and in Waverley, where David Gellatly, apart from his prodigious memory, very conveniently also has ‘an ear for music’; (b) the two prophecies in Flaubert’s La Legende de Saint Julien d’Hospitalier\ (c) the fact that after the first meeting of Anna and Vronsky in Anna Karenina, Stefan Arcadievitch describes as ‘childish’ Anna’s view of the train accident as a ‘baleful omen’; and (d) the misunderstandings in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, when everyone ‘rehearses’ the role they will play for real later in the text. G. de Maupassant, Romans (Paris, Albin Michel, 1959), pp. 18ff. It is significant that when Zola elevates Nana to mythic status, he puts her on to the stage for the last time - but only in a figurative role: ‘she said nothing, the writers had even cut one of her lines, because it was out of place. She did not say a word, it had a greater effect, and by her very appearance she won over her audience’ (E. Zola, Nana in Les Rougon-Macquart, vol. II, p. 1476 - my italics). In this respect, the terminal mise en abyme of Doktor Faustus is a prime example since the oratorio ‘Dr Fausti Weheklag’, the epitome of the lament, is used primarily as a ‘mute’ at the end of the narrative. This is surely suggested by the narrator’s comments on the description of it: ‘but another and last, truly the last change of mind must be thought on, and that profoundly. At the end of this work of endless lamentation, softly, above the reason and with the speaking unspoken¬ ness given to music alone (mit der sprechenden Unausgesprochenheit, welche nur der Musik gegeben ist) it touches the feelings. . . . For listen to the end, listen with me: one group of instruments after another retires, and what remains, as the work fades on the air, is the

Notes to chapter 5

26 27 28

209

high G of a cello, the last word, the last fainting sound, slowly dying in a pianissimo-fermata. Then nothing more: silence, and night’ (T. Mann, Doctor Faustus, translated by H. T. Lowe-Porter (New York, A. Knopf, 1948), pp. 490-1 - my italics). This ‘last word’ prefigures the last word of the narrative itself, as is shown by the wordfor-word repetition of the words that had described the oratorio on the last page of the novel. On the relationship between Mann’s novel and the inserted work, see G. Bergstein’s detailed study, Thomas Manns Doktor Faustus (Lund, Berlingska Boktryckeriet, 1963), pp. 21 Iff. See above, pp. 45-6. Rome, p. 318 - my italics. Probably, but not necessarily, since the retro-prospective mise en abyme, unlike the terminal reflexion, can still act as a decoy. We should also note that on the basis that CD undoubtedly reflects AB, the reader can postulate the still more radical extrapolation of an extradiegetic segment EF from CD. This possibility is exploited by Lelouch in his film Le Voyou. As for the extrapolation to an extradiegetic past, definable as OA, this can be shown schematically as BC:AB::A'B:OA, or O A A' BCD E F

J_I_I_1_I_I_I_I* V 29

30 31

mise In abyme '

Bauformen, p. 160. To expand on this, we should note that the need for the retro-prospective mise en abyme to maintain a balance between the ‘already’ (which is definitely known) and the ‘not yet’ (which is speculative) means that it is predestined to occupy not just an inter¬ mediate position in the narrative, but a median one. This explains, in retrospect, why the image of the ‘shield within the shield’ came to dominate the mind of Gide and his successors: its profound suitability as an image lies in the incomparable clarity with which it indicates the central position occupied by most mises en abyme. Novalis, Schriften, ed. P. Kluckhohn, vol. I (Leipzig, Bibliographisches Institut, 1928), pp. 168-70. The ‘Provencal manuscript’ reflects the book all the more faithfully in that Heinrich von Ofterdingen itself has come down to us as a frag¬ ment: its incompleteness is, of course, accidental, but no doubt also providential and necessary in that it makes the mise en abyme truthful and turns this novel of infinite (unfinished) poetry into an actual demonstration of the theory it expounds. As to how the book was to have been continued, this is known through Tieck’s paralipomena and afterword, reproduced at the end of the edition.

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35

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Notes to chapter 5 G. Flaubert, Extraits de la correspondance ou Preface a la vie d 'ecrivain (Paris, Seuil, 1963), p. 288. We can support this quotation from Flaubert with one of Barthes’s apodeictic notes: ‘Symmetry is the incarnation of immediation, failure, death and sterility’ (Sur Racine (Paris, Seuil, 1963), p. 53) and Barthes’s commentary on this: ‘without wanting to take the comparison between aesthetic or meta¬ physical order and biological order too far, we should recall that what is is what it is through asymmetry’; and further with the chapter entitled ‘Le recit excessif ’ in Ricardou’s Le Nouveau Roman. A striking confirmation that strict symmetry is taboo in the narrative - and even in the non-realist narrative - is provided by C. Ollier’s La Mise en scene. If one refers to Ollier’s preparatory notes presented in Ricardou’s Le Nouveau Roman, it is clear that the mise en abyme was mathematically programmed to be situated in the very centre of Ollier’s novel. But the novel itself shows that the reflexive device was relegated to the last chapter (ch. XXI) of its central part, as if recoiling from such audacity. The nearer the reflexion moves to the denouement, the more oppor¬ tunity it has to serve as a catalyst for it, precipitating it and dramatically accelerating the tempo of the narrative. In this respect, see the per¬ formance of As You Like It in Keller’s Kleider machen Leute, the opera scene in Madame Bovary and - an extreme case - ‘The Love of the fair Narcissus and Echo the nymph’ in the penultimate chapter of La Curee. Examples would be (a) the refrain ‘Und eine Prinzessin kommt ins Haus’ in Fontane’s Vordem Sturm \ the picture of the ‘King’s son’ in the Lehrjahre, a mediocre painting whose successive interpretations mark the progressive development of Wilhelm’s consciousness. Lammert noted that the effect of the duplication depended on its context and on the strategy that employed it (Bauformen, p. 54), but Ricardou was to my knowledge the first theoretician to isolate the reactive and antithetic nature of this effect (cf. Le Nouveau Roman, pp. 73ff.) Examples would be (a) Swann in Love in the Remembrance of Things Past; (b) the archives in Zola’s Le Docteur Pascal-, (c) the fragments of Olympia ou les vengeances romaines in Balzac’s La Muse du departement \ (d) the reference in the Second Part of Don Quixote to its own First Part; and (e) Edouard’s planned novel in The Counterfeiters. It will have been noted that by describing the illustrations of the ‘Provencal manuscript’, Heinrich von Ofterdingen itself rejects the text that is supposed to correspond to itself. Cf. n. 4, p. 226.

Notes to chapters J> and 6 39 40 41

42 43 44

See Goethe’s Werke (Hamburger Ausgabe, Wegner, 1965), vol. VI, p. 663. See on this Benjamin, ‘Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften’, in Gesammelte Schriften, pp. 168ff. See, onLe Reve and the question under discussion here, S. Skwarcynska’s study, which broke new ground, ‘Un cas particulier d’orchestration generique de l’oeuvre litteraire’, in To Honor Roman Jakobson (The Hague, Paris, Mouton, 1967), pp. 1832ff. La Curee, in Les Rougon-Macquart, vol. I, pp. 508ff. Ibid., pp. 547ff. A quotation from Zola, La Curee, pp. 1607-8 (notes and variants).

Chapter 6

1

2

3

4

211

Narration revealed

In some exceptional cases (e.g. Paludes), the author can equally be subjected to mise en abyme by a narrator. But the latter must do more than simply write - s/he must write the book the author writes. Proper names are shifters in the same way as personal pronouns since ‘the general meaning of a proper name cannot be defined other than by reference to the code. In the code of English, “Jerry” means someone named Jerry. This is clearly circular: the name designates someone who bears that name’ (Jakobson, Essais, p. 177). The reasons why the proper name is such a powerful connector thus become clear: as the signature of someone who, to quote Valery, is ‘positively not anyone’, it must refer to the character who fills out the name: the name is thus in a sense interchangeable with the predicate, the name of a person with the impersonal subject. On the conversion of diegetic surnames and forenames into the author’s name, see P. Lejeune’s penetrating comments in Le Pacte autobiographique (Paris, Seuil, 1975), pp. 22ff. Examples - all taken from Robbe-Grillet’s Les Gommes - would be: (a) the restaurant owner who ‘cleans’ his environment, indulges in his fantasies and ‘recreates’ his clients (for their recreation); (b) the master of camouflage. Fabius, who clearly reflects the novelist as inventorsimulator-temporalizer; (c) Roy-Dauzet, the Minister of the Interior, from whom everything emanates and to whom all are accountable. Thus in the Remembrance of Things Past Vinteuil’s septet is a metaphor of the work itself, and thereby guarantees that the imaginary composer is in fact a double of ‘Proust’, whereas in Zola’s Pot-Bouille it is through a lapidary summary of the fiction that we come upon the author and his family as they leave the building described by . . . Pot-Bouille (ch. XVIII).

212 5

Notes to chapter 6 J. Kristeva goes to the heart of the matter when she writes that ‘the Rousselian text is a “realisticization” which is mimetic of its own production’ (Semeiotike, Recherches pour une semanalyse (Paris,

Seuil, 1969), p. 243). 6 C. F. Ramuz, Passage du poete (Geneva, Georg, 1923), p. 130. 7 For example, if the imaginary artists in the Remembrance of Things Past are all doubles of the author, they are so in different ways and to different degrees. As is well known, the proximity is great in the cases of Elstir and Vinteuil, and less with Bergotte. 8 Cf. Repertoire III, pp. 179ff. 9 Since this so-called author does not exist - although it is hard to shake the belief some have in this concept - contemporary theorists are right to dwell on this and to prove its ridiculousness, along with its com¬ plicity with concepts such as the ‘plenary subject’, ‘intended meaning’, ‘emanation’, ‘property’, ‘mercantilism’, etc. I only retain the term ‘author’ because the enunciative mise en abyme is only comprehen¬ sible in the light of this notion. Whether its intention is to validate or to disprove the notion, it has to work with it. Robbe-Grillet’s works are a very illuminating example of this. 10 One writer adept at simultaneously using and subverting this extension of representation has personal experience of the illusion occasionally ‘sticking’ after all in respect of one of his own films. Criticizing ‘the tendency to confuse the narrative voice, which speaks in the novel in the form of a “je”, with the voice of the author’, Robbe-Grillet comments that he ‘deliberately confronted this danger in one of my films, Trans-Europ Express. It was my most successful film, because of a flagrant misunderstanding on precisely this point. Wanting to dramatize a narrative voice, I took the trouble of dividing it between three characters: a film producer, a script-girl (a part played by my wife) and a film-maker who, with conscious imprudence, I played myself. The public saw Trans-Europ Express as if it were a Sacha Guitry film: a real author explaining his film as it unfolds before the spectator’s eyes. But the whole film was constructed precisely so as to make this interpretation impossible, or absurd: the film-maker I was playing could not have made the film in question, since on the one hand, he totally ignored one of its essential themes - eroticism - and on the other, from the structural point of view, he had no awareness of the structure of the narrative, precisely because he was part of it. Realizing this ambiguity, I had envisaged from the start making this character as unrealistic as possible. I even intended shaving off my moustache, but didn’t in the end, and then thought of dubbing the voice with that of another actor. This I did do: one version of the film,

Notes to chapter 6

11

12 13

14 15 16

17 18 19 20

21 22

213

a working copy, has a narrating voice that is not mine. Unfortunately, as is always the case with film, one has to be guided by the likely effect of things, and in fact it only gave the effect of a badly dubbed film. So in the end I kept my moustache and my own voice: and all of the audience, whether they liked the film or not, were sure that in it I was really explaining my film. So much so that my enemies, seeing this pompous and dogmatic figure, sitting stiffly in the compartment, said “Yes, that’s him all right! ” So, you see, similar problems occur in the cinema’ (Nouveau roman: hier, aujourd’hui (Paris, Union generate d’editions, 10/18, 1972), vol. I, pp. 232ff.). The cinematic image thus seems to make it more difficult to break the illusion than do noniconographical signs, since all readers of Robbe-Grillet realize that the doubles of the novelist in his books are always ‘liars’. Examples would be: (a) the second part of La Vie de Saint Alexis; and (b) Jean Paul’s Titan; Hugo’s L’Homme qui rit; Zola’s La Curee; and Louis-Rene des Foret’s Les Mendiants. Cf. the quotation above, p. 46. The mad Tristan is a narrative producer, but only because Isolde (and King Mark) are the main addressees. The title of the story sets up two protagonists - hence this functionally equitable division of roles. We might note in passing that this preference for reception shows the undeniable links between literature and ‘consumption’ and reveals reading for what it generally is, namely reflexive euphoria. Aristotle, Poetics, translated by W. H. Fyfe (London, Heinemann, 1965), 1452a (p. 41). R. Barthes, ‘L’Ancienne Rhetorique’, Communications, 16 (1970), p. 200. Here I follow in the footsteps of Todorov - see ‘ Poetique ’, in O. Ducrot et al., Qu 'est-ce que le structuralisme? (Paris, Seuil, 1968) - who also discusses, from his own perspective, the novella’s ‘image en abyme ’ (p. 138). Boccaccio, Decameron, translated by J. M. Rigg (London, Dent, 1930), 2 vols, vol. I, p. 45. Ibid. I. 48-9. Cf. R. Barthes, S/Z, translated by R. Miller (London, Cape, 1975), pp. 135ff. Examples would be: Botticelli’s painting in Rome-, and the anecdote contained in Boccaccio’s novella (if the addressee and the protagonist were not different, thereby partially invalidating this example). I Corinthians 13: 12. The dialogue preceding the parable makes this perfectly clear: ‘Don’t be deluded’, said the priest. ‘How am I being deluded?’

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Notes to chapter 6 asked K. ‘You are deluding yourself about the Court’, said the priest. ‘In the writings which preface the Law that particular delusion is described thus: “Before the Law stands a door-keeper (Tiirhuter) . . ’ (F. Kafka, The Trial, translated by Willa and Edwin Muir (London, Penguin, 1974), p. 235). Ibid., p. 237. The only convincing reading of The Trial and the ‘Ttirhuterlegende’ is that of W. Sockel in Franz Kafka, Tragik und Ironie (Munich and Vienna, Langen and Muller, 1964) - see especially pp. 239ff. Sockel whom I am following here - takes the opposite view to that of the most recent critical analysis, by Deleuze and Guattari: ‘As for the other chapter, in the cathedral, its place of honour - which implies that it holds a key to the novel or forms a quasi-religious “pre-conclusion” is also contradicted by its own content: the story of the door-keeper remains ambiguous, and K. realizes that the priest who tells this story is a member of the judicial apparatus, a prison chaplain, just one further element in a continuing series, with no particular distinction from the rest, since the series will no doubt not end with him. One can support Uyttersprot’s view that the chapter should be moved to take place before the one entitled “Advocate-Manufacturer-Painter” ’ (G. Deleuze and F. Guattari, Kafka. Pour une litterature mineure (Paris, Editions de minuit, 1975), p. 81). To see the chapter and the parable as just elements in a series, with no distinct role, is to deny their reflexive quality, which in turn is to act on the premiss that only the libidinal matters to Kafka - a thesis that the mise en abyme, inasmuch as it confirms a truth that implies a realization and a possible conversion, refutes most profoundly. Hence the attempt by Deleuze and Guattari to reject the chapter on a flimsy and largely ineffective semantic pretext - moving the chapter would remove its ‘religious’ and ‘pre-conclusive’ nature, but not the lesson of the mise en abyme which would still be central and provide us with the only key to the interpretation of the novel. Cf. The Odyssey, book VIII, lines 490ff. The proof is this declaration by Odysseus (where Homer and his artistic creed shine through): ‘But why should I tell thee this tale? For it was but yesterday that I told it in thy hall, to thyself and to thy noble wife. It is an irksome thing, meseems, to tell again a plain-told tale’ (The Odyssey, translated by A. T. Murray, 2 vols (London, Heinemann, 1966), book XII, lines 4 5 Off.). Here I follow the argument of K. Rueter, Odysseeinterpretationen, Untersuchungen zum ersten Buck und zum Phaiakis (Gottingen, Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1969), pp. 253ff., which itself follows Marg.

Notes to chapter 6 27

28

29 30 31

32

215

Cervantes, Don Quixote of the Mancha, translated by Thomas Shelton (London, MacMillan, 1900), 3 vols, II. 205. Nodier, Zola and Roussel all practise in their own way this kind of self-glorification. Whereas the last page of Nodier’s La Fee aux miettes celebrates La Fee aux miettes, and the painter Claude Lantier in Zola’s Le Ventre de Paris (ch. IV) says that his masterpiece depicted a pork butcher’s counter (of which there are abundant descriptions in Le Ventre de Paris), the fact that artists and engineers parade on the ‘Scene des Incomparables’ in Roussel’s Impressions d’Afrique surely signifies that the virtuoso-producer they represent is himself incom¬ parable on the textual scene. Music also has recourse to this device. In Der Rosenkavalier, when Baron Ochs hears the first bars of the famous waltz tune, he exclaims ‘Oh, die schone Musik’, whereas in Stock¬ hausen’s Momente, the applause of the audience before and after the interval is preceded by that of the musicians, thus integrating the public into the work, basing the work on the outside world, and exercising the traditional captatio benevolentiae. Unmasked on his first appearance, the forger is in turn challenged by the ‘real’ Don Quixote, condemned by the people of Barcelona, insulted by the hero who finds him at the printer’s as the new proofs are being corrected, transported to Hell where a vision shows him being mutilated by demons, solemnly repudiated by one of his readers who, after having met Don Quixote, certifies before a clerk of the court that the Don has nothing in common with the usurper Avellaneda .... Don Quixote, III. 341. Le Veritable Saint Genest, I. v; cf. Chambers, La Comedie, p. 42. An extreme example of a face-to-face encounter occurs in Keller’s Kleider machen Leute, where the actor ‘got out a count’s frock coat, which was on its last legs and identical to the one Strapinski was wearing at that moment ... so that eventually he stood there, the spitting image of the count’ (Werke (Basel, Birkhauser, n.d.), vol. IV, P- 35). This novel, which may not be familiar to the reader, is in two parts: the first is in the form of an epistolary novel: the second breaks the realistic illusion by revealing that the first part (although based on authentic documents provided by one Romer) was written with great licence by a young writer called Maria. Romer having made clear that he was dissatisfied with this first volume, Maria decides to visit Godwi, the main addressee and sender of the letters, and to write Volume II with his help. The writer and his source talk about Volume I and Godwi recognizes some of the locations it describes: ‘ “There is the pond I fell into on page ... of the first volume”.’ They agree on how it should continue and Maria starts writing again. The second

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37

38 39

Notes to chapter 6 volume takes shape. But soon Godwi takes up the pen to announce Maria’s death and to finish the second volume. What therefore links Godwi with Don Quixote is the theme of the relationship between fiction and reality, and the breaking of the illusion; what distinguishes Godwi from Don Quixote is its lack of genuine narrative transgression. Cf. T. Todorov, Litterature et signification (Paris, Larousse, 1967), pp. 48ff. Cf. above, p. 75. In modem texts, whose modernity derives from their contempor¬ aneity, the emphasis on the here and now of the enunciation is merely one way of responding to these questions. Examples would be: (a) the denouement of Les Liaisons dangereuses or the end of Time Regained in Remembrance of Things Past; (b) the engraved stick on which can be read ‘the whole of the story’ in Marie de France’s Le Lai du chevrefeuille, and the intradiegetic title of Lacretelle’s Le Pour et le Contre; (c) the archives of Le Docteur Pascal. This ‘already’ in fact takes us back into the mists of time - to be precise to The Arabian Nights. The self-embedding quality (which is only partial, pace Borges in Labyrinths) of this 602nd night is undoubtedly a consequence of the way in which the tales were collected together. Felix culpa! Don Quixote II. 214. Scarron gets near it in the second part of Le Roman comique: ‘The gentle reader is possibly at a loss to understand what the peasants wanted from Ragotin and why they did nothing to him. This is cer¬ tainly difficult to guess and can only be appreciated if the secret is revealed. However hard I tried to understand it, and after having got all my friends to think about it, I only found out the secret recently by chance, and when I least expected to, as I shall now explain. A priest from Lower Maine, slightly melancholy-mad, had been brought to Paris for a court case, and was waiting for it to be judged. He wanted to publish some inconsequential thoughts he had had on the Apocalypse. He was so full of illusions and so fond of the most recent productions of his mind that he hated his earlier ones, so that he enraged the printer by making him change a single page as many as twenty times. He therefore had to change printers frequently and eventually approached the printer of this very Book, at whose printing-works one day he read some pages describing the very story I’m telling you. This priest knew more about the adventure than I did, having learnt it from the same peasants who kidnapped Ragotin, as I have related, why they did it, which I never could find out. He therefore knew the gaps in the story and, having told my printer, who was quite astonished (for he had

Notes to chapters 6 and 7

217

thought, like many others, that my Novel was a Book written for the sake of it), was easily persuaded by the printer to come and see me . . . The information I got from this priest was very gratifying, and I confess that he did me a great service, but I did him a favour too by advising him, as a friend, not to print his Book of ridiculous visions. Some will perhaps accuse me of having related here a useless detail; others will praise my great sincerity’ (Le Roman comique (Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 1951), vol. II, pp. 154ff.).

Chapter i 1 2 3

4

5

6

The spectacle of the text and the code

M. Butor, Mobile. Etude pour une representation des Etats-Unis (Paris, Gallimard, 1962), p. 29. J. Ricardou is thus correct to see those dimensions as ‘inversely proportional’ (Le Nouveau Roman, p. 29). The fact that this propensity is also characteristic of the fictional mise en abyme (R'^R, rather than L' — R), justifies my not having intro¬ duced this schema when I discussed the fictional mise en abyme. It is undeniable that the narrative can also follow the diagonal vectors; but although some aspects of the referential dimension of the fiction are duplicated in some aspects of its literal dimension (alliteration, ono¬ matopoeia, imitative harmony), this mimetism is partial and therefore cannot produce a mise en abyme since, in our definition, a condition of the mise en abyme is that it reflects the totality of the narrative. On the more general question of textual resemblances, see J. Ricardou’s important article ‘La Population des miroirs’, Poetique, 22 (1975), 21 Iff. To Ramuz’s basket-weaver and Butor’s ‘quilt’ we can add, for good measure, the ‘dress’ evoked frequently in the last pages of the Remem¬ brance of Things Past as an image of the novel. The definitions of ‘texture’ and ‘structure’ are virtually interchange¬ able, both involving the relationship of the parts to the whole. In German, the texture of a cloth is called its ‘Struktur’. This does not of course mean that it is not used in the fiction (think of Rabelais!). But it is used most often by essayists, as is shown by Montaigne, who gives us two magnificent examples. The first com¬ bines the image of the body with that of the journey: ‘Everyone will see that I have set off in a direction I shall follow, without stopping or labouring, as long as there is ink and paper in the world. I cannot keep a log of my life through my actions: as luck would have it, they are too base. I shall keep it through my fantasies. In the same way I knew a

218

7 8 9

10

11 12 13

14 15

Notes to chapter 7 man who expressed his life through the workings of his stomach: with him you saw, on display, a seven- or eight-day sequence of bedpans: this was his study, his discourse; he detested everything else. Here you see, a little more decently, the excretions of an old mind, sometimes hard, sometimes loose, always undigested’ (Montaigne, Essais, ed. P. Villey (Lausanne, Guilde du Livre, 1965), book III, ch. IX, pp. 945ff.). The second X-rays the Essais: ‘Here I am: a skeleton, in which one can see the veins, the muscles, the tendons, each part in its place. A cough produced one bit; pallor or palpitations another, dubiously. I have not transcribed my gestures, but myself, and my essence’ (ibid., book II, ch. VI, p. 379). P. Sobers, Le Parc (Paris, Seuil, 1961), p. 134. The reader will have noted in this ‘canvas’ the allusion to textiles, the primary metaphor. Cf. Impressions d’Afrique, pp. 8ff. and 88ff. In terms of figure 6 mise en abyme of the code therefore occurs whenever R' —L. It will be appreciated that my definition of the ‘code’, though not idiosyncratic, is different from the definition that prevails in linguistics. In fact, in literature there is a specific relation between code and message in that the code seems indissociable from the message that contains it, whereas, in all other types of discourse, the code pre-exists the message as a convention between the sender and the receptor, or as a system of signals allowing the transmission of infor¬ mation. This explains how critics have been able to consider literature sometimes as a message without a code, and sometimes as a code without a message - and why I define the ‘code’ as the narrative’s ability to define its signs through these signs themselves, and thus to make explicit its mode of operation. See Remembrance of Things Past, translated by T. Kilmartin, 3 vols (London, Penguin, 1985), III. 924ff., and Contre Sainte-Beuve (Paris, Gallimard, Pleiade, 1971), p. 586. On the practice of metaphor in Proust, see Genette’s seminal chapter ‘Metonymie chez Proust’ in Figures Ilf pp. 4Iff. Remembrance of Things Past I. 893. Ibid. I. 894. ‘As for the description of Elstir’s painting of the “port de Carquethuit”, we should take it not as a sequence of real metaphors, but rather as a metaphor of metaphor, in other words a spectacle designed to give us a visual equivalent of what Proust means by the word “metaphor” . . .’ (J.-P. Richard, Proust et le monde sensible (Paris, Seuil, 1974), p. 218: my italics). Remembrance of Things Past I. 894-5. This emergence from the sea seems to evoke the birth of Venus -

Notes to chapter 7

16

17

18 19

20

219

whose immaterial beauty, according to Proust’s aesthetic, would be created from a coupling of two elements: but it can also be interpreted in a similar way to Roussel’s representation of the flood in Impressions d’Afrique. Through the reference to the ‘multicoloured rainbow’ (a clear allusion to Vinteuil’s septet, the ‘spectral’ work within the work), the heralding of the meeting of the two geographical ‘ways’ of the novel, and, particularly, the reference to the churches (which alludes not only to the other churches in the novel, but also to the image of the Remembrance of Things Past itself as a church or a cathedral), one is led to believe that ‘Le Port de Carquethuit’ is not just a ‘metaphor of metaphor’, but also a metaphor of the narrative, which, at the macro- and microstructural levels, chooses metaphor as its main mode of operation. e.g. in Thomas Mann’s Doktor Faustus, where all the material on music is to be interpreted in terms of novelistic technique, particularly the ‘strict phrase’ (‘strenger Satz’) that precisely reflects the way the narrative is textualized. Examples would be: (a) the ‘tombeaux’ of Myrtis (pure beauty) and Megano (grace) in La Fontaine’s Psyche, and Griinewald’s Crucifixion in which Huysmans recognizes ‘the exasperated prototype of art’ in La-Bas\ (b) the critique of the traditional novel and the case for the pure novel in The Counterfeiters; (c) Lantier’s remarks in Zola’s Le Ventre de Paris, ch. V; (d) Sandoz’s mystico-literary acts of faith in Zola’s L ’CEuvre; and (e) Rabelais’s view of literature as therapy and recreation. Impressions dAfrique, pp. 8ff. In Le Livre a venir (‘Le Chant des sirenes’), Maurice Blanchot emphasizes this phenomenon, namely that the transcendental mise en abyme is simultaneously the cause, of which the text is the effect, and the effect, of which the text is the cause. On Moby Dick (where, contrary to The Odyssey, there is no playing with the mise en abyme), Blanchot writes: ‘It is of course true that it is only in Melville’s book that Ahab encounters Moby Dick; and yet it is also of course true that this encounter alone allows Melville to write the book; the encounter is so important, so disproportionate and so particular that it transcends any context and any moment in which it could happen, that it seems to happen before the book starts, but also that it can only happen once, in the future of the book, in the sea that the book itself will have become’ (M. Blanchot, Le Livre a venir (Paris, Gallimard, 1959), p. 14). One would need to consider respectively (a) the song of the Sirens, in which is heard, in the innermost depths of the poem, the ‘music of the abyss (“abyme”)’ which Blanchot discussed so admirably in Le Livre a

220

21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Notes to chapter 7 venir\ (b) the ‘memory’ of the ‘Breton lay’, whose fabled existence symbolizes ‘the musical essence of the narrative’, according to R. Dragonetti (‘Le Lai narratif de Marie de France’, in Litterature, histoire, linguistique. Recueil d'etudes offert a Bernard Gagnebin (Lausanne, L’Age d’homme, 1973), pp. 3 Iff.); (c) the search for the master word and the submission of the poem to the founding word; (d) the semi-ironic, semi-serious hearing of the ‘frozen words’ and the liberation of signs caused when they thaw (on the interpretation of this difficult cacophony, see M. Jeanneret’s excellent summary in ‘Les Paroles degelees: Rabelais, “Quart Livre” ’, Litterature, 17 (1975), 14ff.); (e) the descent into the cave of Montesinos, an underworld in which the narrative finds a foundation that is so equivocal that it blurs the distinction between the hero’s folly and wisdom, and the pretence and the truth of the fiction; (f) the fact that this poem, ‘an allegory of itself’, is built on an absent foundation and attains its famous ‘shim¬ mering from below’ through turning back on itself and through thoroughgoing reflexion (see appendix 3); (g) the famous archives that not only provide a source for the Rougon-Macquart books and relate them to what is most suitable as a realistic image of them - the natural sciences - but also decentralize them and confirm them as fiction by being destroyed by fire in the very heart of the sequence of novels, so the whole work becomes a Phoenix; (h) metaphors of the work itself borrowed from the religious sphere (church, spire, Christ’s robe), which reveal the text’s polemical claim to be its own foundation; (i) the useless piece of paper whose (simulated) loss guarantees the re-examin¬ ation of the text, or the elusive murmuring whose failing sound trans¬ forms the novel into a Wunderblock that is effaced as soon as it is written. See appendix 4. S. Beckett, Watt (London, Calder and Boyars, 1970), pp. 126-7. Ibid., p. 129. G. Poulet, Les Metamorphoses du cercle (Paris, Plon, 1961). Quoted by Poulet, Les Metamorphoses, Introduction, p. III. Ibid., Introduction, p. IV. Cf. P. Sobers, ‘Dante et la traversee de l’ecriture’, in Logiques (Paris, Seuil, 1968), pp. 44ff. Cf. Poulet, Les Metamorphoses, p. XX. Quoted by O. Bernal, Langage et fiction dans le roman de Beckett (Paris, Gallimard, 1969), p. 7. It is as if Watt is alluding to Heidegger’s famous formula when it describes the moment when the point ‘came home at last, or to its new home’ (p. 128).

Notes to chapters 7 and 8 31 32

This hiatus is forcefully described in pp. 44ff. Cf. the ‘blues’, which in the final pages of La Nausee appears as (at) the origin of the narrative, and whose effect, which is to say the least unexpected, is to go beyond the Remembrance of Things Past and to link up with the symbolist tradition of the ‘novel of the novel’.

Chapter 8

1

2

3

4

221

The emergence of types

Namely the conglomeration, which matches several mises en abyme and presents their ramifications in the form of a star, and the agglom¬ eration, which is characterized by the superimposition of different reflexions, which overdetermines them through coalescence. Each of these approaches has a different value depending on whether they opt for hegemonic domination or egalitarian co-operation. In the former, various connected mises en abyme have the effect of reinforcing one dominant reflexion; in the latter, none of the participating mises en abyme wishes to dominate the association they produce. This means that of all the mises en abyme so far studied, the most ‘profitable’ would be for instance ‘Chaos vanquished’ in Hugo’s L’Homme qui rit, ‘L’Adorant’ in Sixtine (from the point of view of recognizability and extent), and the ‘Provencal manuscript’ in Heinrich von Ofterdingen and the ‘archives’ in Le Docteur Pascal (from the point of view of recognizability, extent and cumulative capacity). Inasmuch as the mise en abyme is based on analogy, and analogy varies from ‘degree zero’ to identity, ‘the mise en abyme is not an operation that can be neatly demarcated’ (Ricardou, Le Nouveau Roman, p. 69). It follows that someone obsessed with this notion could find it more or less anywhere, whereas a reading based on the narrative impact of the device leads to only the most active examples being retained. This law, the most fundamental of all as far as the mise en abyme is concerned, has to my knowledge not previously been formulated. However, despite his summary classification, inadequate terminology and secondhand knowledge of heraldry, C. Metz seems to glimpse it when he correctly distinguished between ‘the film in the film’ (analogy) and ‘the film of the film’ (identity); cf. Metz, ‘La construc¬ tion’, pp. 224ff. Jean Paul too puts his finger on it again when he poses the problem of the ‘circular witticism’ in terms of ‘equality’, ‘resemblance’, ‘simulation’ and apparent opposition: cf. the text quoted above, p. 37.

222 5

6 7

8 9

Notes to chapter 8 This recalls the typical problem of synecdoche, and the impossibility of reducing synecdoche to metonymy. According to Genette, ‘this reduction undoubtedly derives from an almost inevitable confusion between the relation of the part to the whole and the relation of this same part to the other parts that constitute the whole - the relation, in other words, of the part to the rest (‘La Rhetorique restreinte’, in Figures III, p. 27). Psalm 42: 8; cf. L’Homme qui rit. Part II, Book III, ch. IX. Barthes gives an example (which will no doubt strike a chord in the reader) of this addition that leads to a loss: ‘Being continually short of time (or thinking you are), caught by deadlines and delays, you obstinately think you will get out of it by putting what you have to do into order. You make programmes, plans, timetables, lists of dead¬ lines. On your table and in your files, countless lists of articles, books, seminars and shopping, to do, phone calls to make. You never in fact consult these pieces of paper, given that your anguished conscience has provided you with an excellent memory for obligations. But it is unavoidable: you extend the time you haven 't got, precisely by writing down this lack. We may call this (noting its manic character) THE COMPULSION TO PROGRAMME; countries and collective organ¬ izations are apparently not exempt from this: they too waste time MAKING PROGRAMMES. And as I foresee that I shall write an article on this, the idea of the programme itself becomes a compulsion to programme’ (R. Barthes, Roland Barthes (Paris, Seuil, 1975), pp. 176ff. - my italics; cf. Roland Barthes, translated by R. Howard (London, Cape, 1977), p. 174). This everyday mise en abyme is quite in the spirit of Jean Paul who also apparently liked to put off the moment X (of writing a novel) by establishing a register, and a register of the register, etc. Another example of an existential mise en abyme, which is no less ‘manic’, would be taking out an insurance policy when fearful of a risk, which leads inevitably to taking out a second policy against the first, etc. See the identical example Borges takes from J. Royce, which I quote in appendix 1 (‘the map of England’). Hence there is nothing more logical than that the mise en abyme is an emblem of Derrida’s differance (cf. J. Derrida, De la grammatologie (Paris, Editions de minuit, 1967), pp. 434ff.; Dissemination, trans¬ lated by B. Johnson (London, Athlone Press, 1981), pp. 168ff. and 202, and ‘Le parergon’, Digraphe, 2 (1974), 22, 25 and 31), and that the emblem of this emblem should be the famous Dresden gallery described by Husserl in Ideas I: ‘Everything has, no doubt, begun in the following way: “A name on being mentioned reminds us of the

Notes to chapter 8

223

Dresden gallery ... We wander through the rooms ... A painting by Teniers . . . represents a gallery of paintings . . . The paintings of this gallery would represent in their turn paintings, which on their part exhibited readable inscriptions, and so forth” ’ (J. Derrida, Speech and Phenomena, translated by D. B. Allison (Evanson, Northwestern University Press, 1973), p. 104 and epigram). 10 I might mention here the (quasi-) infinite genitivity ironized by Jean Paul (cf. above, p. 38), of which certain composite German words do give an idea. But it would also be possible to note that the repetitive mise en abyme has several symmetrical counterparts: In mathematics, Godel’s theorems have notably shown that the non-contradiction of a system cannot be proved by a formalization that remained internal to the system, but that conversely this demonstration does become poss¬ ible by using ‘stronger’ means, in other words a superior system which, to be complete, must in turn etc . . . Cf. J. Piaget, Le Structuralisme (Paris, PUF, 1968), pp. 29ff., who comments: ‘Hitherto one could have considered theories as forming elegant pyramids, resting on a self-sufficient base, the lowest level being the most solid since it is formed of the simplest elements. But if simplicity becomes a sign of weakness and one level can only be consolidated by construct¬ ing a higher one above it, the consistency of the pyramid in fact comes downwards from its summit - which on its own is incomplete, always requiring a higher stage: the image of the pyramid must therefore be overthrown and replaced by the more precise image of a spiral with circles that increase in size as one ascends’ (ibid., pp. 30ff.). In logic, there is Russell’s paradox (a theory cannot demonstrate its own contra¬ diction - cf. the logic of Russell and Whitehead’s Principia Math¬ ematical and its revision by Russell and Godel. This paradox and its revision are also applicable to semantic systems: ‘Each language has a structure which one cannot describe within that language; but another language can exist which is built on the structure of the first language and which itself has a new structure . . .’ (B. Russell, Introduction to Wittgenstein’s Tractatus logico-philosophicus (London, 1966), quoted by M. Hobson, ‘Le “Paradoxe sur le comedien” est un paradoxe’, Poetique, 15 (1973), 334). In literary theory, there is the famous ‘progressive Universalpoesie’ of early German Romanticism (see appendix 2), which, in practice, turns out to be a ‘regressive Universalpoesie’ or a mise en abyme in that the successive trans¬ cendence of a work within itself can only operate by miniaturization. 11 Although Chomsky confirms the possibility of an arbitrary number of embedded interdependent elements, he notes that because memory is finite, they cannot be tolerated in practice beyond the second or third

224

12

13

14

Notes to chapter 8 degree when they are recursive to both right and left. Cf. Chomsky, ‘La notion’, pp. 89£f-, and, on the same lines, N. Ruwet, Introduction a la grammaire generate (Paris, Plon, 1968), pp. 95ff. Roussel there¬ fore provides a severe challenge to readability through his multipli¬ cation of parentheses within parentheses in Les Nouvelles Impressions d’Afrique. Moreover, although a virtually unlimited recursion ‘to the right’ is possible (in The Arabian Nights and Le Manuscrit trouve a Saragosse - see on this T. Todorov, ‘Les Hommes-Recits’, in Poetique de la prose (Paris, Seuil, 1971), pp. 82ff. - or in plays like Tieck’s Der gestiefelte Kater and Die verkehrte Welt), this too fairly quickly leads the reader or the audience (or the author) to lose their footing. In his Studies in the Narrative Technique of the First-Person Novel (Stock¬ holm, Gothenburg, Uppsala, Almqvist and Wiksell, 1962, p. 64), B. Romberg notes the case of a picaresque English novel, The English Rogue, whose author, by multiplying narrators, ends up like them: not knowing who is telling what. Examples would be: (a) Huxley’s Point Counter Point', (b) Claude Simon’s Le Vent and L ’Herbe (see below, ch. 9, n. 48; and (c) Gide’s The Counterfeiters. In this last case, we should note that ‘temporal’ art’s intolerance of repeated embedding allows us retrospectively to understand why Gide alternates the novel with Edouard’s diary, and extends the reflexion outside the novel in the Logbook of The Coiners and his Journals. Examples would be: (a) Don Quixote, Flegeljahre, Paludes, The Counterfeiters, Les Fruits d’or. Comment: the inserted works in Fontane’s L Adultera and Sarraute’s Portrait d'un inconnu, although they have the same titles as the novel, do not produce type III, since they are pictorial, not literary. They participate on a similar, not an identical, basis; (b) the Remembrance of Things Past, Butor’s La Modification-, (c) Heinrich von Ofterdingen, Le Docteur Pascal, Ricardou’s La Prise de Constantinople, Simon’s Triptyque. C. Metz suggests that the power of the self-embedding is inversely proportional to the degree to which the embedded work is mobilized, thus stating an important law (although it is questionable whether it is not refuted by texts such as the nouveaux romans). It is at any rate valid for the traditional narrative and invites us to accept that the exploitation of the title alone represents in literature an ideal solution, paralleled in film by the refusal to present extracts of the film en abyme in the primary film. In order for the work en abyme to seem coincident with the work that contains it, any possibility of a distinction being made between them must be removed (cf. Metz, ‘La construction’, pp. 225ff.).

Notes to chapter 8 15

16

17

18 19

20

225

On 13 April 1893, Zola said to Edmond de Goncourt: ‘InLe Docteur Pascal, I had to undertake a great deal of study, investigation and research in order to link this last book in the Rougon-Macquart series to the others ... so that the work resembled those rings in the form of snakes biting their own taiV (quoted in the study of Le Docteur Pascal in Les Rougon-Macquart, vol. V, p. 1569 (Goncourt’s italics). If Zola had used the (over-simplified?) device of the title, he would have saved himself this effort, while achieving (almost) the same result. On aporia, see ch. V (‘Les Antinomies’) of E. W. Beth’s Les Fondements logiques des mathematiques (Paris and Louvain, GauthierVillars and E. Nauwelaerts, 1950), pp. 157ff. One might also note the subtle interplay of tense and mode at the end of Proust’s Time Regained. To illustrate aporia, I shall just quote three sentences: ‘it occurred to me suddenly that, if I still had the strength to accomplish my work, this afternoon . . . which . . . had given me both the idea of my work and the fear of being unable to bring it to fruition . . .’; ‘Many errors, it is true, there are, as the reader will have seen that various episodes in this story had proved to me, by which our senses falsify for us the real nature of the world. Some of these, however, it would be possible for me to avoid by the efforts I should make to give a more exact transcription of things . . . ’; ‘. if, in my attempt to transcribe a universe that had to be totally redrawn, I could not convey these changes and many others, the needfulness of which, if one is to depict reality, has been made manifest in the course of my narrative, at least I should not fail . . . (Remembrance of Things Past, El. 1103-4). Jean Paul, quoted above, p. 38. ‘A thousand examples of this reverberation which is always fascinating: barber getting a haircut, shoeshine boy (in Morocco) having his shoes shined, a cook making herself dinner, an actor going to the theatre on the night his own play is off, a screen writer who sees films, a writer who reads books; Mile M., an elderly secretary, cannot write the word ‘erasure’ without having to erase; M., a pimp, finds no-one to procure (for his personal use) the subjects he furnishes his clients etc. All of which is autonymy, that disturbing (comical and banal) strabismus of an operation that comes full circle; something like an anagram, an inverted over-stamping, a breakdown of levels’ (R. Barthes, Roland Barthes, translated by R. Howard, p. 49.). M. Foucault, ‘Le Langage a l’infini’, Tel Quel, 15 (1963), 47.

Notes to chapter 9

226 Chapter 9

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

The mise en abyme and the nouvea u roman

The German Romantics’ reception of Don Quixote is particularly important in this respect: type III, as a result of the new context in which it was used, developed towards type II. ‘A baroque work’, writes Jean Rousset, ‘is simultaneously the work itself and its own creation’ (La Litterature de Page baroque en France (Paris, Corti, 1954), p. 232). This combination reveals once more the ‘mercenary’ character of the mise en abyme. Whereas Symbolism used it to thematize the relation or lack of it - between art and life, Naturalism resorted to it for clarity of communication and to subvert the principle whereby the author could not intervene himself. Conversely, the mise en abyme was virtually eclipsed during Classicism. The ‘digressions’ favoured in the classical novel (such as La Princesse de Cleves) should therefore perhaps be interpreted as a kind of ‘return of the repressed’. When Sartre writes in the preface to Portrait d’un inconnu (1948) that such works ‘merely reveal that we live in an era of reflexion and where the novel reflects on itself ’, he is referring primarily to the mise en abyme in this novel (N. Sarraute, Portrait d ’un inconnu (preface by J.-P. Sartre) (Paris, Gallimard, 1948), p. 8). The historical impact and programmatic influence of this brief remark is well known; in it, the ‘Selbstverstandnis’ of the nouveau roman was already being expressed. Is this an evolution in form, a revolution, or, as Genette and Ricardou have occasionally suggested (cf. Figures III, p. 242, and Nouveau roman: hier, aujourd’hui, p. 284), a virtual ‘eviction’? Cf. G. Charbonnier, Entretiens avec Michel Butor (Paris, Gallimard, 1967), pp. 25, 72, 114; and also ‘Les Parentheses de l’ete’, in which Butor mentions the ‘mirrors in L. Cremonini’s pictures’ (Exhibition Catalogue), and Butor’s children’s book Les Petits Miroirs (Paris, La Farandole, 1972). On Cremonini, see V. Anker and L. Dallenbach, ‘La Reflexion speculaire dans la peinture et la litterature recentes’, p. 32. Cf. L’Emploi du temps (Paris, Editions de minuit, 1957), pp. 255ff. For those unfamiliar with the novel, Butor’s remarks in conversation with Charbonnier will provide a brief guide (Entretiens, pp. 91-108). In the same way that the myths Butor exploits in L Emploi du temps become progressively literary (the absence of a Jocasta in Butor’s treat¬ ment of the Oedipus myth doubtless reflecting her resistance to literary reinterpretation), the themes and motifs of the novel become allegor-

Notes to chapter 9

10

11 12 13

14 15

16 17

227

ized and point up either the awakening of consciousness (light/lucidity) or the activity of writing. In the second half of the novel, writing is in turn compared to a labyrinth (p. 227), to Ariadne’s thread (p. 187), to a blaze (‘flamboiement’, pp. 186, 261, 296) of which the ‘real’ fires in the book were just a ‘crude prefiguration’ (p. 296), and finally to the one and only ‘trick-mirror’ (p. 275). On Revel’s interaction with works of art and the dialectic it gives rise to, see L. Dallenbach, Le Livre et ses miroirs dans l 'oeuvre romanesque de Michel Butor (Paris, Minard, 1972), pp. 13ff. This is the Lewis Carroll-like theme of Butor’s children’s story (Butor himself being a great traveller). Cf. pp. 9, 62, 88, 273, 278, 287 and 297. Cf. J. Roudaut, Michel Butor ou le livre futur (Paris, Gallimard, 1964), p. 213, and also Butor’s remarks on Van Eyck in Les Mots dans la peinture (Geneva, Skira, 1969), pp. 95ff. In Charbonnier, Entretiens avec Michel Butor, p. 25. ‘Le Roman comme recherche’ in Repertoire (Paris, Editions de minuit, 1960), p. 10. This relationship with the context is thematized in the same terms in the novel itself, in respect of works of art and the detective novel. See in particular pp. 65ff. and 82. ‘Le Roman comme recherche’, p. 10 (my italics). The article ‘La Critique et 1’invention’ in Repertoire III provides an assurance that this analysis of Butor’s use of reflexivity conforms to the novelist’s own views. In this key text, Butor distinguishes three stages (‘moments’) in the process of reflexion: (a) ‘other works in the work’, i.e. intertextuality (samples from other texts, quotations, pastiche and parody); (b) ‘the work within the work’, i.e. the mise en abyme as a system of refraction that is more or less complex depending on whether it involves one or several ‘imaginary works’; and (c) ‘the work in other works’, i.e. the inherent incompleteness of the work, which appears to be a fragment of another, more vast and always developing work.

18

See appendix 2. The affinities between Butor and Schlegel are so striking - they both ‘confuse’ the genres, their novels combine prose and poetry, philosophy and criticism; they are both concerned with creating a new mythology; they both define literature as a progressive and infinite activity - that texts from Repertoire could well be set alongside (translated) fragments from the Athenaum\ for instance ‘Novelistic poetry, or, if one prefers, the novel as poetry, which will draw a lesson from the novel, will be poetry capable of making itself

228

19 20

21 22

23

24 25 26

27

28 29

30 31

32

Notes to chapter 9 explicit, of revealing its own situation; it would contain its own commentary’ (Repertoire //(Paris, Editions de minuit, 1964), p. 25). ‘La Critique et l’invention’, Repertoire III, p. 20. The text indicates this explicitly by recalling that Burton’s first lesson was devoted to the ‘essence’ of his art (p. 148), i.e. ‘the significance he accords to his basic theme, murder, double murder, certainly revealing much of his real self to us’ (ibid.). Cf. T. Todorov, ‘Typologie du roman policier’, in Poetique de la prose, p. 57. Seen in this light, it is self-explanatory why L ’Emploi du temps prefers to use the detective novel, rather than any other text, as its mise en abyme: once the intention is to have as its theme literature as a ‘going beyond’, the choice of a static and perfectly codified genre is obvious in that it brings out all the more strongly the subversive and ‘inaugural’ character of the work of art. This is precisely the problem Butor faced at the end of La Modification. In order to spring the lock of type III and to use it, in a way, against itself, he is careful to ensure that the book in the text reflects simul¬ taneously La Modification and the book to come. This double game is guaranteed by the ambiguous last phrase, which, however, our more one-dimensional critics soon reduced to a single meaning. Conversation with M. Chapsal, in M. Chapsal, Les Ecrivains en personne (Paris, Julliard, I960), p. 58. A. Robbe-Grillet, Pour un nouveau roman (Paris, Gallimard, Idees, 1963), p. 8. On representativity and the role of Robbe-Grillet’s doubles, see my ‘Faux Portraits de personne’ in Robbe-Grillet (Colloque de Cerisy, Paris, Union generate d’editions, 10/18, 1976), vol. I, pp. 11 Off. This ‘African novel’ does in fact reproduce the situation in the novel itself, since it contains the triangle of jealous husband-wife-supposed lover, with the husband spying on the others and building fantasies on what he believes to be real evidence of infidelity. Cf. above, pp. 52ff. Thus, the ‘narrator’ knows nothing of a book that we ourselves only know through his fantasizing eavesdropping on the commentaries of A. and Frank. La Jalousie (Paris, Editions de minuit, 1957), p. 74. Which Valery explains as follows: ‘I mean by this any belief based on a lack of appreciation that literature is words, e.g. the belief that these insubstantial beings have an existence or a psychology as people ’ (CEuvres, vol. II, p. 569). ‘The extras who discuss so animatedly in front of him ... are merely

Notes to chapter 9

229

public-bar tacticians who remake History as they like, criticizing

33

34 35 36 37

38 39 40

41

42

43

ministers, correcting the actions of generals, creating imaginary episodes . . (A. Robbe-Grillet, Dans le labyrinthe (Paris, Editions de minuit, 1959), p. 217). Treating the two dominant poles of the thought of the early RobbeGrillet dialectically, this opening leads us to conclude that Tabulation’ and the affirmation of the world as pure artifice alternate and are mutually exclusive. Cf. J. Kristeva, La Revolution du langage poetique (Paris, Seuil, 1974), pp. 352ff. J. Rousset, ‘Les Deux Jalousies’, in Narcisse romancier, p. 144. J. Alter, La Vision du monde d'Alain Robbe-Grillet (Geneva, Droz, 1966), p. 30. ‘The whole plea . . . reminded one vividly of the defence put forward by the man who was charged by one of his neighbours with having given him back a borrowed kettle in a damaged condition. The defend¬ ant asserted first, that he had given it back undamaged; secondly, that the kettle had a hole in it when he borrowed it; and thirdly, that he had never borrowed a kettle from his neighbour at all’ (S. Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, translated by J. Strachey (London, Allen and Unwin, 1954), pp. 119-20. This remark confirms Robbe-Grillet’s statement at Cerisy (1976): ‘For me, La Jalousie was already a system with repetitive variations.’ O. Bernal, Alain Robbe-Grillet: le roman de l'absence (Paris, Gallimard, 1964), p. 152. Is it not symptomatic that, despite its hatred of the centre, this is at the heart of the text and that this element alone is virtually transparent, as if, here, a single signification was paramount? To note two superb examples of metatextual mise en abyme that are not noted, or perhaps even noticed, for the same reasons, by the realist critic Morrissette: the dance of the insects (pp. 147ff. and 150ff.) and the cries of the carnivores (pp. 30ff. and 149). B. Morrissette, Les Romans de Robbe-Grillet (Paris, Editions de minuit, 1971), p. 126. On p. 135, Morrissette again mentions the ‘ “native” song of the second driver . . . which supposedly constitutes a shortened version or summary of the structure of the novel’. One must take literally this description of the novel as a poem. As S. Skwarcynska comments (‘Un cas particulier’, pp. 1848ff.), the native song both reveals the lyricism (and therefore the subjectivism) that the novel conceals behind its objective principle, and at the same time itself helps to suffuse the epic structure of La Jalousie with lyricism.

230 44 45

46

47

48

49

50

Notes to chapter 9 Alter, La Vision, pp. 30 and 32. It is self-evident that the recurrence and alternation of these crystal¬ lizing reflexions - the African novel (pp. 26, 54, 82ff., 86, 93, 138, 193ff., 215ff.), the native song (pp. 99ff-, 192, 194ff., 199), the cries of the carnivores (pp. 30, 149, 209) and the flight of the insects (pp. 147ff., 150, 153)- also scatter the mises en abyme throughout the text and, in a way, ‘equalize’ it. In fact, Simon’s novels are to be defined as ‘the interplay of internal mirrors’ (C. Simon, Nouveau roman: hier, aujourd’hui, vol. II, p. 108) less by the use of the mise en abyme in the strict sense of the term than by the exemplary way in which he obeys the ‘principle of equivalence’. L 'Herbe (Paris, Editions de minuit, 1958), p. 11. The contents of this box, bequeathed to Louise by her dying aunt, lead the heroine to tum back on herself, to identify with the aunt, and to decide not to follow her lover. To quote two passages that echo each other, and attest the obsession with the abyss in the early Simon (whose implications for Simon’s writing L. Janvier recently brought out well in Une Parole exigeante, le nouveau roman (Paris, Editions de minuit, 1964) pp. 107ff.): ‘or reality is endowed with a life of its own which is proud, independent of our perceptions and, consequently, of our appetite for logic - and therefore trying to find it, discover it or flush it out is perhaps as vain, as misleading as those children’s games, or those Russian dolls enclosed in each other, each containing and revealing another, smaller one, until you get down to something infinitely small, minute, and insignificant, i.e. nothing at all’ (Le Vent (Paris, Editions de minuit, 1957), p. 10); ‘the old box on whose lid the image of the languid young woman and the same curly-haired little dog with a blue bow was repeated, indefinitely reproduced on the lid of the identical miniature box the woman held in her hand (in fact, that is as far as one could see, this was only repeated twice, the third sweet-tin being already so small that the woman on it is just a mark on the green of the grass, and the dog just a point, but the idea of this infinite repetition the perception of which escapes our senses, our eyesight, thrusting the mind into a sort of vertiginous anxiety) . . .’ (L’Herbe, pp. 184ff.). The similarity between this box and the one described by Michel Leiris in Manhood (see above, n. 6, pp. 195-6) is noteworthy in that in both cases, there is an explicit evocation of ‘infinity’, that is, a reality that is by nature continually hidden, constantly repeating itself until it disappears completely. The reappearance of the lid (pp. 115, 184ff., 213, 229) and the

Notes to chapters 9 and 10

51

231

growing diversity of the contents of the box reveal the desire, here as well, to liberate the mise en abyme from its local context. On the subject of this conversion, it will be noted that in referring to the ‘bone-box’, which is the dying woman’s skull, the narrative suggests that its major signifier is a skull, an emblem of vanity, the contemplation of which transforms the protagonist into a ‘Madeleine at her mirror’.

52

See above, pp. 30ff. In this respect, is it not symptomatic that in his description of the image itself Simon stops at the third level of embedding?

53

M. Butor, ‘La Critique et 1’invention’, Repertoire III, p. 18.

Chapter i o

1 2

3 4 5

6 7 8

The mise en abyme and the new nouvea u roman

See above, pp. 29, 36, 43 and 46. Heralded by L ’Emploi du temps (Mediterranean towns in Bleston) and La Modification (Paris in Rome, Rome in Paris) and generalized in Ou (Paris juxtaposed with Mount Sandia and with many other sites which themselves are interwoven), this strategy of cognition based on metaphor is explicitly formulated in ‘Trente-six et dix vues du Fuji’ in Repertoire III, pp. 159-68. The idea of the impossibility of the place of which one speaks coinciding with the place one is speaking is present as early as the Entretiens, pp. 50ff. Ou, Le Genie du lieu 2 (Paris, Gallimard, 1971), p. 378. It is symptomatic that this withdrawal occurs initially in Degres and is counterbalanced by the use of quotations. This identity between the subject of the enunciation and the author is established by the use of Butor’s name and biographical details, but also by the reference to a text ‘by the same author’: ‘I wrote a dialogue in my Reseau . . .’ (p. 57). On the question of mise en abyme and authorial intervention as ‘rival’, mutually exclusive devices, see above, p. 52. Les Lieux-dits, petit guide d 'un voyage dans le livre (Paris, Gallimard, 1969), epigram. This fundamental theoretical debate is defined as ‘the curious quarrel over which is the major element, words or things’ (p. 33), and is judged by the text in the sense that the fight to the death between its two protagonists - a fiction affirming the pre-eminence of words (the ‘novel’ or Lasius) and a text as vehicle which ‘considers language as the translation of a pre-existing reality’ (ibid.) - ends in the victory of (the champion of) literature. The important point to note, therefore, is

232

Notes to chapter 10

that Les Lieux-dits is not only a text on the theory of the text, but a text that demonstrates this theory. 9 Note that this second-degree mise en abyme is multiplied to the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh powers in the subsequent text, since the motif it represents returns in the shop of Epsilon the antiquary (p. 32), the packet of Pall Mall cigarettes (p. 83), the photograph of the asylum (p. 91) and one of Cendrier’s enamels (p. 94) - as well as finally in The Garden of Oppositions (p. 126). This infinite multiplication is charac¬ teristic of Ricardou’s use of mise en abyme, and is equally vertiginous in the erotic struggle featured in Epsilon’s window. Duplicated as soon as it appears in an engraving and a tapestry, which in turn represent and reproduce it, and miniaturized in a mirror or a piece of Dresden china (cf. pp. 42ff.), the struggle of the mannequins - an obvious reflexion of one of Robbe-Grillet’s Instantanes - is refracted in a mirror before being (or, since the proliferation here thematizes the imposs¬ ibility of assigning an origin or a model to the representation, after having been) reflected by Cruris’s canvas Reflexion and by a room in the La Fontaine hotel in Monteaux .... 10 [‘II faut la croix et la banniere’ means in English ‘it’s the devil’s own job.’ Dallenbach notes here, ‘in the spirit of La Prise/Prose de Constantinople’, that ‘la croix et la banniere’ is defined in French dictionaries as ‘c’est beaucoup d’histoires’ (‘it’s a lot of fuss’, but literally ‘it’s many stories’ - Le Petit Robert) and ‘le comble des formalites’ (‘much ado’, literally ‘the ultimate in formality’ - Le Petit Larousse) - Tr.] 11

12

13

14

One may note that the text literally revolves around Belcroix and that the generative power of the word is such that having given rise to ‘crusader’ (‘croise’) and ‘crusade’ (‘croisade’) it will produce ‘crescent’ (‘croissant’), ‘crucial’, Crucis, Delacroix, ‘transept’ (‘croisee’), ‘cross-pieces’ (‘croisillons’), ‘interlaced’ (‘entrecroises’) which are linked to ‘croix’ by paronymy or etymology - ‘Red Cross’ (‘croix rouge’) - which is linked in maliciously, intersecting with a different series - and, by reference to the form of the letter, the unknown ‘X’ celebrated in Mallarme’s famous sonnet (cf. p. 139). ‘. . . with its twenty-four signs, this Literature accurately described as Letters . . .’ (Mallarme, CEuvres completes (Paris, Gallimard, Pleiade, 1965), p. 850). Note that Les Lieux-dits does more than ‘square’ the reflexion: as n. 4 on p. 202 suggests, it also tries to ensure that all the macroscopic mises en abyme are related and interwoven. The most remarkable effect of this interplay is to create a ‘multi-mirroring’ in the text. Cf. J. Ricardou, Pour une theorie du nouveau roman (Paris, Seuil,

Notes to chapter 10

15

16 17

18

233

1971), p. 32. Writing from a completely different point of view, J. Baudrillard none the less confirms that this is the effect: ‘the mirror makes space finite, it presupposes a wall, it reflects into the centre: the more mirrors there are, the more the room has a glorious intimacy and yet the more it is circumscribed by itself’ (Le Systeme des objets (Paris, Gallimard, 1968), p. 32). As soon as one thinks of the relationship between this strange opuscule and the work that contains it in terms of narrative time, one realizes that there has in fact been a decisive shift between the time of the narration and the time of the story, if, for the reader, the ‘work within the work’ serves as a summary of the fiction after the event, from the point of view of the characters it precedes the fiction, since they are supposed to have read the ‘work within the work’ and to have modelled their behaviour on it. The fundamental question of origin this raises does the second narrative (art) imitate the first (life), or vice versa? can be answered differently according to whether one approaches it from the point of view of the text on the one hand or of the fiction on the other. Ricardou, Le Nouveau Roman, p. 123. Ricardou, Pour une theorie du nouveau roman, p. 220. We should recall that in Ricardou’s terminology, narration and fiction correspond respectively to Saussure’s signifier and signified, and to what Hjelmslev calls the substance and the form of the expression on the one hand and the form of the content on the other. In other words, what Ricardou would call mise en abyme of the narration covers both mise en abyme of the text and of the code according to my terminology, mises en abyme of the fiction being the same thing in both our vocabu¬ laries. My enunciative and transcendental mises en abyme do not seem to be taken into account by Ricardou - nor are my types. Ricardou, Problemes du nouveau roman, p. 178. Although this principle has the advantage of challenging an all too complacent view of the themes of literature, one should ask whether it itself is prejudiced and should be questioned. Les Lieux-dits, without a doubt, fully proves the point. But is it true oiall ‘great narratives’? In some respects, one has the impression that Ricardou himself has his doubts - in his theor¬ etical works, he never adopts the principle without adding nuances and reservations - although the particular style of his readings is explicable precisely in terms of his wish to prove the theorem in question. To quote just one very apposite example, according to him the Oedipus myth is primarily an allegory of the functions of the mise en abyme (see Problemes du nouveau roman, p. 179). Given that I have already (in advance) commented on this kind of interpretation (see above,

234

19 20

21

22 23

Notes to chapter 10 p. 49), we can now examine how Ricardou justifies it. The most important thing, it seems, to the theoretician, is to disprove idealist suppositions and to assert that the fiction is mimetic of the narration, rather than vice versa. Ricardou bases his view of this mimesis on the irrefutable fact that, far from being independent of the narration, ‘the fiction is governed by the nature of the narrative signs . . . (Problemes du nouveau roman, p. 87), and that ‘instead of being dominant episodes that produce the text, the fiction here is shown to be an effect of the text’ (Pour une theorie du nouveau roman, p. 47). But is this a firm basis for the view? To be so, causality itself has to be seen as analogical, the effect seen as inevitably similar to the cause and, in a way, the signifier seen as the same as the signified. Now, Ricardou would be the first to recognize that the literal and referential dimen¬ sions of the text are ‘incommensurable’ (Le Nouveau Roman, p. 29). But seeing them as such is, surely, to undermine completely the onto¬ logical justification of the analogy and to show his hermeneutism for what it is: a partisan reading which, besides, clearly emerges in the last page of Problemes du nouveau roman. To note the justification that is given there: it is appropriate to practise a ‘sort of hermeneutic return (reploiement)’ since in the final analysis it is this ‘return’ alone that conforms to the idea that literature only ever expresses itself. The argument is clearly circular and ultimately motivated, it seems, by a law already familiar in a sense to ancient rhetoric: the constant practice (or the reading) of reflexion is fated to lead to allegory. See appendices 3 and 5. That these are also, in the final analysis, metaphors of the function of the narrative is inherently clear: through the twists of the text, the code coincides here with the fiction. ‘We must also mention the surprising interpretation of Albert Crucis’s painting. The minute cross, included in each signature dis¬ guised as a dot over the “i”, had according to him a pedagogical value and should be read as meaning “it is my name I am painting.” And in fact, whether it was a pseudonym or his real name, Cruris is the genitive case of the Latin crux, or cross’ (p. 27). Far from being a sign of illiteracy, the signature indicates that the writer has no existence of his own since he derives his identity from language. The inevitable counterpart of the self-affirmation of the verbal order, the ‘elocutory disappearance of the poet’ (Mallarme) explains that, at the level of the fiction, Crucis appears as one of the ‘living dead’, or as a ‘phantom’. J. Ricardou, ‘Naissance d’une fiction’, in Nouveau Roman: bier, aujourd'hui, vol. II, p. 380. Le Nouveau Roman, p. 70.

Notes to chapter 10 24 25 26

27

28

29

30 31

32

235

Ibid., p. 71. Ricardou, Nouveau Roman: bier, aujourd’hui II. 221. The following passage of Pour une theorie du nouveau roman supports this: the fiction, ‘vertiginously, is merely that which, vertiginously, tries to show its own essence. Always separated from itself by the almost imperceptible, but continuous, shift involved in any new self¬ designation, stability is always deferred’ (p. 105). ‘Far from disappearing, the anecdote therefore thrives: discontinuous, plural, mobile, risky, designating its own fictionality, it becomes a “game” in the fullest sense’ (A. Robbe-Grillet, Priere d'inserer accompanying Projet pour une revolution a New York (Paris, Editions de minuit, 1970). Cf. also Projet, pp. 157 and 191. To recall Robbe-Grillet’s remark: ‘a new literature does not address a pre-existing public. Only gradually is the public invented, as the book itself is’ (Nouveau Roman: bier, aujourd’hui, vol. I, p. 143). Note that they ironically discuss all of Robbe-Grillet’s novelistic production according to Hegel’s thesis (‘purely subjective’), antithesis (‘on a completely objective basis’), superseded and reconciled in the ludic synthesis of the Projet. Cf. p. 38, and, as proof, the double definition the novel gives of its ‘cuts’ (p. 191). Compare, for example, pp. 35 and 39 (the scene with the ‘nurse’), 38 and 148 (the description of furniture) and 39 and 79 (‘religious rituals of central Africa’). After the main narrative has regained enough ground for the book within the book to be forgotten, the reader comes upon a sentence that throws everything into question and leads the novel to twist round on itself again: ‘Then I close the book with the torn cover again and give it back to the girl who was reading it, after glancing one last time at the illustration.’ This process whereby one narrative ‘captures’ the other was intro¬ duced by Ricardou in La Prise de Constantinople (1965): ‘There is no danger: Ed. Word will have no idea how important his mission is. It is an elementary precaution. Besides, he will be the pilot of a simple, single rocket. - His uniform? - That of a Captain in the Solar Legion. All red, with golden asterisks above the octagon of the federation on the chest. His eyes are green. - Can you hear me? I knocked, I came in, I went up to you, looked at you close up, but it seems nothing will distract you from your new novel.’ It is also used in Simon’s Triptyque, as well as in Projet, and is the opposite of the ‘liberation’ of one narrative from another we observed in the second part of Don Quixote. The modem device aims to catch the referential in the net of

236

33

Notes to chapter 10 the literal, whereas the baroque figure was intended to give the illusion of reality by denying the existence of the text. These reflexive circuits are created by the reciprocal interplay between a television screen, a camera and a video recorder. Projet No. 3 pour videotape also plays with fire and is the result of a framework which Minkoff describes as follows: ‘ 1 A television monitor, connected to a video recording the scene and in turn connected to a video camera, is placed on a pyre which is then ignited. 2 I sit on a chair by the monitor. 3 I and the monitor on the pyre are in shot of the camera, which therefore transmits images to the burning monitor on whose screen I see myself (in a mirror) sitting next to a monitor, etc. until the implosion of the image of myself within myself within myself and so on (in a series which only excludes Me)’ (G. Minkoff, Videotapes (Rome, Galleria dell’ Obelisco, 1972).

35 Pictured in M. Gardner, The Ambidextrous Universe (New York, London, Basic Books, 1964), p. 176. 35 Cf. B. Morrissette, ‘Robbe-Grillet No. 1, 2 ... X’, in Nouveau Roman: hier, aujourd'hui, vol. II, p. 130ff. (illustration). 36 ‘My project was to create a novel that could not be reduced to any realistic schema’, Simon stated about Triptyque, ‘that is, a novel where the relationship between its different “series” (or “units”) would not be one of progression, or one of psychological determinism, or of similarity of situation or theme (such as the theme of neverending wandering that dominated Les Corps conducteurs), and where there would be no characters or times or places that would be privileged over the others (unlike Les Corps conducteurs, which allowed itself to be summarized by critics as “a sick man walks down a street and remembers”)’ [Claude Simon, Colloque de Cerisy dirige par J. Ricardou, p. 424). This statement is of prime importance, and indicates that the summary is again a major concern. 37 J. Ricardou in Claude Simon: Analyse, theorie (Colloque de Cerisy dirige par J. Ricardou) (Paris, Union generate d’editions, 10/18, 1975), pp. 24ff. 38 These remarks of Derrida are equally applicable in each of their aspects to Triptyque: ‘This speculum reflects no reality; it produces mere “reality-effects”. ... In this speculum with no reality, in this mirror of a mirror, a difference or dyad does exist, since there are mimes and phantoms. But it is a difference without reference, or rather a reference without a referent, without any first or last unit. . . Mallarme [Simon]

Notes to chapter 10

39 40

41

42

43

44

237

thus preserves the differential structure of mimicry or mimesis, but without its Platonic or metaphysical interpretation, which implies that somewhere the being of something is being imitated. Mallarme [Simon] even maintains (and maintains himself in) the structure of the phantasma, as it is defined by Plato: the simulacrum as the copy of a copy. With the exception that there is no longer any model, and hence, no copy, and that this structure ... is no longer referred back to any ontology, or even to any dialectic’ (Dissemination, pp. 206-7). Triptyque (Paris, Editions de minuit, 1973), p. 69; cf. also pp. 16, 29, 63, 67, 110 and 143. The following description is applicable to each series: ‘There is no continuity between the different parts of the poster. The two men on the edge of the wood of blackened trees, the long brick wall with a couple leaning on it, embracing, and the two faces in the foreground, which take up most of the poster, are three distinct elements separated by fuzzy areas, as if three different projectors were displaying their images simultaneously on to a screen of black smoke and cloud which in turn provided the background for the title of the film to appear in red letters’ (p. 96). Note, moreover, that it is the continuity of the writing that, for reasons analysed by Ricardou at the 1974 Colloque, here causes the referential discontinuity. Thus, the seaside series has no less than six representations, being reflected in turn (once or many times) in the postcard, the poster, bits of a photographic film, a cinema film (either being shown or being shot), a painting and an image on a jukebox. It is clear that this ‘compartmentalization’ of the mises en abyme (the different bits of photographic film, the posters) and this making their status indeterminate (see in particular pp. 44ff. and 80ff.) intensify the disruption involved in the capturing of a ‘reality’ by a representation. The reason for this is obvious: once the text plays the game of reference without referents, it must produce its ‘representation effects’ by reflecting on itself. It is therefore a glistening, shimmering text - a moire - which, moreover, often takes its own ‘scintillations’ as its theme (cf. e.g. pp. 1 Iff., 13, 118ff., 139, 147, 213 and 222). There are other metaphors, which the reader may or may not perceive, according to whether Simon’s aim is to make the meaning transparent, or merely virtual. This leads him, like Robbe-Grillet, to make a sequence reflexive without making its referential dimension ‘blank’. The prolonged hesitation between the ‘primary’ and the reflexive meaning caused by this ambiguous technique is in my view one of Triptyque’s most admirable features. See, e.g., the descriptions on pp. 1 Iff. and the remarkable ‘summer night’ of pp. 20ff.

238 45 46 47 48

49 50

51 52 53 54 55 56

Notes to chapter 10 Saussure, Cours de linguistique generate, p. 157. J. Starobinski, Portrait de l'artiste en saltimbanque (Geneva, Skira, 1970), p. 137. C. Simon in Claude Simon, p. 425. Cf. Chomsky, ‘La Notion’, pp 89ff. ‘To account for this, one must realize that the performance model has other, more specific properties than the limitation of memory. Chomsky has recently put forward the hypothesis that “the perceptual device has a stock of analytic pro¬ cedures available to it, one corresponding to each kind of phrase, and that it is organized in such a way that it is unable (or finds it difficult) to utilize a procedure co while it is in the course of executing u>” ’ (Ruwet, Introduction, pp. 133ff.). R. Barthes, Writing Degree Zero, translated by A. Lavers and C. Smith (London, Cape, 1967), p. 44. Ricardou’s theories, to which to a great extent I owe some of my remarks, would no doubt deserve a detailed examination, which cannot be adequately undertaken in the present study. I shall limit myself to referring generally to his important work and presenting it as seen from the particular point of view of the problems raised by my own typology. A quick outline of his thought can be gained from his contribution to Entretiens sur Andre Gide, ed. M. Arland and J. Mouton (Paris, The Hague, Mouton, 1967), p. 228ff., Problemes du nouveau roman, pp. 171-90, Pour un theorie du nouveau roman, pp. 32, 55, 119, 122, 133, 166, 181 and 261ff., Le Nouveau Roman: bier, aujourd’hui, vol. II, pp. 220ff., 355ff. and 408ff., Le Nouveau Roman, pp. 47-75 and 109ff., Claude Simon, pp. 175ff., 185ff., 334ff. and 344, and ‘La Population des miroirs. Problemes de la similitude a partir d’un texte d’Alain Robbe-Grillet’, Poetique, 22 (1975), 196ff., especially 211-15. See, e.g., Le Nouveau Roman, pp. 65ff. Problemes du nouveau roman, p. 47 (my italics). Ricardou, Le Nouveau Roman: bier, aujourd’hui II. 337. Cf. Problemes du nouveau roman, p. 189, Pour une theorie du nouveau roman, p. 119 and Le Nouveau Roman, p. 69. Compare in this respect my reading of L’Emploi du temps with Ricardou’s in Problemes du nouveau roman, pp. 186ff. I have already discussed the problem of this unwarranted assimilation (see above, pp. 48ff.).

57 58

Le Nouveau Roman, pp. Ill and 75; my italics. Cf. also p. 109. Problemes du nouveau roman, pp. 188ff.

59

It is precisely because its meaning seemed to be dissipating, and losing its functional quality, that I concentrated my attention earlier in the

Notes to chapter 10

60 61

62

63

239

book away from this terminal stage of the evolution of the mise en abyme. Once it seemed essential to keep some distinctions between what was a mise en abyme and what was not, Ricardou’s generalized model would only have added to a confusion I had determined to reduce. One might further note that this confusion is exacerbated even further by Ricardou’s occasional surreptitious return to the classic concept of the device - hence it is only an apparent contradiction when he writes that the new nouveau roman marks the eviction of the mise en abyme; and that the new nouveau roman generalizes the use of the mise en abyme. See the remarks above for his views on generalization; and n. 6, p. 226 for those on eviction. Ricardou, in Claude Simon, p. 175. One such cause that should be mentioned is that it is impossible for a living literature, one concerned with raising the reader’s ‘horizon of expectation’, to resort to something that has become a technical device and that has become both conventionalized and banal. The proof that after a certain date the mise en abyme becomes a device in the worst sense can be found in its presence in marginal literature. Thus we read in a (mediocre) detective novel ‘We saw The Sucker. The title made me smile: at any rate, that sucker was lucky, and I hope Providence is just as kind to me’ (P. Randa, Le Banco des caves (Paris, Fleuve Noir, 1973), p. 170). Thus Butor writes: ‘In some of my books, therefore, there is, reflected in their final structure, a sort of idealized story of this structure. But I stress “idealized”, since this story is derived from the knowledge I finally arrive at through the definitive text. It is not the real story, with all its obscurities and meanderings. It’s a considerable simplifi¬ cation compared to that’ (Charbonnier, Entretiens avec Michel Butor, p. 129). As well as Butor’s confession in the previous note, we should remember Blanchot’s remark which, years earlier, invited us to be suspicious of a certain ‘description’ of the text and its fabrication: ‘It is tempting, for the writer, to try to keep a diary of the work he is writing. Is this really possible? Is a Logbook of The Coiners really possible? ... It seems to me that it is impossible to communicate the actual experience of the work, and the strange relationships it estab¬ lishes between the man we might meet in everyday life, the one in fact who keeps the diary on himself, and the being we see emerge behind each great book, out of this book, in order to write it: between Isidore Ducasse and Lautreamont. One can see why the writer can only in fact keep a diary of a work he doesn't write. And also that this diary can only be written by its

240

Notes to chapter 10 becoming imaginary, by immersing itself (as the writer does) in the unreality of the fiction. This fiction does not necessarily correspond in any way to the work it heralds’ (Le Livre a venir, p. 229). In this respect we should mention an arid, but important, book whose reflexions put into perspective the traditional mises en abyme of the author, the text and the code: R. Laporte’s Fugue (Paris, Gallimard, 1970). In writing ‘a book whose sole theme is its own writing’ (p. 120), the writer weaves his text through a process that alternately breaks off and starts again: as with Ricardou, the practice of writing refers the writer back to the theory behind the practice, which in tum leads back to a modification of the practice, and so on, indefinitely, and this move¬ ment, which is fugal although it wants to be integrated, departs so much from his expectations that it leads the writer to admit that writing can never ‘sublimate itself, or summarize itself into a Treatise’ (p. 33), or even ensure, through any theoretical schema, that it ad¬ vances: ‘the elaboration, not of a Treatise, but of theoretical schemata, is part of the literary game: the text could not function if it did not contain the reading of its function in a mise en abyme, and yet, in the same way that such a sequence is not the double, but rather an interpretation, or a new approach, to the text that is already written, it will be possible, or even necessary, later (at least if the work continues to function in the same way) for me to go back, to read these pages so that they become a non-carbon copy of a further text I shall then proceed to write’ (ibid.). If this is the case, it is due to the inevitable distance between the theoretical reflexion (which must come later) and the practice it is supposed to reflect. And since writing is in any case an action governed by hidden impulses, ‘it is not impossible that the work itself, in a global sense, is a mise en abyme of several fields of whose existence I am barely conscious: this would explain the fleeting, yet obsessive, impression I often have that, when writing, I neither speak nor think, but just write; and that I shall never be able to identify and decipher, as Champollion did, the hieroglyphs formed, unbeknown to me, by the text (p. 126).

64 65

See on this subject Ricardou’s comments in Claude Simon, pp. 175ff. To J.-C. Raillon’s concern that the concept should not be retained if it is based on a false premiss (‘if the function of the mise en abyme becomes generalized, perhaps it becomes appropriate to abandon [the idea of the mise en abyme], since it no longer has a distinctive meaning. This abandonment would show clearly that current practice invalidates certain concepts in operation in the recent past’), Ricardou

Notes to conclusion and appendix A

241

replies, ‘inasmuch as we are in a period of transition where theory has not yet been elaborated, it is good to retain concepts the better to transform, subvert and extend them’ (Claude Simon, pp. 173 and 176). 66

67

In confirming that the work within the work and the work on the work coexist in the early nouveau roman, we can in short agree with J. Verrier: ‘there is a transition from the work in the work to the work on the work, and then to the work through the work . . (‘Le Recit reflechi’, Litterature, 5 (1972), 59). Although H. Pevel (‘Resonances mallarmeennes du nouveau roman’, Meditations, 7 (1964), 95ff.) and G. Zeltner-Neukomm (Die eigenmachtige Sprache, zur Poetik des Nouveau Roman (Olten and Freiburg, Walter, 1965), Introduction) are right to see in Mallarme an ancestor of the nouveau roman, we should note that his successors emulated (and surpassed?) him in two stages, the early nouveau roman taking up on its own account the themes of forgetting, abolition and absence, and the later nouveau roman the heart of Mallarme’s poetic.

Conclusion 1

2

3 4

P. Sobers, H (Paris, Seuil, 1973), p. 125. The background against which this (untranslatable) parody of Mallarme’s own ‘aboli bibelot d’inanit£ sonore’ is aimed is clearly G. Deleuze and F. Guatteri’s L'Anti-Oedipe. In other words (which, in the context of this study, need no com¬ mentary): ‘Now when one dreams, and, in the dream, suspects that he dreams, the suspicion never fails to confirm itself, and the sleeper is almost immediately aroused. Thus, Novalis errs not in saying that “we are near waking when we dream that we dream” ’ (E. A. Poe, ‘A Tale of the Ragged Mountains’, in Tales of Mystery and Imagination (London, Dent, 1931), p. 26). J. Derrida, Dissemination, p. 207. R. Pinget, Fable (Paris, Editions de minuit, 1971), p. 82.

Appendix A 1

The three lessons of the mirror

B. Morrissette and W. Klotz, who introduced the term Integrationspunkt (see their Geschlossene und offene Form im Drama (Munich, Hanser, 1960), pp. 113ff.), are exceptions to this. Mise en abyme is normally translated into German as Spiegelung, and (hitherto) into

242

2 3 4 5 6 7 8

9 10 11 12 13

14 15 16 17

18

Notes to appendix A English as ‘mirror reflexion’ or ‘focal repetition’, and Goethe provides a prime example of the tendency to use the mirror metaphor, relating his novelistic reflexions to the experiments with optics and mirrors described in the Farbenlebre. See, on this point, L. Dieckmann, ‘Repeated Mirror Reflections: The Technique of Goethe’s Novels’, in Studies in Romanticism, vol. I (Boston University, Boston, Massachussetts, 1962), pp. 154ff. Leiris, Manhood, p. 33. J. Greshoff, ‘La Structure des Faux-Monnayeurs’, Neophilologus (July 1963), 171. M. Foucault, ‘Le Langage & l’infini’, Tel Quel, 15 (1963), 47; cf. also pp. 45 and 48. Rousset, Forme et signification, p. 146. L. Janvier, Une Parole exigeante. Le Nouveau Roman (Paris, Editions de minuit, 1964), p. 51. M. Raimond, La Crise du roman (Paris, Corti, 1966), p. 243. C. Martin, ‘Gide et le “nouveau roman” ’, in Entretiens sur Andre Gide, Colloque de Cerisy-la-Salle (Paris, The Hague, Mouton, 1967), p. 223. Ricardou, Problemes du nouveau roman, p. 182. Cf. Genette, Figures III, pp. 49 and 242. Derrida, De la grammatologie, p. 434. Cf. also p. 435, and, along the same lines, Dissemination, p. 202. Dissemination, p. 265. J. Derrida, Les Marges de la philosophic (Paris, Editions de minuit, 1972), p. 302. The same variation can be found in ‘Le Parergon’, Digraphe, 2 (April 1974), 22, 25 and 28. T. Todorov, Litterature et signification (Paris, Larousse, 1967), p. 48. T. Todorov, ‘Poetique’, in Qu’est-ce que le structuralisme? (Paris, Seuil, 1968), p. 138. T. Todorov, Poetique de la prose (Paris, Seuil, 1971), pp. 78ff. J.-L. Borges, Labyrinths, ed. D. A. Yates and J. E. Irby (London, Penguin, 1970), pp. 229-31. The moral Borges draws is quoted by M.-J. Lefebve in L ’Image fascinante et le Surreel (Paris, Plon, 1965), p. 72, and by Genette, Figures III, p. 245. L 'Image fascinante, p. 70. All my quotations are taken from this page or from those that follow straight after. Although the term mise en abyme does not appear (any more than it does in Borges’s text), Lefebve invites us to recognize its cryptic presence here in a note in his article ‘La Mise en abyme mallarmeen et la preuve par X’, Syntheses, 258-9 (1967-8), 85, n. 20: ‘I tried to show in my L ’Image fascinante et le Surreel the sense of vertigo that can be induced by the mise en

Notes to appendix A and appendix B

19

20

21

abyme.’ In his ‘Rhetorique du recit’ (Poetics, 2 (1971), 131), Lefebve also remarks, optimistically: ‘I shall not give examples of the over¬ familiar device of the mise en abyme'. Rather than trying to interpret such a dream in the way Lefebve does later, we may note that Freud and his disciples also used indiscrimin¬ ately the expressions ‘dream within the dream’ and ‘dream of the dream’ (cf. Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, p. 338, and Ernest Jones, Hamlet and Oedipus (London, Gollancz, 1949), p. 89, n. 3), and that according to them, ‘to include something in a “dream of the dream” is . . . equivalent to wishing that the thing described as a dream had never happened. In other words, if a particular event is inserted into a dream as a dream by the dream-work itself, this implies the most decided confirmation of the reality of the event - the strongest affirmation of it’ (Freud, ibid.). Examples of the ‘dream within the dream’ can be found in M. Leiris, Nuits sans nuit et Quelques Jours sans jour (Paris, Gallimard, 1961), pp. 162ff., and S. Leclaire, Psychanalyser (Paris, Seuil, 1968), pp. 9ff. It is almost a tradition to compare Las Meninas to Don Quixote and to see it as an illustration of self-embedding. Cf. E. C. Riley, Cervantes's Theory of the Novel (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1962), pp. 48 and 220; H. Hatzfeld, ‘Kiinstlerische Gemeinsamkeiten im Werk von Cervantes und Velasquez’, in Don Quijote. Forschung und Kritik (Darmstadt, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1968), pp. 213ff.; and S. Sarduy, Barocco (Paris, Seuil, 1975), pp. 85ff. ‘Le Langage a l’infini’, p. 45. Note that the title of the article (‘Infinite language’), and remarks such as ‘[language] challenges language in order to reproduce it in the virtual space ... of the mirror, and to open up a further mirror within the mirror, and a still further one, and so on ad infinitum' (p. 56), also bear witness to a slide from one type to another, since Foucault’s examples (The Odyssey, La Religieuse and The Arabian Nights) all illustrate the self-embedding process.

Appendix B

1

2

243

The novel as ‘poetry of poetry’

For an in-depth study of this key idea, see W. Benjamin’s classic Der Be griff der Kunstkritik in der deutschen Romantik, in Gesammelte Schriften I. 1, ed. R. Tiedemann and H. Schweppenhauser (Frankfurt on Main, Suhrkamp, 1972). F. Schlegel, Athenaum Fragmente, in Charackteristiken undKritiken, I: 1796-1801, ed. H. Eichner (Zurich, Thomas-Verlag, 1967), pp. 182 and 204.

244 3

4

Notes to appendix B and appendix C On these objects of reflexion in Schlegel, see R. Belgardt, Romantische Poesie, Begriff und Bedeutung bei Fr. Schegel (The Hague, Paris, Mouton, 1969), pp. 123ff. Schlegel quoted by Belgardt, ibid., p. 83.

Appendix C

1

2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

11

12

13

14

Mallarme’s ‘sonnet en x’

e.g. by H. A. Grubbs, ‘Mallarme’s “Ptyx” Sonnet: An Analytical and Critical Study '.Publications of the Modern Languages Association of America, 65. 2 (Mar. 1950), 85; and Lefebve, L 'Image fascinante, pp. 83 and 85. Mallarme, CEuvres completes (Paris, Gallimard, Pleiade, 1969), pp. 853 and 851. Letter to Cazalis, July 1868, quoted ibid., p. 1489. Letter to Lefebure, 3 May 1868, quoted ibid., p. 1488. Lefebve, L 'Image fascinante, pp. 8Iff. R. Dragonetti, ‘ La Litterature et la Lettre (Introduction au Sonnet en X de Mallarme’, Lingua e stile, 2 (1969), 205ff. CEuvres completes, p. 858. Ibid., p. 366. Ibid. ‘The sonnet ends on the luminous sonority of the word ‘Septuor’, whose constellation is reflected in the mirror of the poem, its astral writing (gold on black) the opposite of that of the sonnet (black on white). It is this interchange, a function of reflexivity, which gives the poem its cosmic dimension, the number seven [‘sept’] being dupli¬ cated and echoed in the 14 lines of the structure of the reflexive sonnet’ Dragonetti, ‘La Litterature’, p. 221). We should recall that the poem dates from Mallarme’s ‘metaphysical crisis’ of which he wrote ‘My thought thought itself . . .’ (Letter to Cazalis, 14 May 1867). ‘Autonymy is the semiotic model for a sign that “accentuates” its own form, an autonymic sign signifying itself as signifier and signified’ (J. Rey-Debove, ‘Note sur une interpretation autonymique de la litterarite: le mode du “comme je dis” ’, Litterature, 4 (1971), 90. Ricardou, Problemes du nouveau roman, p. 207; Pour une theorie du nouveau roman, pp. 211, 213 and 219; and Ricardou’s contribution to Nouveau Roman: bier, aujourd’hui II. 22Iff. In ‘Comme un livre’ (Tel Quel, 24 (1966), 56ff.), Baudry ‘imagines this, for example: made of pages, words and sentences, the ambition of a book would be to be only these pages, words and sentences. It would

Notes to appendix C and appendix D

245

want, in its form as a volume, to indicate that it is a book, and nothing but a book, a book and nothing but something that appears as a book, designating itself as itself, in search of itself through its language and claiming the unprecedented status of being its own subject’ (p. 56). This project is accomplished in Baudry’s Personnes, and in R. Laporte’s Fugue (biographie) (Paris, Gallimard, 1970), ‘a book whose sole purpose is its own writing’ (p. 120).

Appendix D

1 2

3 4 5

6

Metaphors of origin

In his lectures. Cf. F. Rabelais, Gargantua, in CEuvres completes, ed. P. Jourda (Paris, Gamier, 1962), vol. I, pp. 12ff. It will have been noted that in this case the metaphor for the origin of the text relates to the sphere of the author-narrator, since here the difference between the diegetic and the extradiegetic is attenuated in that the transcendental mise en abyme is designed to reveal an agency which is supposed to govern the extra¬ diegetic itself. Diderot, Jacques le Fataliste, in CEuvres romanesques, ed. H. Benac (Paris, Gamier, 1962), pp. 61 Off. Cf. R. Wamung, Illusion und Wirklichkeit in Tristram Shandy und Jacques le Fataliste (Munich, Fink, 1965), pp. 95ff. If he takes it as read that the Sirens fell silent at the approach of the over-industrious Odysseus, Kafka has two hypotheses, which he does not choose between: either Odysseus imagined that he heard their song; or he preferred, out of fear of mankind or from religious scruples, not to undermine a received fiction . . . Cf. F. Kafka, Das Schweigen der Sirenen, in Die Erzahlungen (Frankfurt on Main, Fischer, 1961), pp. 300ff. In his Lettre sur les aveugles a l'usage de ceux qui voient, Diderot writes in these terms on infinite regression: ‘If a phenomenon is in our view beyond man, we immediately say: “It is the work of a God” nothing less satisfies our vanity. Could we not put a little less pride and a little more philosophy into our discourse? If nature offers us a diffi¬ cult knot to untie, we should leave it as it is, and not use to cut through it the hand of a being who then becomes a more intractable knot than the first one. If you ask an Indian why the earth remains suspended in space, he will reply that it is carried on an elephant’s back. And what is the elephant supported by? A tortoise. And the tortoise? Who supports that? You pity the Indian, but to both of you one could say: “Mr Holmes, my friend, first of all confess your own

246

7 8

Notes to appendix D and appendix E ignorance, and spare me the elephant and the tortoise” ’ (CEuvres philosopbiques, ed. P. Verniere (Paris, Gamier, 1964), p. 119). But the question is precisely whether philosophy (Fichte being a prime example), and literature too, do not always deal with elephants and tortoises; in other words, whether the confession of ignorance (or the fiction of the unreadable manuscript, which is the same thing), like the assurance of certain knowledge, is not a ruse employed in order to stop oneself pursuing the question further. F. Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, translated by R. J. Hollingdale (London, Penguin, 1973), section 289, p. 197. Hence these claims by a writer close to Derrida: ‘Literature as second¬ ary discourse in search of itself as total per causa sui discourse can only ever be disguised theology. Literature is theological’; ‘Reader, you should not be surprised that the centre of this book is everywhere and nowhere. You should re-read me carefully. According to the point of view from which you decide to approach it, the centre will seem differ¬ ent’; ‘the scene or whatever takes the place of it, is surrounded by tall distorting mirrors; so you no longer know who is who, any more than you know who the director is. You just have some suspicions’ (J. Ristat, Du Coup d'etat en litterature suivi d'exemples tires de la Bible et des auteurs anciens (Paris, Gallimard, 1970), pp. 41, 45 and 63).

Appendix E

1 2 3 4

Reflexivity according to Roussel

R. Roussel, Parmi les Noirs, in Comment j 'ai ecrit certains de mes livres (Paris, Pauvert, 1963), pp. 163-70. Ricardou, Pour une theorie de nouveau roman, p. 98. Ricardou, ‘L’Activite rousselienne’, ibid., pp. 98-108. Quotations and page references will be from this article. [One might translate these two similar phrases as ‘The white letters on the cushions of the worn billiard table’ and ‘The letters from the white man about the gangs of the old thief’. Tr.}

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-‘La Litterature et la Lettre (Introduction au Sonnet en X de Mallarme, Lingua e stile, 2 (1969). Entretiens sur Andre Gide, ed. M. Arland and J. Mouton (Paris, The Hague, Mouton, 1967). Fietz, D., Menschenbild und Romanstruktur in Aldous Huxleys Ideenromanen (Tubingen, Niemeyer, 1969). Gautier, T., Histoire du romantisme (Paris, Charpentier, 1907). Greshoff, J., ‘La Structure des Faux-Monnayeurs', Neophilologus, 1963. Grubbs, H. A., ‘Mallarme’s “Ptyx” Sonnet: An Analytical and Critical Study’, Publications of the Modern Languages Association of America, 65. 2 (1950). Hatzfeld, H., ‘Kiinstlerische Gemeinsamkeiten im Werk von Cervantes und Velasquez’, in Don Quijote, Forschung und Kritik, (Darmstadt, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1968). Hobson, M., ‘Le “Paradoxe sur le comedien” est un paradoxe’, Poetique, 15 (1973). Holdheim, W. W., Theory and Practice of the Novel. A Study on Andre Gide (Geneva, Droz, 1968). Ireland, G. W., Andre Gide, A Study of his Creative Writings (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1970). Janvier, L., line Parole exigeante, le nouveau roman (Paris, Editions de minuit, 1964). Jeanneret, M., ‘Les Paroles degelees: Rabelais, “Quart Livre” ’, Litterature, 17 (1975). Lafille, P., Andre Gide romancier (Paris, Hachette, 1954). Lanceraux, D., ‘Modalites de la narration dans “La Route des Flandres” ’, Poetique, 14 (1973). Lefebve, M.-J., L’lmage fascinante et le Surreel (Paris, Plon, 1965). -‘La Mise en abyme mallarmeenne et la preuve par X’, Syntheses, 258-9 (1967-8). ’ -‘Rhetorique du recit’, Poetics, 2 (1971). Magny, C. E., Histoire du roman francais depuis 1918 (Paris, Seuil, 1950). Martin, C., ‘Gide et le “Nouveau Roman’”, Entretiens sur Andre Gide (Paris, The Hague, Mouton, 1967). Morrissette, B., ‘De Stendhal a Robbe-Grillet: modalites du “point de vue’”, Cahiers de Vassociation internationale des etudes francaises, 14 (1962). -‘Robbe-Grillet No. 1,2..., X’, in Nouveau Roman: hier, aujourd’hui (Paris, Union generate d’editions, 10/18, 1972), vol. II. -Les Romans de Robbe-Grillet (Paris, Editions de minuit, 1971). -‘Un Heritage d’Andre Gide: la duplication interieure’, Comparative Literature Studies, 7. 2 (1971).

252

Bibliography

Moutote, D., Le Journal de Gide et les problemes du moi (1889-1925) (Paris, PUF, 1968). Nelson, R. J., Play within the Play (The Dramatist’s Conception of his Art: Shakespeare to Anouilh) (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1958). Nouveau Roman: hier, aujourd’hui (Colloque de Cerisy-la-Salle de 1971) (Paris, Union generale d’editions, 10/18, 1972), 2 vols. Pevel, H., ‘Resonances mallarmeennes du Nouveau Roman’, Mediations, 7 (1964). Poulet, G., Les Metamorphoses du cercle (Paris, Plon, 1961). Py, A., ‘Les Jeux du temps, du bonheur et de 1’ennui dans le Journal d’Andre Gide’, in Sur ‘Les Faux-Monnayeurs ’ (Paris, Minard, 1974). Raimond, MLa Crise du roman (Paris, Corti, 1966). Richard, J. P., Proust et le monde sensible (Paris, Seuil, 1974). Riley, E. C., Cervantes's Theory of the Novel (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1962). Robbe-Grillet, A., Pour un nouveau roman (Paris, Gallimard, Idees, 1963). Robbe-Grillet (Colloque de Cerisy) (Paris, Union generale d’editions, 1976), 2 vols. Rossum-Guyon, F. van, Critique du roman (Paris, Gallimard, 1970). Roudaut, J., Michel Butor ou le livre futur (Paris, Gallimard, 1964). Rousset, J., La Litterature de Page baroque en France (Paris, Corti, 1954). Rueter, K., Odyseeinterpretationen, Untersuchungen zum ersten Buch und zur Phaiakis (Gottingen, Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1969). Savage, C. H., ‘The Ideology of Andre Walter’, L 'Esprit createur, 1 (1961). Claude Simon: Analyse, Theorie (Colloque de Cerisy), ed. J. Ricardou (Paris, Union generale d’editions, 10/18, 1976), 2 vols. Sockel, W. H., Franz Kafka, Tragik und Ironie (Munich, Vienna, Langen and Muller, 1964). Sobers, P., ‘Dante et la traversee de l’ecriture’, in Logiques (Paris, Seuil, 1968). Starobinski, J., ‘Ironie et Melancholie (II): La “Princesse Brambilla” de E. T. A. Hoffmann’, Critique, 228 (1966). -Portrait de Tartiste en saltimbanque (Geneva, Skira, 1970). Sturrock, J., The French New Novel (London, Oxford University Press, 1969). Warning, R., Illusion und Wirklichkeit in Tristram Shandy und Jacques le Fataliste (Munich, Fink, 1965). Zeltner-Neukomm, G., Die eigenmachtige Sprache. Zur Poetik des Nouveau Roman (Olten and Freiburg, Walter, 1965).

Bibliography

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Fine Art

Butor, M., Les Mots dans la peinture (Geneva, Skira, 1969). Hartlaub, G. E., Zauber des Spiegels (Geschichte und Bedeutung des Spiegels in der Kunst) (Munich, Piper, 1951). Lassaigne, J., Les Menines (Freiburg, Office du Livre, 1973). Minkoff, G., Videotapes (Galleria dell’Obelisco, 1972). Panofsky, E., ‘Jan Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait’, Burlington Magazine, 64 (1934).

General Works

1

Linguistics and literary theory

Aristotle, Poetics, translated by W. H. Fyfe (London, Heinemann, 1965). Barthes, R., ‘L’Ancienne Rhetorique’, Communications, 16 (1970). Benveniste, E.,Problemes de linguistiquegenerate (Paris, Gallimard, 1966). Black, M., Models and Metaphors (Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1962). Booth, C. W., ‘Distance et point de vue’, Poetique, 4 (1970). Chomsky, N., ‘La Notion de “regie de grammaire” ’, Langages, 4 (1966). Dubois, J., et al. (Groupe g, Rhetorique generate (Paris, Larousse, 1970). Genette, G., Figures (Paris, Seuil, 1966). -Figures, II (Paris, Seuil, 1969). -Figures, III (Paris, Seuil, 1972). Greimas, J., Semantique structurale (Paris, Larousse, 1966). -Du Sens (Paris, Seuil, 1970). Hamon, P., ‘Un Discours contraint’, Poetique, 16 (1973). Hock, S., Uber die Wiederholung in der Diehtung, offprint from Festschrift fur W. Jerusalem zu seinem 60. Geburtstag (Vienna and Leipzig, W. Braumiiller, 1915). Jakobson, R., Essais de linguistique generate (Paris, Editions de minuit, 1963). Klotz, W., Geschlossene und offene Form im Drama (Munich, Hanser, 1960). Kristeva, J., La Revolution du langage poetique (Paris, Seuil, 1974). -Semeiotike, Recherches pour une semanalyse (Paris, Seuil, 1969). Lammert, E., Bauformen des Erzahlens (Stuttgart, Metzler, 1967). Lejeune, P., Le Pacte autobiographique (Paris, Seuil, 1975). Maatje, F. C., Der Doppelroman, eine literatursystematische Studie uber duplikative Erzahlstrukturen (Groningen, Wolters-Noordhorff, 1968).

254

Bibliography

Metz, C., Essais sur la signification au cinema (Paris, Klinksieck, 1968). Rey-Debove, J., ‘Note sur une interpretation autonymique de la litterarite: le mode du “comme je dis’”, Litterature, 4 (1971). Ricardou, J., Le Nouveau Roman (Paris, Seuil, 1973). -‘La Population des miroirs. Problemes du similitude a partir d’un texte d’Alain Robbe-Grillet’, Poetique, 22 (1975). -Pour une theorie du nouveau roman (Paris, Seuil, 1971). -Problemes du nouveau roman (Paris, Seuil, 1967). Riffaterre, M., ‘Paragramme et Signifiance’, Semiotexte, 2. 1 (1975). Romberg, B., Studies in the Narrative Technique of the First Person Novel (Stockholm, Gothenburg, Uppsala, Almqvist and Wiksell, 1962). Rousset, J., Forme et signification (Paris, Corti, 1964). -Narcisse romancier (Paris, Corti, 1972). Ruwet, N., Introduction a la grammaire generative (Paris, Plon, 1968). Saussure, F. de, Fours de linguistique generale (Paris, Payot, 1973). Skwarcynska, S., ‘Un Cas particulier d’orchestration generique de l’oeuvre litteraire’, in To Honor Roman Jakobson (The Hague, Paris, Mouton, 1967). Todorov, T., Litterature et signification (Paris, Larousse, 1967). -‘Poetique’, in Qu 'est-ce que le structuralisme? (Paris, Seuil, 1968). -Poetique de la prose (Paris, Seuil, 1971). Verrier, J., ‘Le Recit reflechi’, in Litterature, 5 (1972). Voigt, J., Das Spiel im Spiel. Versuch einer Formbestimmungan Beispielen aus dem deutschen, englischen und spanischen Drama, Dissertation (Gottingen, 1955).

2

Philosophy

Derrida, JDe la grammatologie (Paris, Editions de minuit, 1967). -Dissemination, translated by B. Johnson (London, Athlone Press, 1981). -Les Marges de la philosophic (Paris, Editions de minuit, 1972). -‘Le Parergon’, Digraphe, 2 (1974). -Speech and Phenomena, translated by D. B. Allison (Evanson, North¬ western University Press, 1973). Diderot, D., CEuvres philosophiques, ed. P. Verniere (Paris, Gamier, 1964). Foucault, M., ‘Le Langage a l’infini’, Tel Quel, 15 (1963). -Les Mots et les choses (Paris, Gallimard, 1966). Foulquie, P., Dictionnaire de la langue philosophique (Paris, PUF, 1969).

Bibliography

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Nietzsche, F., Beyond Good and Evil, translated by R. J. Hollingdale (London, Penguin, 1973). Piaget, J., Le Structuralisme (Paris, PUF, 1968). Ricoeur, P., Finitude et culpabilite, II La Symbolique du Mai (Paris, Aubier, 1960). -Le Conflit des interpretations (Paris, Seuil, 1969).

3

Anthropology and psychoanalysis

Freud, S., The Interpretation of Dreams, translated by J. Strachey (London, Allen and Unwin, 1954). Jones, E., Hamlet and Oedipus (London, Gollancz, 1949). Lacan, J., Ecrits (Paris, Seuil, 1966). Leclaire, S., Psychanalyse (Paris, Seuil, 1968). Levi-Strauss, C., La Pensee sauvage (Paris, Plon, 1962). Sarduy, S., Barocco (Paris, Seuil, 1975).

4

Various

Barthes, R., Roland Barthes (Paris, Seuil, 1975). -Roland Barthes, translated by R. Howard (London, MacMillan, 1977). Baudrillard, J., Le Systeme des objets (Paris, Gallimard, 1968). Beth, E. W., Les Fondements logiques des mathematiques (Paris and Louvain, Gauthier-Villars and E. Nauwelaerts, 1950). Brooke-Little, J. P., An Heraldic Alphabet (London, Robson Books, 1985). Chapsal, M., Les Fcrivains en personne (Paris, Julliard, I960). Foras, A. de, Le Blason. Dictionnaire et remarques (Grenoble, 1883). Fox-Davies, A. C., A Complete Guide to Heraldry, revised by J. P. BrookeLittle (Chichester, Nelson, 1985). Gardner, M., The Ambidextrous Universe (New York, London, Basic Books, 1964). Menestrier, P .,Nouvelle methode raisonnee du blason ou del'art heraldique (Lyon, 1780). Veyrin-Forrer, T., Precis d''heraldique (Paris, Larousse, 1951).

Index

agglomeration, 22In allegory, 49 compared with mise en abyme, 44 Alter, J., 131, 132 Anker, V., 188n aporia, 24, 112-13 Apuleus The Golden Ass, 57-8, 204n, 205n, 206n Arabian Nights, 18, 169, 216n, 224n Aristotle, 82 art, works of, 96-7 see also paintings Austen, Jane, 205n, 208n authorial substitutes, 76-8 autonymy, 180 Balzac, Honore de La Muse du departement, 78-9, 204n, 21 On baroque era, 118 Barthes, Roland, 113, 21 On, 213n, 222n Baudrillard, J., 233n Baudry, J. L., 180

Beckett, Samuel Watt, 102-5 Benjamin, Walter, 206-7n, 208n, 211n, 243n Benveniste, E., 198n Bergstein, G., 209n Beth, E. W., 225n Black, M., 207n Blanchot, M., 192n, 239-40n Le Livre a venir, 219-2 On Boccaccio, Giovanni, 82-3 Decameron, 170-1 body, text as, 96 Booth, C. W., 198n Borges, Jose Luis Labyrinths, 171-2 Bree, G., 203 Brentano, Clemens, 90 Brooke-Little, J. P., 190-In Burgum, E. B., 196n Butor, Michel, 127-8, 136, 138, 191n, 207n, 239n L’Emploi du Temps, 119-27 Mobile, 95 La Modification, 224n, 228n Ou, 137-40 Passage de Milan, 205

257

Index Repertoire, 227n Repertoire III, 195n, 212n, 227n, 231n

Cellier, L., 207n Cerisy-la-Salle colloquium, 118 Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de Don Quixote, 87-9, 92-3, 101, 177, 21 On, 224n, 225n, 243n Chambers, R., 202n character/reader interpretations compared, 83-5 Chomsky, Noam, 158, 204n, 223-4n Christie, Agatha Ten Little Indians, 62 chronology, 60-1 classicism, 72 Cocking, J. M., 203n code mise en abyme of the, 98-101, 218 compression, see semantic compression/ dilation conglomeration, 22In Cremonini, L., 226n

Dallenbach, L., 188n Dante Alighieri The Divine Comedy, 101, 104-5 Deleuze, G., 214n Derrida, Jacques, 166, 170, 222-3n, 236n Des Forets, Louis Rene, 213n detective novels, 62, 125-6 Diderot, Denis Jacques le Fataliste, 182 Lettre sur les aveugles a l ’usage de ceux qui voient, 245-6n

diegesis, 51 dilation, see semantic compression/ dilation distribution effects, 60-71 double meaning, 43-50 Dragonetti, R., 179, 182, 220n ‘dream within the dream’, 173 duplication three types of, 35-6 enclosure, 50-1 enunciation mise en abyme of the, 75 epistolatory novels, 91 exemplum, 82 Eyck, Johannes van, 10-11 fabric, text as, 96 fantasy novellas, 62 Fichte, Johann Gottlieb, 175 fictional mise en abyme, 55-75 Fietz, D., 197n Flaubert, Gustave, 70, 208n, 210n Fontane, Theodor L'Adultera, 65, 224n Schach von Wuthenow, 206n Unwiederbringlich, 84-5, 204n Vor der Sturm, 21 On Foras, A. de, 189n, 189-90n Foucault, Michel, 113, 169, 174, 191n, 225n Freud, Sigmund, 131, 243n Gautier, Theophile Mademoiselle de Maupin, 46, 65 Genette, G., 51, 170, 194n, 195n, 199n, 203n, 206n, 208n, 222n, 226n genres, combination of, 72-4 Gide, Andre, 55, 56, 122, 164, 169

258

Index

Gide, Andre (cont.) The Counterfeiters, 23, 25, 26, 30-5, 47, 204n, 210n, 219n, 224n If It Die, 193n, 197n Journal, 14, 15, 16, 19, 159-60 Journals, 34 Logbook of the Coiners, 33, 197n mise en abyme first mentioned by, 7 Notebooks, 17, 28 Paludes, 27-30, 206, 224n and reflexivity of writing, 16-17 La Tentative amoureuse, 12, 14-15, 17-18 Godel, Kurt, 223n Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 63, 242n letter to Schiller quoted, 63 Die Wahlverwandtschaften, 72-3, 205n, 206n Werther, 205n Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, 13, 210n Gourmont, Remy de Sixtine, 194n, 202n, 204n, 221n Greimas, A. J., 207n Greshoff, J., 169 groupings, 107-8 Guattari, F., 214n Hamon, P., 205n Hartlaub, G., 191n Hock, S., 207n Hoffmann, E. T. A. Prinzessin Bambilla, 58-9, 204n Holdheim, W. W., 195n, 201n Homer, 86-7, 101

Hugo, Victor, 7 L'Homme qui rit, 58, 111, 205n, 213n, 221n, 222n Huxley, Aldous, 21, 22, 25-6, 196n, 224n Huysmans, J. K., 219n implicit author, 76 implicit reader, 78-81 infinite duplication, 111-12 Ireland, G. W., 197n ‘isotopic’ reading, 57 Jakobson, Roman, 43, 48, 160, 203n, 21 In Janvier, L., 170, 230n Jeanneret, M., 220n Joyce, James Ulysses, 21, 191n, 205n Kafka, Franz, 183 The Trial, 85-6, 204n Kant, Immanuel, 175 Keller, Gottfried Kleider machen Leute, 207n, 21 On, 215n Kleist, Heinrich von Die Marquise von O, 204n, 205n Die Verlobung in San Domingo, 206n Klotz, W., 241 Kristeva, J., 212n, 229n Lacan, Jacques, 15, 16, 192n Laclos, Pierre Les Liaisons Dangereuses, 91, 171, 216n Lacretelle, Jean Charles Dominique de, 32, 205n, 216n Lafille, P., 25-6, 195n, 210n La Fontaine, Jean de, 219n

Index Lammert, E., 67, 204n, 208n, 210n Lancereaux, D., 203n Laporte, R., 180 Fugue, 240n Lassaigne, J., 191n Lefebve, M. J., 172-3, 188n Leiris, Michel, 169, 174 Manhood, 195-6n, 23On Lejeune, P., 21 In levels of mise en abyme, 108-10 Levi-Strauss, Claude La Pensee Sauvage, 56 Maatje, F. C., 205n machines, 97 Magny, C. E., 20-5, 195n Mallarme, Stephane, 161, 163 Sonnet en X, 101, 178-80 Mann, Thomas Doktor Faustus, 202n, 205n, 208-9n Walsungenblut, 202n Marie de France, 101 Le Lai de Laustic, 181-2 Le Lai du chevrefeuille, 216n Martin, C., 170 Matzys, Quentin, 11 Maupassant, Guy de Une Vie, 64-5, 202n Melville, Herman Moby Dick, 206n, 219n Memling, Hans, 10-11 Menestrier, P., 189n metadiegetic utterance, 51 metanarrative, 51 metatextual mise en abyme, 98-101 Metz, C., 188-9n, 188n, 195n, 221n, 224n Meyer, Fernand, 160 mimesis, 165-6

259

mimetic reproduction, 110-11 ‘miniature model’, 56-7 Minkoff, G., 151 mirror equivalence of mise en abyme with, 169-74 image of the, 34-5 mise en abyme basic properties, 43-53 demarcation of elementary, 53-4 models, 59 mode, narrative, 51-2 Montaigne, Michel Eyquem de, 217-18n Montesquieu, Baron de Lettres Persanes, 206n Morrissette, Bruce, 52, 132, 151, 170, 188n, 190n, 195n, 241n Moutoute, D., 201n myths, 59 narrative of the narrative, 90 narrative output, 108 naturalism, 52-3, 118 Nelson, R. J., 188n Nietzsche, Friedrich, 183 nouveau roman, 49, 117-19, 162, 165 nouveau roman, new, 137-63, 165 Novalis Heinrich von Ofterdingen, 14, 18, 19, 67-70, 90, 221n, 224n Ollier, C., 210n origin of text metaphors of, 181-3 paintings mirrors depicted in, 11-12

260

Index

Panofsky, E., 191n Paul, Jean, 36-8, 63, 93, 112, 177, 191n, 221n, 222n, 223n Flegeljahre, 37, 224n Titan, 36-7, 205n, 213n Dz'e Vorschule der Aesthetik, 37-8 Piaget, Jean, 223n Pinget, R., 101, 166 Poe, Edgar Allan Fall of the House of Usher, 13-14, 18, 19, 44-5 Poulet, Georges, 103 proper names, 21 In prospective mise en abyme, 61-5 protagonist posture of the, 81-90 Proust, Marcel, 23 Contre Sainte-Beuve, 81 Remembrance of Things Past, 32, 91, 98-9, 101, 202-3n, 204n, 21 On, 21 In, 212n, 224n Swann in Love, 63-4, 169-70 Time Regained, 216n, 225n Py, A., 193

Queneau, Raymond Les Enfants du limon, 93

Rabelais, Francois, 182, 183, 219n Le Quart Livre, 101 Raillon, J. C., 240n Raimond, M., 170, 174, 195n Ramuz, C. F. Passage du Poete, 77-8 realism, 52-3 reception, structure of, 83 redundancy, 57

reflexion, objects of, 43 reflexive disposition, 107 reflexivity, 41-55 repeated mise en abyme, 70-1 retro-prospective mise en abyme, 67-71 Ricardou, Jean, 170, 180, 184, 185, 186, 188n, 195n, 201n, 210n, 217n, 232n, 233-5n, 236n definition of the mise en abyme, 159-63 Les Lieux-dits, 140-9, 157, 158, 205n La prise de Constantinople, 224n, 235n Ricoeur, P., 103, 202n, 208n Riffaterre, M., 203n Robbe-Grillet, Alain, 136 Dans le labyrinthe, 49, 130 Les Gommes, 130, 202n, 21 In La Jalousie, 127-33, 204n La Maison de rendez-vous, 77 Projet pour une revolution a New York, 149-51, 157, 158 Trans-Europ Express, 212n Romanticism, 118, 175, 177 Romberg, B., 224n Rossum-Guyon, F. van, 195n Rotrou, Jean de Saint-Genest, 89-90 Roussel, Raymond, 161, 163, 205n Impressions d'Afrique, 97, 100, 189n Les Nouvelles Impressions dAfrique, 224n Parmi les Noirs, 184-6 Rousset, J., 51, 169, 174, I98n, 208n, 226n, 229n Royce, Josiah, 172, 222n

Index Rueter, K., 214n Russell, Bertrand, 223n Ruwet, N., 224n Sarduy, S., 191n Sarraute, N., 224n Les Fruits d’or, 224n Portrait d'un inconnu, 224n Sartre, Jean-Paul, 226n La Nausee, 22In Saussure, Ferdinand de, 156, 206n Savage, C. H., 195n Scarron, P., 216n Schlegel, Friedrich, 124, 176-8, 227n Scott, Sir Walter Waver ley, 63, 205n, 208n self-glorification, authorial, 215n semantic compression/dilation, 56 Shakespeare, William, 188n Hamlet, 12-13 Simon, Claude Les Corps conducteurs, 152, 236n L’Herbe, 133-5, 135, 224n, 230n La Route des Flandres, 203n Triptyque, 152-7, 155, 158, 224n, 235n Le Vent, 134, 224n, 230n Skwarcynska, S., 21 In, 229 Sockel, W., 214n Sollers, Philippe, 165, 220n, 241n Le Parc, 97 Starobinski, Jean, 207n Stendhal, 199n Sturrock, J., 203n superimposition, 43-50 symbol compared with mise en abyme, 44 Symbolism, 118

261

synechdoche, 222n tales, 59 textual mise en abyme, 94-8 Tieck, Johann Der gestiefelte Kater, 224n Die verkehrte Welt, 224n Der Zauberschloss, 61-2 Todorov, T., 126, 170-1, 213n, 216n, 224n Tolstoy, Leo Anna Karenina, 204n, 208n transcendental mise en abyme,

101-6 transitions, 108-10 transpositions, 59 Tristan and Isolde, 173-4, 213n types formation of, 108-10 typology, 41-2 utterance mise en abyme of the, 55 Valery, Paul, 56, 129, 189n, 192n, 203n Velasquez, Diego de Silva y, 11, 173 Veyrin-Forrer, T., 190n Vie de Saint Alexis, 91-2, 204n, 207n, 213n voice, narrative, 51-2 Voigt, J., 188n Wahl, Jean, 23 weaving loom as symbol of text, 97 Zola, Emile, 45-6 L Assommoir, 205n La Curee, 73-4, 21 On, 21 In, 213n

262 Zola, Emile (cont.) Le Docteur Pascal, 47, 77, 101, 202n, 210n, 216n, 221n, 224n, 225n Madeleine Ferat, 208n Nana, 208 L’Oeuvre, 219n

Index Pot-Bouille, 21 In Le Reve, 73 Rorrte, 65-6, 213n Le Ventre de Paris, 219n

Index by Justyn Balinski



i v4l; • *'

Lucien Dallenbach is Professor at the University of Geneva, where he teaches modern French literature and literary theory.

Contents Preface Part I Variations on a concept 1 Andre Gide’s shields 2 A critical heritage 3

Triple meaning

Part II Towards a typology of the mirror in the text 4 5 6

Mise en abyme and reflexivity Fiction and its doubles Narration revealed

8

The spectacle of the text and the code The emergence of types

Part III Diachronic perspectives 9 The mise en abyme and the nouveau roman 10 The mise en abyme and the new nouveau roman Conclusion Appendices A The three lessons of the mirror B The novel as ‘poetry of poetry’ C Mallarme’s ‘Sonnet en X’ D E

Metaphors of origin Reflexivity according to Roussel

Notes Bibliography Index

Jacket illustration: The Money Changer and his Wife, 1514, by Quentin Metsys, Musee du Louvre, Paris, is reproduced by kind permission (photograph: Lauros-Giraudon) Jacket design by Martin Miller Printed in Great Britain

‘A watershed in the evolution of narrative studies. Dallenbach’s concept of specular texts within the novel brilliantly explains the mechanisms of reader response, and for the first time bridges the gap between narratology and hermeneutics.’ Michael Riffaterre, Columbia University

‘In this remarkable work, Lucien Dallenbach holds a critical mirror up to literary mirrors, and in appropriately translucent prose describes the corresponding reflections in ways that yield a major contribution to both the study of twentieth-century literature and general literary theory. The work is, quite simply, indispensable.’ Christopher Prendergast, King’s College, Cambridge

‘Dallenbach deals in a nimble and articulate manner with a very complex critical and aesthetic concept. He gives this concept a most significant formulation, drawing on a wide range of examples, but always with a clear focus. The Mirror in the Text is a seminal work, with far-reaching implications and uses, and this English translation of it is excellent.’ - Victor Brombert, Princeton University

Polity Press