Figures II by Gérard Genette

By Gérard Genette

Les analyses de littérature amorcées dans Figures I se poursuivent ici dans deux instructions principales, qui en quelques issues se croisent ou se rejoignent : théorie du récit, poétique du langage. Certains de ces carrefours, ou repères, se nomment Baroque, Balzac, Princesse de Clèves, Stendhal, Recherche du Temps perdu, d'autres : espace du texte, récit et discours, arbitraire et motivation, langage oblique. Critique et théorie littéraires éprouvent et manifestent ainsi leur écartement nécessaire et leur articulation féconde : irréductibles et complémentaires, à l. a. recherche d'une nouvelle poétique.

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In discussing such emotion we have to examine it from the point of view of the composition itself, in exactly the same way that a mechanic must examine a driving belt to understand the details of a machine; he certainly would not study the driving belt as if he were a vegetarian’’ (43). In this rejection of readerly affective response, we see Shklovsky’s abiding valorization of the intrinsic identity of the object of perception. On this view the readerly emotion inspired by the story world is itself part of the novel’s literary function, a drive belt that helps the novel as an art work to work.

If I may bring up the analogy of a factory, then I would say that neither the current state of the world cotton market nor the politics of cotton trusts interests me. ’’1 Whatever the long-term political ramifications of such inflammatory functionalism, Shklovsky’s desire to isolate literature from the social world is in fact problematized more immediately by the internal logic of his own argument. In ‘‘Art as Technique,’’ an essay that would become the first chapter of Theory of Prose, he implicitly establishes the difference between cotton and poetry by asserting the vital human value of literature.

And trans. Caryl Emerson, Theory and History of Literature, vol. 8 (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press 1984) xxiv. 7 Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own (1929; New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1957) 73. 8 Jameson, The Political Unconscious 13, 123. 9 Ibid. 9. 2005 4:17pm page 18 Introduction What distinguishes the novel as a literary form? It is not just the asking of this question that makes thinkers like Vı´ktor Shklovsky and Percy Lubbock ‘‘formalists’’; it is their shared belief that literary form should be studied as an autonomous entity, able to be isolated from social, political, and historical contexts.

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