Chapter 2

Mimesis and diegesis in modern fiction

How does one begin to map a field as vast, as various as modern fiction? It seems a hopeless endeavour, and, in an absolute sense, ir is hopeless. Even if one could hold all the relevant data in one's head ar one rime which one cannot - and could formulare a rypology into which they would all fiq some novelist would soon produce a worh that eluded all one's categories, because art lives and develops by deviadng unpredictably from aesthetic norrns. Nevenheless the effort to generalize, to classify, has to be made; for without some conceptual apparatus for grouping and separating literzry fictions cridcism could hardly claim to be knowledge, but would
be merely the accumulation of opinions about one damn novel after another. This is the justification for hterary history, particularly that kind of literary history which has a generic or formal bias, looking for common conventions, strategies, techniques, beneath the infinite variery of subject matrer. Such literary history breaks up the endless stream of literary production into manageable blocks or bundles, called 'periods' or'schools' or 'movements' or 'trends' or'subgenres'. '!Dfe are all familiar with a rough division of the fiction of the last 150 years into three phases, that of classic realism, that of modernism and that of post-modernism (though, it hardly needs saying, these phases overlap both chronologically and formally). And we are familiai with various attempm to break down these large, loose groupings into more delicate and discriminating subcategories. In the case of post-modernist fiction, for instance: transfiction, surfiction, metafiction, new journalism, nonfiction novel, faction, fabulation, nouneAu rofttnn, noal)eAa nouveAu ro/lran, irrealism, magic realism, and so on. Some of those terrns are synonyms, or nearly so. Most of them invoke or imply the idea of the new. British writing rarely figures on such maps of post-modern fiction. Our post-modernism, it is widely believed, has consisted in ignoring, rather than trying to go beyond, the experiments of modernism, reviving and perpetuating the mode of classic realism which Joyce, Voolf and Co. thought they had despatched

for good.

This kind of map-making usually has an ideological and, in the Popperian


After Bakhtin

sense of the word, historicist modvation. The mode of classic realism, with its concern for coherence and causaliry in narrative strucrure, for the autonomy of the individual self in the presentation of character, for a readable homogeneity and urbanity of sryle, is equated with liberal humanism, with empiricism, common sense and the presentation of bourgeois culture as a kind of nature. The confusions, distortions and disruptions of the post-modernist text, in contrast, reflect a view of the world as not

merely subjectively constructed (as modernist fiction implied) but as absurd, meaningless, radically resistant to totalizing interpretation. There is a certain truth in this picture, but it is a half-truth, and therefore a misleading one. The classic realist text was never as homogeneous, as consistent as the model requires; nor do post-modern novelists divide as neatly as it implies into complacent neorealist sheep and dynamic antirealist goats. (It hardly needs to be said that the ideology of the post-modernist avanc-garde, reversing proverbial wisdom, prefers goats to sheep, John Banh's Giles Goat-Boy being one of its canonical texts.) Perhaps I have a personal interest in this issue, since I write as well as read contemporary fiction. I am dissatisfied with maps of contemporary fiction which take into accounr only the most deviant and marginal kinds of writing, leaving all the rest white space. But equally unsatisfactory is the bland, middlebrow, market-oriented reviewing of novels in newspapers and magazines which not only shies away from boldly experimental writing, but makes what one might call mainstream fiction seem technically less interesting and innovative than it often is. Take, for example, the case of the contemporary British novelist, Fay Veldon. She is a successful and highly respected writer, but her work rarely figures in any discussion of post-modernism in the literary quarterlies. Fay I(eldon has been pigeonholed as a feminist novelist, and the criticism of her work is almost exclusively thematic. Now there is no doubt that she ls a feminist writer, but her handling of narrative is technically very interesting and subtly innovative, and her feminism gets its force precisely from her abiliry to defamiliarizelter material in this way. Typically, her novels follow the fortunes of a heroine, or a group of women, over a longish time span, from childhood in the 1930s and 1940s to the present. The narrator is usually revealed at some point to be the central character, but the narrative discourse mostly uses a third-person reference, typical of traditional author-

ial narration, often claiming the privileged insight into the interioriry of several characters that belongs to that kind of narration, and not to the
confessional autobiographical mode. The tense system is similarly unstable, switching erratically berween the narrative preterite and the historical present. There is very artful use of condensed duration, that is, the summary narration of events which would have occupied a considerable length of time in realiry, and which would be sufficiently imponant to the people

involved to be worth lingering over in a more conventional kind of fiction.

Mimesis and diegesis in modern



This creates a tone of comic despair about the follies and contradictions of human relations, and especially the fate of women. Here is a specimen from Fay rtrTeldon's novel Female Friends (1975). Oliver is being promiscuously unfaithful to his wife Chloe and she complains. 'For God's sake,' he says, irritated, 'go out and have
a good time yourself.

I don't mind.'
He lies in his teeth, but she doesn'r know this. She only wants Oliver. It irks him (he says) and cramps his style. He who only wanrs her to be happy, but whose creativiry (he says) demands its nighdy dinner of fresh
young female flesh.

Gradually the pain abates, or ar eny rare runs underground. Chloe gets involved in Inigo's school: she helps in the library every Tuesday and escorts learners to the swimming pool on Fridays. She helps at the local birth control clinic and herself amends the fertiliry sessions, in the hope

of increasing her own. Oh, Oliver! He brings home clap and gives it to Chloe. They are both soon and simply cured. His money buys the most discreet and minhful doctors; Oliver himself is more shaken than Chloe, and her patience is rewarded: he becomes bored with his nocturnal wanderings and stays
home and watches television instead.r

The first paragraph of this passage is a familiar kind of combination of direct speech and narrative, deviant only in the use of the present rense for the narrative. The second paragraph exens the privilege of authorial omniscience somewhat paradoxically, since we know that Chloe is herself narraring- the story, It also uses a deviant sryle of representing speech, apparently quoting Oliver in part, and reponing him in paft. The effect of direct quotation arises from the congruence of tense berween Oliver,s speech and the narraror's speech ('it irks . . . he says'); the effect of reponed speech arises from the use of the third-person pronoun ('it irks him'j.T:his equivocadon berween quoted and reported speech allows the narrator to slide in_a very loaded paraphrase of Oliver's stated need for young women - it is highly unlikely that he himself used rhat cannibalisric image, rhe 'nightly dinner of fresh young female flesh'. The penultimate paragraph uses a summary style of narration that seems quite natural because it is describing routine, habitual acions of little narrarive interest. But summary is foregrounded in the last paragraph because applied ro evenrs which are full of emotional and psychological pain, embarrassmenr and recrimination - the sort of thing we are used ro having presented scenically in fiction. One way of describing this mode of writing would be to say that it is a mode of telling rather than showing, or, to use a more venerable terminology, of diegesis rather than mimesis. It seems ro me a distinctively postmodern phenomenon in that it deviates from the norrns of both classic realism and of modernism, as do, more spectacularly, the writers of rhe

(Later poeticians put lyric poetry into this catagory Genette. But chiefly the two rulers of the people. and then presented mimetically in the speeches of the characters. we could. Both sons of Atreus. To make the distinction clear. I believe. is inadequate to cope with all the varieties and nuances of novelistic discourse. an old man. with the quoted direct speech of the characters on the other. It is important not to confuse 'mimesis'in this sense with the wider application of the rcrm by Plato (in. In Book III Plato is concerned with two rypes of discourse by which verbal art imitates realiry. summary and commentary on the one hand. and tries his best to make us think that the priest. Plato (in the person of Socrates) cites the opening scene of Tbe Iliad. the confrontation is introduced diegetically by the authorial narrator. III - a serious mistake according to G6rard that is. for example: Agamemnon fell into a rate.28 After Bakhtin post-modernist avant-garde in America. as distinct from an ideological. and mimesis. definition of post-modernism. she should grow old . or his staff and the wreathings of the god might not help him.or refine it . for instance. a kind of hymn. Plato rewrites the scene diegetically. The simple Platonic distinction berween mimesis and diegesis. the poet himself speaks. Plato distinguishes berween diegesis. where the Trojan priest Chryses asks the Greek leaders Menelaus and Agamemnon to release his daughter for a ransom. the representation of actions in the poet's own voice. In what follows I want to combine it . Epic is a mixed form. however.2 but one which need not concern us here. You know then. he never tries to turn our thoughts from himself or to suggest that anyone else is speaking.with the more complex discourse typology of the Russian post-formalists (who may have been one and the same person in some writings) Valentin Volosinov and Mikhail Bakhdn. the representation of action in the imitated voices of the characrer or characrers. look profitably at its foregrounding of diegesis. To make the point even clearer. ro mean imitation as opposed to realiry. In Book of Tbe Republic. if we are looking for a formal. combining borh diegesis and mimesis. In that sense all art is imitation. bur after this he speaks as if he was himself Chryses. before he would give her up. is speaking and not Homer. Pure diegesis is exemplified by dithyramb.3 In other words. Indeed. telling him [Chryses] to go away now and not to come back. transposing direct or quoted speech into indirect or reported speech. Book X of The Republic) and by Aristotle (in Tbe Poetics). combining authorial reporr. description. that as far as the lines He prayed the Achaians all. he said.) Pure mimesis is exemplified by drama.

I intend her to grow old in Argos.the poet's speech and the characters' speech . or you may find the god's staff and chaplet a very poor defence. This potential was to be elaborately exploited by the novel.' The original speech in Homer is translated by Rieu as follows: 'Old man'he said.and this is in fact true of Homer. in my house. told him to be off and not to provoke him. 'do not let me catch you loitering by the hollow ships today. and the pictorial sryle. a long way from her own country.not only to represent speech. This is where Volosinov and Bakhtin are useful. or attributing to the characters exactly the same register as the author's. while suppressing the textual individualiry of the reported speech by imposing its own linguistic register. and is associated by Volosinov especially with what he calls authoritarian and rationalistic dogmadsm in the medieval and Enlight- enment periods. the author's speech) in terms of information or reference. I sat feasting on intellectual luxury. and do not provoke me if you want to save your skin. . I suggest that Rasselas (1759) affords a lare example of what Volosinov calls the linear style: '. if wanted to get home safe. The linear sryle preserves a clear boundary between the reported speech and the reporting cont€xt (that is. and could be obliterated only by some much more drasdc summary. of diegesis and mimesis. . in reported speech. working at the loom and sharing my bed. the individualiry of Agamemnon's speech is not wholly obliterated by the narrator's speech in the Platonic rewriting. Far from agreeing to set your daughter free. though there is a clear difference between the two passages. but his own example shows the potential within narrative for a much more complex mixing.'s It is evident that. The linear style is characteristic of prenovelistic narrative. In Marxism and the Philosopby of Language (1930) Volosinov disdnguishes between what he calls (borrowing the terms from Volfflin's art history) the linear sryle of reporting. and was . Twenry months are passed. because they focus on the way the novelisdc treatment of reported speech tends towards an intermingling of authorial speech and characters' speech. more like a fusing. nor coming back again. he passed four months in resolving to lose no more time in idle resolves. regardless alike of the examples of the earth and the instructions of the planets.Mimesis and diegesis in modern fiction 29 he with him in Argos. Vho shall restore them?' These sorrowful meditations fastened upon his mind. of the two modes. Off with you nov/. but to represent thoughts and feelings which are not actually uttered aloud. which uses reported speech extensively . such as Gdrard Genette suggests in his discussion of this passage: 'Agamemnon angrily refused Chryses' request.'6 Plato conceived of the epic as a mixed form in the sense that it simply alternated two distinct kinds of discourse .

the pseudo-autobiographers of Defoe.having not known. but the referential contours of rhe reported speech are very clearly demarcated and judged by the authorial speech. and how often the mind.informational discrimination. and even the maid all seem to speak the same kind of language . polite. These devices brought about a quantum leap in realistic illusion and immediacy. the pseudo-correspondents of Richardson . his fears about the morally debilitating effects of skilful mimesis of imperfect personages. and Rasselas reproached himself that he had not discovered it .the cool. From a novel we expect a more realistic rendering of the individualiry and variety of human speech than we get in Rasseks .rom Rassehs and the passage from Fay !0eldon's Fernale Friends . his mind trained in a classical school. remark that what cannot be repaired is not to be regretted. confident. This is rypical of Volosinov's linear sryle and Plato's diegesis: linguistic homogeneiry . detachedironic tone that is generated by the surnmary nature of the narrative discourse .30 After Bakhtin awakened to more vigorous exertion by hearing a maid.thus making the narrative discourse a mimesis of an act of diegesis. neglects the truths that lie open before her.T speech of Rasselas at the beginning of the extract.) For Volosinov.both in direct or quoted speech and in reported In addition to the quoted direct speech or thought. or thoughts. This was obvious. restored the diegetic balance in his comic-epic-poem-in- . abstract. He for a few hours regretted his regret. naturally influenced by Russian literary history. and from that time bent his whole mind upon the means of escaping from the Valley of Happiness. in which author's speech and character's speech. hurried by her own ardour to distant views. or not considered. or what Volosinov calls the linear sryle. Rasselas.summary being characteristic of diegesis. It is one of the reasons why we hesitate to describe Rassehs as a novel. the rise of the novel vimrally coincides with the development of the piaorial sryle of reponed speech. However highminded were the intentions of Defoe (which is doubtful) or of Richardson (which is not) there is no way in which the reader can be prevented from delighting in and even identifying with Moll Flanders or Lovelace in even their wickedest actions. but they tended to confirm Plato's ethical disapproval of mimesis. of Rasselas. The evolution of the English novel was more gradual. diegesis at a second remove. All are linguistically assimilated to the dominant register of the authorial discourse. even though it postdates the development of the English novel. The author. diegesis and mimesis interpenetrate.balanced. (But note that there is a kind of rcnal resemblance between the passage f. Fielding. there are rwo kinds of reported speech here: the reported utterance of the maid. how many useful hints are obtained by chance. who had broken a porcelain cup. The rise of the English novel in the eighteenth century began with the discovery of new possibilities of mimesis in prose narrative. through the use of characters as narrators . and the reported inner speech.

retained very childlike ideas about marriage. that. reflecdng with pleasure. and see .a disparity that becomes panicularly striking in the shift from direct to reported speech or thought: 'He's a gude creature.' And she immediately urned her thoughts to the important journey which she had's a piry he has sae willyard a powny.humour. in the reproduction of their distinctive speech . notoriously. for example. She felt sure that she would have accepted the judicious Hooker.Mimesis and diegesis in modern fiction 31 prose: the individuality of characters is represented. mimesis and diegesis are never confused. The same is true of Scott. and relished. indeed. the individualiry of the reported speech or thought is retained even as the author's speech 'permeates the reported speech with its own intentions . or any of. Dorothea. it was how her imagination adorned her sister Celia with artracdons altogether superior to her own.' said she. does not make all the characters speak in the same register as himself . with all her eagerness to know the truths of life. if she had been born in time to save him from that wretched mistake he made in matrimony: or John Milton when his blindness had come on. but it also broke down the clear distinction beween diegesis and mimesis in the representation of thought and feeling. she concluded that he must be in love with Celia: Sir James Chettam. That he should be regarded as a suitor for herself would have seemed to her a ridiculous irrelevance. unlike Johnson in Rasseks. scene and summary. and the richly textured colloquial dialect speech of the Scotdsh characters . who said'Exactly'to her remarks even when she expressed uncenainry. could he affect her She was open. and if any gentleman appeared to come to the Grange from some other motive than that of seeing Mr Brooke. showing and telling. . according to her habits of life and of undergoing fatigue. a stark contrast between the polite literary English of the narrator's discourse. inwardly debating whether it would be good for Celia to accept him.Fielding. love or hate. whom she constantly considered from Celia's point of view. the other great men whose odd habits it would have been glorious piety to endure. she was now amply or even superfluously provided with the means of encountering the expenses of the road. irony. but an amiable handsome baronet. in whose work there is. In this.but the author's speech (and values) are quite clearly distinguished from the characters' speech and values. up and down from London.dlernarcb (1871-2)z preffy to not in the least self-admiring.t The classic nineteenth-century novel followed the example of Fielding and Scott in maintaining e fairly even balance between mimesis and diegesis. through what Volosinov called the 'pictorial style' of reported speech. and all other expenses whatever. 'and a kind . enthusiasm or scorn'.e Let me illustrate this with a passage from Mid.

. dismissive lray? Then what about the immediately succeeding phrase 'how could he affect her as a lover?' If the immediately preceding phrase is attributed to Dorothea. the sentence 'Dorothea.namely. and including. Then the deixis becomes more problematical.'o of father.a iign of his admiration. '\(ho said "Exacly. 'How could he affect her as a lover?'The fact is that diegesis and mimesis are fused together inextricably here and for a good reason: for there is a sense in whiih Dorothea knows what the narrator knows . 'You do see.aling to the reader. then it would be natural to ascribe this one to her also . then. For if Dorothea can formulate the question 'How can Sir James affect me as a lover?. but the reason given . in unexpected collocation with 'great men' ('great men whose odd habits') it seems too rherorical an irony for Dorothea . *hy it tr. .32 After Bakhtin as a lover? The really delightful marriage must be that where your hus- band was a son wished it. acknowledge that her ideas are childlike without ceasing to hold them).but a contradiction then arises. on account of her determination to marry an intellectual father 6gure. for instance. The tag. the narrator tells us that 'she *"r ttot less angry because certain details asleep in her memory were now awakened to confrm the unwelcome revelarion'. deference and anxiery to please rather than of his siupidiry. Colloquial phiases in the sequel. Is the.quesdon.rn.r crossed Dorothea's mind that sir James chemam was a possible match for her?' There such an implication. put by the narrator. in words that Dorothea could not use about herself without contradiction (she cannot. and could teach you even Hebrew. that Sir James is sexually attracted to her .and so we attribute it to the narraror. her alleged unconsciousness of her own attractions to visiting gentlemen is compromised. to acknowledge thJ plausibiliry of her behaviour. as I we not infei that sir James's illogicaliry has been noted by Dorothea herself in just rhat crisp.but is repressing the thought. one of these details was surely that very habit of sir James of saying 'Exactly' when she expressed uncertainry . though the equally colloquial 'odd habits' does not. lu?hen celia finally compels Dorothea to faci the truth of the marter. this passage is diegetic: the narrator describes the character of Dorothea authoritatively. 'she felt' is an ambiguous signal to the reader. directly "pp. meaning. if you Up to.that sir James said _ls 'Exactly' when Dorothea expressed uncenainry seems too trivial for the narrator to draw the conclusion.. . But that is not to imply that Dorothea is incapable of is a kind of oxymoron . since it can introduce either an objective reporr by the narrator or subjective reflection by the characrer. I[hy does it not? Because. to her remarks even when she expressed uncertainry'. rerained very childlike ideas about marriage'. such as 'that wretched mistake' and 'when his blindniss had come on' seem to be the words in which Dorothea herself would have articulated these ideas. gentle reader. over the heroine's head.

At this point it is useful to switch to Bakhtin's typology of literary course. and the author's irony.i. parody. This corresponds to Plato's diegesis. In the English novel I think we would point to the work of James and Conrad at the turn of the century: James's use of unreliable first-person narcators (The Turn of the Soeat) or sustained focalization of the narrative through the perspective of characters whose percepdons are narrowly limited. In rhe next stage of the novel's development. the character's voice and the author's voice are so tightly interwoven that it is impossible at times to disentangle them.Mimesis and diegesis in modern liction 33 Here. 'The authorial context loses the grearcr obiectivity it normally commands in comparison with reponed speech. Dostoevsky initiated this second phase in the development of the pictorial style. Conrad's use of multiple framing via multiple narrators. but also reported speech in the pictorial sryle. in 'dialogue' it 'shapes the author's speech while remaining oumide its boundaries'. is affectionate. srylization.' Volosinov notes that this is often associated with the delegation of the authorial task to a narrator who cannot 'bring to bear against [the] subjective position [of the other characters] a more authoritative and objecdve world'. There are three main categories: dis- l. not the quoted direct speech of rhe characters. 3. . it seems. Represented speecb. Volosinov observes.ors). then. Doubly-oriented sPeech. the reported speech is not merely allowed to retain a certain measure of autonomous life within the authorial context. but discourse which alludes to an absent speech act. In srylization. Nostromo). The Ambassad. or makes concessions to some other real or anticipated or hypothetical statement about the same object. This includes Plato's mimesis . filled by a warm regard for Dorothea's individualiry . consequently. The direa speech of the author. but actually itself comes to dominate authorial speech in the discourse as a whole.very different from Johnson's judicial irony in the passage from Rasseks. none of whom is invested with ultimate interpretative aurhority (Lord Jhn. An important rype of dialogic discourse in this sense is 'hidden polemic'. in which a speaker not only refers to an object in the world but simultaneously replies to. It begins to be perceived and even recognizes itself as if it were subjective. parody and sleaz. Bakhtin subdivides this third rype of discourse into four categories. the quoted direct speech of the characters. contests.ll In the Russian novel.e. shaz (the Russian term for oral narration) and what he calls 'dialogue'. 2. that is. with minimal authorial comment and interpretation ('In the Cage'. the other speech act is 'reproduced with a new intention'. Dialogue means here. speech which not only refers ro something in the world but refers to another speech act by another addresser.

This includes all the dialogue in the usual sense of that word . . like the God of the creation. 'Penelope'. Vould she buy it too. Let me try and illustrate them to (Jlysses.the quoted direct speech of the characters. but representing thought instead of uttered speech. paring his fingernails. invisible. . Since most narradon rn Ulysses is focalized. and srylistically coloured.r2 This is the purely diegetic plane of the text. (p. in accordance with Joyce's aesthetic of impersonality: 'The artist. remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork. by a character's consciousness. himself interesting for that old faggot Mrs Riordan that he thought he had a great leg of. He stood by the nextdoor girl at the counter. and I think useful. a text as encyclopaedic in this respect as in all Tbe d*ec"t sPeecb of the autbor. for twenty thousand uninterrupted words. and so on. combining interior monologue with free indirect speechta and focalized narration . The sentence describes Mulligan emerging on to the roof of the Manello tower not as Stephen Dedalus sees him (Srcphen is below). indifferent.mimesis in Plato's tenns. Here. . Molly Bloom's reverie in the last episode. for example. The presentation of the thought of Stephen and Leopold Bloom is more varied and complex. is perhaps the purest example: Yes because he never did a thing like that before as ask to get his breakfast in bed with a couple of eggs since the Ciry Arms hotel when he used to be pretending to be laid up with a sick voice doing his highness to make l. is Bloom in the porkbutcher's shop in'Calypso': A kidney oozed bloodgouts on the willowpatterned dish: the last. refined out of existence. Represented speecb. bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and razor lay crossed. The author's speech as a distinct medium of communication is scarcely perceptible. rather than the usual inverted commas. . but as seen by an objective narrator. in which mimesis dominates."' 2. plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead. calling the items from a slip in her hand? Chapped: washingsoda. 6os) . such examples are comparatively rare. the 6rst lines of the book: Stately. or penneated by doublyoriented speech. And a pound . clet. a mixture of mimesis and shon. but the basic disdnctions are with reference others.34 After Bakhtin These categories all have their subcategories which can be combined and shifted around in the system in a somewhat bewildering waf. This category also includes all the passages of interior monologue . which Joyce preferred to mark with an introductory dash. nor as Mulligan sees himself. This is the narrator who speaks in. for instance.

Free indirect speech can always be transposed into plausible direct speech (first person. Interior monologue. not a spoken style. consistent and reliable voice in the text. (to end of paragraph). present tense) and clearly that would be impossible in this case.In the later episodes of. And a pound and a half of Denny's saasages. Strong pair of arms. \0oods his name is. the hst.y's Piaorial that electric blue would be worn) with a smart vee opening down to the division and kerchief pocket (in which she always kept a piece of cononwool scented with her favourite perfume because the handkerchief spoiled the sit) and a navy three quarter skin cut to rhe sride showed off her slim graceful figure to perfection. self tinted by dolly dyes (because it was expected in the Lad. His eyes rested on her vigorous hips. clich6-ridden language. narrator who. Ulysses.. Narrative (focalized through Bloom). A neat blouse of electric blue. She does whack it. Ch apped : aushingsoda. 48) The various kinds of speech in this passage may be classified as follows: A hid.e. Doubly-oriented speech. calling tbe items from a slip in ber band? Free indirect Interior monologue. But we cannot take it. \(onder what he does. New blood. His eyes rested on her aigorous Drps. either. the girl's words are quoted but not tagged or marked off rypographically from Bloom's). however self-effacing. Narrative (focalized through Bloom). by George. in which Joyce borrows the discourse of cheap women's magazines and makes it serve his own expressive pulpose: Geny was dressed simply but with the instinctive taste of a votary of Dame Fashion for she felt there was just a might that he might be out. but a kind of pseudodiegesis achieved . The way her crooked skirt swings at each whack.2gT) 'Who speaks here? Clearly it is not the author he would not use such debased. It is a written. Wood. and a very debased one. and his place is taken by various manifestations of Bakhtin's doubly-oriented discourse. 3. 'Stylization' is well exemplified by 'Nausicaa'.ney oozed bloodgouts on the ailhatpatterned disl: Narrative (focalized through Bloom). It is neither diegesis nor mimesis. Interior monologue. the authorial speech. Woald she buy it too. nor a blend of the two. He stood by tbe nextdoor girl at the counter. was a stable. \0hacking a carPet on the clothesline. Free direct speech (i. Vife is oldish.Mimesis and diegesis in modem liction 35 and a half of Denny's sausages. to be the author's report of Gerry's thought in free indirect speech. etc. disappears. No followers allowed.s his narne is. (p.p.

at the there and be damned but a bloody sweep came along and he near drove his gear into my eye.'objectified' (Bakhtin's word) vividly communicates a sensibiliry pathetically limited to the concepts and values disseminated by such a medium. This is stylization not the same thing as parody. But the sryle of rhe Lady's Piaorial subtly manipulated. like a ventriloquist. Compare. heightened. It is said of him thar none could tell if he were bitterer against others or against himself.2a0) 'W'e never discover who this narrator is. or in . ITHACANS VOV/ PEN IS CHAMP . The author. Parody. says I. or to whom he is talking. For example. He was the son of a noble and a bondwoman. the sophist. P.'15) It is essential to the effect of 'Nausicaa' rhat we should be aware of the sryle's double reference . the discourse of cheap women's magazines ar the rurn of the century.36 After Bakhtin by the mimesis not of a characrer's speech but of a discourse. And he wrote a book in which he took away the palm of beaury from Argive Helen and handed it to poor Penelope. as Bakhtin points out. SPARTANS GNASH MOLARS. borrows a style and applies it to expressive purposes that are in some sense the reverse of the original pu{pose. or at least incongruous with it. . a disciple of Georgias. Joe. FIow are you blowing? Did you see that bloody chimney-sweep near shove my eye out with his brush? the time I was just passing corner of Arbour Hill @. 122) The anonymous narrator of 'Cyclops'provides an example of Irish skaz the anecdotal chat of pubs and bars: - of day with old Troy of the D. (p. I turned around to let him have the weight of my tongue when who should I see dodging along Stony Batter only Joe Hynes. made from fine Indian Gerty's experience. is a silent presence in the text.You remind me of Antisthenes. the sryle of today's romantic fiction of the Mills 6r Boon rype displays a remarkable consistency and continuiry with Geny's reading. one of the headlines in 'Aeolus' parodies the style of - American tabloid journalism by applying it to an episode in classical antiquity recalled in more appropriate language by Professor MacHugh: SOPHIST I$(/ALLOPS HAUGHTY HELEN SQUARE ON PROBOSCIS.Lo. the professor said. delicate lace finishing at the waist where it fitted Gina's slender figure to perfection. Gn fact. but his very silence is the background against which we appreciate his creative skill. M. for example: 'Her dress was white. Skimpy litde shoulderstraps led to a bodice which was covered with layers of narrow. \Ufle are not to suppose that Gerty literally thinks in sentences lifted from the Lady's Pictorial. and to its own original discursive context.

Mimesis and diegesis in modern fiction 37 what context. equivocates. was characterized by a balanced and harmonized combination of mimesis and diegesis.classic realism. and. berween the discourse before and after the dash that in Ulysses introduces direct or quoted speech. in fact. (p. women of ill fame and swell mobsmen. we are told. though it does seem expressive of Bloom's characrer in some respecrs: his friendliness bordering on serviliry. Volosinov and Bakhtin. The modern novel evolved through an increasing dominance of mimesis over diegesis. we may say. any speech replete with reservarions. not yet perfectly sober companion. meant to reflect the nervous and physical exhaustion of the tc/o protagonists. his fear of rejection. Hardy hedges his bets. to be sure. Diegesis. 'Any speech that is servile or overblown. which. never more so. spoke a word of caudon re the dangers of nighttown. or at the presentiment of.and see what it looks like in the light of the discourse typology of Plato.shaz. elliptical. a style which Sruart Gilbert classified as 'Narrative: old'. but it does become increasingly intractable. qualifies or contradicts his own authorial dicta. One can see the strain in those novelists who could least easily do without it: in Hardy. Bakhtin's definition of 'hidden polemic' seems to fit it very well. post-modernism . As with 'Nausicaa'. There is no perceptible difference. reply. Such speech seems to cringe in the presence. The classic realist text. his reliance on proverbial wisdom. we cannot read the discourse either as author's narration or as representation of Bloom's consciousness. any speech that is determined beforehand not to be itself. But clearly it is oral narration . authorial speech and represented speech. uses tortuous formulae to avoid taking responsi- .16 En route to his taciturn. was of the nature of a regular deathtrap for young fellows of his age particularly if they had acquired drinking habits under the influence of liquor unless you knew a little jiujitsu for every contingency as even a fellow on the broad of his back could administer a nasty kick if you didn't look out. Rambling. some other person's statement. disgustingly sober. reported speech and reporting context. loopholes and so on. it is. concessions. Narrative was focalized through characcer with extensive use of 'pictorial' reported speech or delegated to narrators with mimetically objectified sryles. not to put too 6ne a point on it. Mr Bloom who at all events. Of all the many styles in Ulysses. 502) Let me return to the simple tripanite historical scheme with which I began . objection'. perhaps the most baffling to critical analysis and evaluation has been that of 'Eumaeus'. Forster and Lawrence. modernism. either in syntax or rype of vocabulary. barely permissible once in a while though not as a habitual pracdce. does not completely disappear from the modernist novel. clich6-ridden. vras in complete possession of his faculdes.

lecturing us over her shoulder. but the prescription itself is very much in the spirit of modernism. would be impossible to imagine. made itself an object of interpretation. unconnected arches that have never joined into a man. deprived of the author's authority. This aesthetic required either the suppression or the displacement of diegesis: suppression by the focalization of the narrative through the characters. remember that it is not Margaret who is telling you about it. She passes the school where a singing lesson is in progress: Anything more unlike song.that is. It has been often enough observed that Lawrence did not always live up to his own prescription that the novelist should keep his thumb our of the pan. Forster tries to in his authorial comments as if they were his heroine's. It was like nothing on earrh and it was called singing.'showing'rather than'telling'. Meture as he was. Forsrer tries to accommodate diegesis by making a joke of it: . Conrad.for example in the famous passate where Lady Chanerley drives through Tevershall. spontaneous song.'animals tnedn'.lE It is not just the rather purple To Margaret At other times in Hoanrds End. \flith it love is born.with less success. glowing against the grey.'e The gnomic present tense .indicates that this is not just a transcription of Connie Chamedey's thoughts . as variously formulated and practised by James.that the author is with her.] if you think this is ridiculous. bur in Ulysses they do not have this validation: as I have tried to show they are conjured out of the .the station of King's Cross had always suggested Infniry I .38 After Bakhtin bility for authorial description and generalization. but the slide from narrarive preterite to 'gnomic present' in the tenses that gives away the author's voice. \fithout it we are meaningless fragments. . ttrfoolf and Joyce. are the cardinal principles of the modernist fictional aesthedc. sober against the fire. half beasts. Ford. speaking for her. Ford. It was not like animals: animals mean something when they yell. Conrad. In James. half monks. Impersonaliry.'savages haae'. she might yet be able to help him to the building of the rainbow bridge that should connect the prose in us with the passion. Lawrence uses the same technique pervasively . whose own discourse is srylized or objectified . It was not like savages: savages have subtle rhythms.I hope that it will not set the reader against her .'dramatization'. these narrators are namralized as characters with some role to play in the story. a strange bawling yell that followed the outlines of a tune. smuggle Margaret greeted her lord with peculiar tenderness on the morrow. displacement by the use of surrogate narrators. and alights on the highest curye. .

which traditionally followed the tragic trilogy and mocked its grandeur and seriousness. They found it diffcult to accePt.20 Bakhtin might have been writing aborst Ulysses in that passage. shows that a given straightforward generic word . This is Bakhtin in'Epic and the Novel': any and every straightforward genre. 'Oxen of the Sun' and 'Ithaca'. he was writing about the founh play of classical Greek drama. a comic inversion of and commentary upon the archetype of Homer. because these elaborate exercises in stylization and parody and dialogic discourse could not be justified. a parodic travesty of his high epic and tragic image. and . Parodic-travesrying literature introduces the permanent corrective of laughter. the aspect which even sympathetic friends like Pound and Sylvia Beach found hard to accept. And he notes in passing that 'the figure of the "comic Odysseus". more fundamentd and most importantly too contradictory and heteroglot to be fitted into a high and straightforward genre. But when we put the entelprise in the perspective of Bakhtin's poetics of fiction we immediately see that in opening up the novel to the play of multiple parodic and stylized discourses Joyce was aiming at a more comprehensive representadon of realiry than the stylistic decorum of the realist novel allowed. the process of parodying forces us to experience those sides of the object that are not otherwise included in a given genre or a given sryle. Once again. unlike the fragmentary.2t Bloom has an ancient genealogy. In fact. or rather trebly-. as well as of a whole series of minor comic epics'.epic or tragic .Mimesis and diegesis in modern liction 39 air by the author's ventriloquism. It is still a common complaint among some readers of Ulysses that the introduction of a multiplicity of discourses which have no psychologically mimetic function in such episodes as 'sirens'. a book written entirely in doubly-. lyric. was one of the most popular figures of satyr plays. quadruply-. of a critique on the one-sided seriousness of the lofry direct word. the corrective of reality that is always richer.may and indeed must have itself become the object of representation. we see how this aim was organically linked to the project of writing a kind of modern epic. multiply-oriented discourse. any and every direct discourse one-sided. tragic. is mere pedantry and self-indulgence. travestying 'mimicry'. allusive passages of interior monologue. Bakhtin's theory of the novel. bounded. It is as if such mimicry rips the word away from its object. or mock epic. the saryr play. incapable of exhausting the object. philosophical . trivializing the human content of the book. the object of a parodic. This was the most radically experimental aspect of (Jlysses. as a mimesis of character. Finnegans 'Wahe. The resistance Joyce's readers often feel when they first encounter the later episodes of Ulysses is likely to be even gre4ter in the case of. 'Cyclops'. of ancient Doric farce and preAristophanic comedy. disunifies the two. I suggest.

such as obtained between Latin and the vernaculars at the Renaissance. and that to a large extent is what Dorrit Cohn calls a memory monologud'. and in all the processes of its life. like Voolf and Faulkner. being born. tended to learn from him. copulating.that is. the two crucial ingredients in the Rabelaisian projecq which made the novel possible. being born again. But it is not the individual human body. mouth and anus. we must say. eating and defecating. Ulysses were first appearing in print. as I have already remarked. were haghter . associative inner speech of the subject . Yet Virginia Voolf herself never used sustained interior monologue. the body of HCE. In principle. and what he called 'polyglossia'. dying the most varied deaths. Laughter and the interanimation of languages were also the vital ingredients of Finnegans Wahe. 'Le[ us present the atoms as they fall upon the mind in rhe order in which they fall. he mighr be writing about Finnegans Wahe: we have the first attempt of any consequence to stmcture the entire picrure of the world around the human conceived as a body . fragmentary. is a body defined by the organs of self-transgression. which each sight or incident scores upon the consciousness. the bowels and the phallus. living. and this is what other novelists. except in The Waves.the unvoiced.n After Bakhtin especially his emphasis on the crucial role of Rabelais in assimilating the folk tradition of carnival into literary narrative. rVhen Bakhtin writes abou Gargantna and Pantagruel. . Joyce's greatest achievement was his mimetic rendering of the stream of consciousness within individual subjects. where it is so anificial as to have very little mimetic force. For most of his contemporaries. let us trace the pattern. trapped in an irreversible life sequence that becomes a character . Molly is recalling past events rather than recording the atoms of experi- .rather it is the impersonal body. it was through interior monologue .'?2 The Rabelaisian body and surely. . however disconnected and incoherent in appearance. when the early episodes of. Joyce himself. According to Bakhtin. In her most characteristic work an impersonal but eloquent authorial narrator hovers over the characters and links together their streams of consciousness by a fluid blend of authorial report. a body perpetually in the process of becoming.the mockery of any and every type of discourse in the folk-carnival tradition.that this programme could be most completely fulfilled. the 'interanimation of languages'. giving binh and dying at the same time through the displacements and condensations of carnival and dream (for what is dream but the carnival of the unconscious? what is carnival but a licensed communal waking dream?). uses undiluted interior monologue only in 'Penelope'. seems very relevant. free indirect speech and fragments of free direct speech and interior monologue. the body of the human race as a whole. an impersonal body that is manifesred in its structure.'23 exhorted Virginia \7oolf rn 1919.

The novels of Mauriac and Greene would be examples. More obviously continuous with modernism are those novels in which the discourse of the charactertzed narrator is doubly-oriented in Bakhtin's sense: for example. P. or Gilbert Sorrentino's Mulligan Stew. and we.g.' said Greene in his 1945 essay on Mauriac. The effect is not in essence very different from an old-fashioned epistolary or journal novel. in effect: so why not let him back into the text? The reintroduction of the author's speech. There is an insmnce of this towards the end of Margaret Drabble's recent . poor devil. must pretend to be alrrateur narrators. Mauriac reaffirms that right. Some post-modernist novels combine a whole spectmm of srylized. mimesis turns back into a second-order diegesis . and M. as it were. 'The exclusion of the author can go too far. has taken many forms. The narrators of modernist novels . The Sound and tbe Fary is also made up of memory monologues. C.g. the fiction we are reading.e. In pursuing mimetic methods to their limits. srylized skaz in The Catcber in the Rye. reliable. the revival of diegesis. The narrators of post-modernist fiction are more likely to be explicit about the problems and processes involved in the act of narration. etc. parodic and dialogic narrative discourses . the teacher of languages in Conrad's Under Western Eyes.'25 The note is defensive. and very often rhe narrators are themselves writers with a close. though of course much more flexible and interiorized. 'Even the author. sometimes incestuous relationship to the author. however.e. Very often in this kind of neorealist post-modern fiction the narrator is a character. or Dowell in Ford's The Good Soldier. then. but with little or no stylization of his discourse in Bakhtin's sense. parodic shaz in Mailer's Why Are We in Vietnam?. has a right to it can hardly fail to do in narrative. John Barth's Letters. symbolism. In this way. does the post-modernist use of narrators differ from the modernist use of narrators? I would suggest that one difference is the emphasis on narration as such in post-modernist fiction. I find particularly interesting those post-modernist works in which diegesis is foregrounded by the explicit appearance in the text of the author as maker of his own fiction.hidden polemic in Nabokov's Pale Fz:re. overhear their narrations.Mimesis and diegesis in modern fiction 41 ence in the order in which they fall upon her mind. you can only suppress or displace him. The narrator's perspective is limited. There is a conservative form . Snow's novels might be cited as an example.a return to something like the balanced combination of mimesis and diegesis of the nineteenth-century novel. but as far as it goes. The distance beween the authorial norms and the character's norms is hardly percepdble. Post-modernism says. disclaiming any literary skill even while they display the most dazzling command of time shift. scenic construction. How. and Greene's own use of diegesis has been discreet. modernist fiction discovered that you cannot abolish the author. The characters are narrating their stories to themselves.

while i jealous lover crazed on American drugs was beating down the door with his fists and Belle or packs of wild dogs were waiting below.oh.42 Afier Bakhtin novel rbe has. whether conscious or not. In this she shows herself to be not a neorealist (as she is ryy{ly_ categorized. But this passage violates rhe realistic code in two very obvious. strength. . as Gold. though its satirical comedy about Jewish family life and \flashington politics is mannered and stylized. there is no language left to describe such things. looking round her family circle. and not a person. I give her everything and nothing [.rch else to be done with him. a circle and moving spheres. who is not (or rather once was not) sure what represents it. as though she were indeed " the centre of a circle. Virginia \trfloolf: t-.. and even as she was thinking this. Here Margaret Drabble evokes a \$foolfian epiphany (rhe allusion to Mrs Ramsay's dinner parry in To tbe Ligbthouse. Certainly he would soon meet a schoolteacher with four children with whom he would fall madly in love. but is completely at the disposition of his creator. so to speak. I utas puttine him into bed a lot with Andrea and keeping his wife and children conveniently in the background. For Acapulco.1 tr9* good that it should end so well. . one of its unnumbered chapters begins: Once again Gold found himself preparing to lunch with someone feotry S7einrock . and secondly by emphasizing that this character has no auronomy. is inescapable) but at the same time wryly admits the arbitrariness of its construction. . About three-quaners of the way through Joseph Heller's novel Good.rrr" oT immense calm. but imagine a circle even so. . ]. and I would shonly hold our to him rhe tanmlising promise of becoming the country's 6rst Jewish Secretary of State. in the world. and for the reader disconcerting. a moving circle . feeling as she sat there . There was nor -. centrality.and the thought arose that he was spending an awful lot of time in this book eating and talking. I contemplated fabricating a hectic mixup which would include a sensual Mexican television actress and a daring arrempt to escape in the nude through a stuck second-story bedroom window. a promise I did not intend to keep. we have called it all so much in question. in the most old-fashioned of ways. has consistently maintained an illusion of referring to the real world . she has everything a"d'nbthi"g. by admitting that Gold is a . and as her early work certainly encouraged one to think) but a post-modernist.le Ground which brings our the distinction berween modernist and p-ost-modernist writing by reminding us of one of the great exponents of the former. challenged us to deny thar the real world is as crazy as Heller character.27 Up to this point. in a book.t. Heller's novel. for this is her house and there she sits. ways: firstly.

Two simple words have a powerful shock effect in this passage. At least. all-pervasive in postmodernist fiction. John Barth's obsessive recycling of his own earlier fictions in Letters. metaficdon has been particularly useful as a way of continuing to exploit the resources of realism while acknowledging their conventionality.' He meant his brains.28 Erving Goffman has designated such gestures 'breaking frame'. Johnson's sabotage of his own ficiionalizing in Albert Angelo. of c-ourse. of B. That was the author of this book. book (referring to the novel itself) and . there they go. the more inescaPable it-becomes. not a privileged authoriry but an object of interpretation? . An American near Billy wailed that he had excreted everything but his brains. and I think for other British novelists. For me. the flaunting of authorial omniscience in Muriel Spark. a new phenomenon in the history of fiction.but not. that rhe aurhor as a voice is only . but even more startling. effect in Kurt Vonnegut's novel Skugbterhouse Fhte. among others . in the work of the great modernist writeis. The reason. I think for example of John Fowles's play with the authorial persona in Tbe French Lieutenant's Woman. I cannot think offhand of any instance in the work of James. That was me.I think of the disconcerting authorial footnotes in Beiketr's Watt. of Malcolm Bradbury's intioduction of himself into The History Man as a figure cowed and dispirited by his own character. Moments later he said. And need one say that the more nakedly the author appears to reveal himself in such texts. The Russian formalists called it 'exposing the device'. a rhetorical construct. to conclude a lisr which could be jacket much longer. I might mention my own novel Hout Far Cdn Yon Gol in which theluthoria[. because they have been hitherto su-ppressed in the narrative dis.Mimesis and diegesis in modern liction 4il to do with him. Sterne. 'There they go.outr! in the interesis of mimesis. while at other times presenting them as a kind of history. Perhaps. tn. It is not. I believe. significantly. s.a function of his own hction. however.I (referring to the novelist himself). It is to be found in Cervantes. Metafictional devices are. is that such exposure foregrounds the existence of the author. piiadoxically. Thackeray and Trollope. Conrad. way rhe last page of Nabokov's Ada spills over on to the book ""a to betome its own blurb. Fielding.t"ttatot frequendy draws attention to the ficdtiousness of the characters and their actions. The same words occur with similar. Voolf and Joyce (up to and including Ulysses) where the fictitiousness of the narrative is exposed as blatantly as in my last few examples. That was I. the source of the novel's diegesis. and inviting the sort of moral and emotional response from the reader'that belongs to traditional realistic fiction. in a way which ran counter to the modernist pursuit of impersonaliry and mimesis of consciousness. A more recent critical term is 'memfiction'.

he means. and the greatest post- . 'You must go on.which would be one way of. Joyce. \[hen the Unnamable says to himself. I'll go on'.4 After Bakhtin To conclude: what we see happening in post-modernist fiction is a revival of diegesis: not smoothly dovetailed with mimesis as in the classic realist text. on one level at least. and not subordinated to mimesis as in the modernist text. I can't go on. Beckett. The stream of consciousness has turned into a stream of narration . but foregrounded against mimesis. that he must go on narrating. ence between the greatest modernist novelist. summarizing the differmodernist.

Bakhtin The object of this essay is to bring Mikhail Bakhtin's theory and practice to bear on the fiction of D. According to Bakhtin. it might be said. but also to test the usefulness of Bakhtin's concepts and analytical tools. It provokes an answer. p. Rabehis and His World (R. but now thought to be largely the work of Bakhtin. it gets us off the hook of deconstructionist scepticism about the possibility of mean- . generally considered antithetical toJoyce in his literary aims and techniques. Dostoevsky. 1963). post-Saussurean theory of language. To begin with. 28Q. parole.'? Bakhtin. H.'The word in living conversation is direcdy. I have tried to show elsewhere the relevance of Bakhtin to the work of James Joyce. or 'discourse' as it is more commonly called. as is transformational grammar and speech act theory. it would be impressive testimony to the theory's explanatory power. This insight has several interesting entailments. drawn from the following sources. Ferdinand de Saussure made modern linguistics possible by his distinction between hngue (the abstract rules and constraints which allow language to function) and parole (the actual ufterances which language-users produce). a revised and much expanded version of a book called Problems of Dostoevsky's Art first published. in 1929. language is essentially social or dialogic. and in this respect they were anticipated by Bakhtin. l98l). Marxism and tbe Philosophy of Langaage (MPL. 1965).l If Bakhtin's poetics of fiction proves relevant to another major modern novelist. and four long essays published in English under the title Tbe Dialogic Irnagination (DI. referred to subsequently by the abbreviations indicated: Problems of Dostoevshy's Poetics (PDP.primarily in the hope of enhancing our knowledge and understanding of the kind of literary discourse Lawrence produced.1929). Lawrence . Recently linguists have become interested in the linguistics of. published under the name of Valentin Volosinov. Saussurean linguistics is oriented to hngue. which is itself based on a new. rewrote the history of western literature by developing a new typology of literary discourse. anticipates it and stfuctures itself in the answer's direction' (DI. blatantly oriented towards a future answer word.Chapter 4 Lawrence. I begin with a brief summary of Bakhtin's key ideas.


Atter Bakhtin

ing: instead of having desperately to defend the possibiliry of. a 6xed or stable meaning in isolated utterances, we can cheerfully accept that meaning exists in the process of intersubjectiye communication, since no utterance ever is truly isolated. Methodologically, it means that we cannot explain parole simply by reference to kngue: an utterance can only be understood in context, a context that is paftly non-verbal and involves the status of and relations between speaker, addressee and the object of reference. Lircrature provides illuminating representation of how this works in practice especially prose fiction. For the 'canonized' genres - epic, tragedy and lyric - are what Bakhtin calls 'monologic': they seek to establish a single style, a single voice, with which to express a single world-view. Even if individual characters express distinct and opposing views in such a texr, nevertheless an all-pervasive poetic decorum, or the regularities of rhythm and metre, ensure that the total effect is one of srylistic (and ideological) consistency and homogeneity. Prose literature, in contrast, is dialogic or, in an alternative formulation, 'polyphonic' - an orchestration of diverse discourses culled both from writing and oral speech. 'The possibiliry of employing on the plane of a single work discourses of various types, with all their expressive capacities intact, without reducing them to a common denominator this is one of the most fundamental characteristic features of prose' (PDP, p. 200). The dominance of the novel in the modern era is therefore explained and justified by its capaciry to match the rich variety of human speech and to respect the ideological freedom that variery embodies. There are, however, in Bakhtin's writings two slighdy different accounts of how the novel carne to fulfil this grand cultural mission. In the first account, Dostoevsky played a crucial role: he inoented the polyphonic novel, and thus decisively changed the possibilities of the form. Before Dostoevsky, the novel itself was monologic, inasmuch as a dominant authorial discourse - Tolstoy's for example - controlled and judged the discourse of the characters, predetermining the resolution of the issues raised by the novel in the interests of some ideological pa.rti pr;s. This is an argument that runs parallel at many points to the distinction between the classic realist text and the modern text put forward by some post-structuralist critics.' In Dostoevsky, in contrast, the authorial voice is never dominant, the characters are free to'answer back', and the reader is confronted with the challenging, disconcerting, ultimately unresolved interaction of diverse discourses represendng diverse attitudes and values, sometimes within the same speaking or thinking subject. Later, it would seem, Bakhtin came to see the pre-Dostoevskian novel as already a dialogic type of literary discourse, and to trace its roots back to the 'serio-comic' genres of classical literature - Menippean satire, the Socratic dialogue and the satyr play. In feudal times this radition of parodic, ffavesrying, multivocal discourse was perpetuated in the unofficial culture of carnival. At the Renaissance its energies were released into the main-

Lawrsnce, Dostoevsky,



stream of literature by, pre-eminently, Rabelais and Cervantes, and in this fashion the novel was born, and flourished in all its variety - the picaresque, the confessional, the epistolary, the sentimental, the Shandean, the Gothic, the historical and so on. In the nineteenth century the novel achieved a kind of stabiliry, a formal synthesis, and established its dominance over all other literary forms through the unparalleled richness and subtlery of its discursive texture, in which the interplay of narrator's speech and characters' speech, made possible by development of free indirect sryle, was particularly

important. (The voice of the narrator in chapter 1 of. Middlemarcb, f.or instance, ironically, teasingly, affectionately playing off the language of Dorothea's naive idealism against the language of the philistine communiry and both against the values of the implied author, is already dialogic in Bakhtin's terms.) r0fhat Dostoevsky did was to loosen the grip of the authorial discourse and allow the other discourses in the text to interact in more dramatic and complicated ways than the classic nineteenth-century novel allowed. He was an important but by no means unique innovator in this respect. Bakhtin perhaps never quite managed to reconcile these two accounts of the evolution of the dialogic or polyphonic novel. There are obvious reasons for preferring the later, more gradualist version, since a scheme of European literary history which depends crucially on the work of a single author in a single literary tradition would seem to be inherently flawed. But of all Bakhtin's works it is his study of Dostoevsky that is most illuminating in connection with D. H. Lawrence. Before we proceed to the main topic of this essay, however, it may be useful to recapitulate Bakhtin's rypology of fictional discourse. There are three principal categories:
Tbe direa speech of the autbor. This means the author as encoded in the text, in an'objective', reliable, narrative voice. 2. Tbe represented speecb of the characters, This may be represented by direct speech ('dialogue'in the non-Bakhdnian sense): or by the convention of soliloquy or interior monologue: or in those elements of reported speech which belong to the language of the character rather than the narrator in free indirect sryle. 3. Doubly-oriented or doably-ooiced speech. This category was Bakhtin's most original and valuable contribution to stylistic analysis. It includes all speech which not only refers to something in the world but also refers to another speech act by another addresser. It is divided into several subcategories, of which the most important are stylization, skaz, parody and hidden polemic. Stylization occurs when the writer borrows another's discourse and uses it for his own purposes - with the same


general intention as the original, but in the process casdng 'a slight shadow of objectificadon over it' (PDP, p. 189). This objectification may


Afler Bakhtin

be used to establish a distance berween the narrator and the implied author, especially when the narrator is an individualized character, perhaps nartaiing his own story. l7hen,such narration has the characteristics of'oral discoirse it is designated skaz in the Russian critical tradition, though Bakhtin argues thai the 'oral' qualiry is less_ importaat than the adopiion of anothir's discourse for one's own aesthetic and expressive p.rr!or"t. Srylization is to be distinguishe d f.rom p aro dy, when lnother's dir*rrrr. is borrowed but turned to a purpose opposite to or incongruous with the intention of the original. In both stylization and parody, the original discourse is lexically or grammarically evoked in the text. But theie is another kind of doubly-oriented discourse which refers to, answers, or otherwise takes into account another speech act never aniculated in the text: hidden polemic is Bakhtin's suggestive name for one of the most common forms of doubly-oriented discourse. Monologic literature is, of course, characterized by the dominance of category | in Bakhtin's typology of discourse. In most pre-novelistic narrative (e.g. chivdric ro-at.e, *o."1 fable; the authorial narrator does not merely i-por. his own interpretative frame on the tale, but makes the characters speak the same kind of l"ttgn"g. as himself. The eighteenth- and nineteenthnovel allowed thi individualiry of characters' voices rc be heard ".trt,rry rhrough such devices as the epistolary novel or free indirect style, and even admitld doubly-oriented spelch to a limited degree (Bakhtin himself gives some good examples f.rom Little Donit: DI, PP. 303-7). But clearly- the fuly Jiatogic novel is a comparatively modern phenomenon,_ marked by the'attenuaiion of the first of Bakhtin's discourse categories and an increasingly subtle and complex deployment of rypes 2 nd 3. Dostoevsky's Nofes frirn Undergroand, fo. itrtance, one of his most original and distinctively'.modern,
tex1s, is something of a virtuoso performance in the deployment


doubly-oriented speech, as Bakhtin ably demonsvetes (PDP, pp.227-34)' Thire is nothing like Notes frorn IJnderground to be found in Lawrence's oeuvre. For one thing, he very rarely employed the technique Bakhtin calls Ich-Erztihlarg, ,r"tt"iiott by an 'I' figure. (Thc only texts of this kind I can think of are his first novel, Tbe White Peacocle, and the late story, 'None of that,, not one of his best, which has two such narrators, one framed within the other.) Lawrence's fiction is remarkably consistent and homogeneous in narrative method, invariably_using an authorial narrator to frame ind mediate the scenic or interiorized presentation of the action to the reader. This narrative voice is generally thought to be the dominant discourse in his fiction, and a formal characteristic that sets him somewhat apart. from the modernist movement. I have myself written on another

from the [Lawrence's] narrative voice, however much it varies in tone, characwhatever and rhapsodic, lyrically the to shrewdly down-to-earth

. the rapid shifts of voice and linguistic register. everything is prepared. but that what makes a novel polyphonic is not the mere presence of different styles and dialects. through The Rainbozt. Not for him the mimicry. fewer language sryles. was in fact a steady progression towards a kind of fiction which Bakhtin had already described in his study of Dostoevslcy. Dostoevsky. . However. it must be admitted.t but there may have been some 'anxiety of influence' behind those comments. .the fates of people. but 'the dialogic angle at which these sryles are juxtaposed and counterposed in the work' (PDP. There is nothing in the novel that could become stabilised. than in. p. since Lawrence's recorded remarks about Dostoevsky are generally derogatory. sounds more like a description of monologic rhan of dialogic discourse. and not an encouraging basis for a Bakhtinian reading of Lawrence. \ (pDp. Consider how exactly Bakhtin's description of Crime and Punishment applies to Women in Lovet Everything in this novel . unmistakably Lawrentian. Bakhtin 61 ter's consciousness it is rendering. and especially Women in Love. Bakhtin himself observes that in Dostoevsky's novels there is considerably less 'language differentiation. 167) Behind this observation there is another seminal distinction drawn by Bakhdn between the adventure novel and the social-psychological novel of every- day life. though formally less differentiated and individualized. that is. to its uttermost limit.a This. S. the work of the more monologic Tolstoy. 182). and in any case a variety of linguistic styles and registers is not in itself either a necessary or a sufficient criterion for the polyphonic novel. . In the latter. territorial and social dialects. that Dostoevsky has been accused by many critics (including Tolstoy himself of a'monotony of language'. His development from Sons and Lozters. everything is taken to extremes. to Wornen in Loae. enter the ordinary flow of biographical time and develop in it. the plot is articulated through family and class .Lawrence. Everything is shown in a moment of unfinalised transition. I think I exaggerated the homogeneiry of Lawrence's narrative style. In other words. that we encounter in Joyce or [T. for example. is always basically the same. is freer in the way it generates and sustains a continuous struggle between competing interests and ideas. in Dostoevsky the characters' speech. There is irony in such an assertion. I should like to suggest that the same is true of Lawrence's most impressive mature 6ction. professional jargons and so forth'. as it were.] Eliot. their experience and ideas is pushed to its boundaries. the pastiche. everything reguires change and rebirth. to pass over into its opposite . p. nothing that could relax within itself. whereas in Tolstoy the variery of characters' speech is always contained and conrolled by the author's speech. and he expressed a strong preference for Tolstoy.

but as a stage in her relationship with Gerald: 'Gudrun knew it was a critical thing for her to go to Shortlands. 103-a).in such e way. biographical: it develops in spite of them . arguments and moments of spiritual or erotic crisis and illumination. by relegating or deleting the kind of detail that we expect from the 'social-psychological novel of everyday life. for some new. esrablishments. to a degree that breaks the mould of the traditional novel. \$7hat Dostoevsky did. to bring people together and make them collide and conflict . even though the latter are sdll living at home. with religious fervour. Theplot is arranged so as to leave thepromgonists free to choose their fates . pp. too. tough mesh of social and kinship relationships and economic factors which conditions the actions of the in The Rainboat (and still more in Sons and Lovers) seems to melt away inWomen in Love. are no more than positions in which a person can be eternally equal to himself' (PDP. pp.there is. say. fust so in Women in Love: the exiguous plot . was to put the adventure plot 'at the service of the idea' . The fine. social.' This tendency is already observable in the later stages of Tlte Rainboat. She knew it was equivalent to accepdng Gerald Crich as a lover.a small private income allows Birkin to give up his job. but in Women in Loae it is taken much funher.IJrsula's and Gudrun's parenrs. crossing it with apparently incongruous genres such as the confession and the saint's life. is a kind of philosophical adventure story whose chief characters are questing. Gudrun agrees to become governess to lVinifred Crich not out of economic necessity or selfinterest.' says Bakhtin. ar a moment of crisis for civilization. One of the mosr striking and 'experimental' features of this novel is its foregrounding of debates. . are diminished figures in the sequel. Little attention is given to the practical problems of life in Women in Love. 'does not rely on already available and stable positions . to make it the vehicle for exploring profound spiritual and metaphysical problems.exists merely to bring the proragonists inro conract and conflict. that they do nor remain within rhis area of plot-relaced contacr but exceed its bounds' (PDP. according ro orher words. protagonists . unfolded in historical or biographical time (such as rhe classic nineteenth-century novel of. The plot of the adventure novel.'6 'Plot in Dostoevsky.62 After Bakhtin relationships. social states and classes. such powerful presences in Tbe Rainbov. however. \fill and Anna Brangwen. and his offer of marriage allows Ursula to give up hers. Tolstoy or George Eliot) . in contrast. ultimately satisfying way of life. and the issues rhus raised are neither resolved nor conrained wirhin the history of their relationships. Women in Loae. Its goal is to place a person in various situarions that expose and provoke him. family relationships. . says Bakhtin 'no place for contingency here'.essentially a double love story . All social and cultural {or instance. 'is absolutely devoid of any sorr of finalising foundations. who scarcely impinge on the lives or consciousness of their daughters.

there are scores of similar scenes. and the reader has little sense of the precise duration of the story. through 'biographical rime'. in the process of trying to extract a coherent body of thought from the novel. \(rhy should you!' 'It seems as if I can't' he said. and there is some danger that. is set in a deliberately ambiguous period which has elements of both pre-war and post-war England. In between. the enactment is usually highly unconventional. Hermione. Women in Lozte. 'Yet I wanted it. or Birkin throwing stones at the reflection of the moon. impossible. arbitrarily. rn contrast. It began with a dialogue. . as Bakhtin accuses some of Dostoevsky's critics of doing to the Russian novelist's work.' he answered. the dialogue between the hero and heroine sdll continuing. for instance.' 'You can't have it. These events do not seem ro belong to any pattern of cause and effect .' she said. Although Rupert Birkin is the principal spokesman for Lawrence's own ideas in the novel. This is not the place to attempt to say what Wornen in Lozte'means'. Dostoevsky. he is not . just as Birkin's reaction seems remarkably free from the sense of outrage that would be 'normal' after such an experience. randomly or spontaneously. There have been enough attempts already. 'I don't believe that. contingent: the drowning of Diana Crich at the water party. Even when the action does seem to be conventionally motivated.'The fortunes of the Victorian quaftet are rraced. but her murderous attack seems in excess of the provocation. There is no place for contingency here. the release of the rabbit Adolf from his hutch. 'The catharsis that fnalises Dosrcevsky's novels might be. Thus the novel literally ends. in a scrupulously recreated historical conrext. precisely. because it's false. for instance. familial and economic factors. Bakhtin 6g {e_ can appreciate the point more clearly by invoking Frank Kermode. Midd. strikes Birkin with the paperweight out of anger.' says Bakhtin: 'notbing conclusive has yet taken place in the world.they simply happen. quaftets and larger groups of people conduct debates on issues that are general and abstract and yet of vital imponance to the chief characters. one will 'monologize' it.Wornen in Loae: 'You can't have two kinds of love. where couples. determined et every point by social. the ultimate word of the world and about the world has not yet been spoken. Gerald's brutal control of his terrified horse at the level crossing. frustration and jealousy. The most memorable events of this story are. about the pros and cons of marriage. everything is still in the future and will always be in the future' (PDP. trios. and a kind of self-portrait. 166). between Ursula and Gudrun. and are invested with meaning by the reactions of those who are involved as actors or as spectators.Lawrence. p. expressed in this way.s useful comparison between wornen in Lozte and thatllassic nineteenthcenrury novel of two interlinked couples. the world is open and free.lemarcb. This describes very well the ending of. .

e. etc. It has not got a single thise. in which first Birkin and then Hermione visit Ursula's school. attracted by him. they are the thinnest pretext for mounting the debate. and they of her. she never knew' (p. It is rypical of this novel that there is no attempt to evoke the physical specificiry of the classroom. for instance. to hnors. from a plane of knowledge above the characters: rather. IJrsula.. is that the narrator never delivers a finalizing judgemental word on the debate or its protagonists. but several. 'but whether for misery. You have only your will and your conceit of consciousness. t$flhen both the others have gone. bur it was not always so impartial. We know from other.a\. she weeps. than Mrs Morel. and are soon dismissed. In the first part of Sons and Loaers. He sounded as if he were addressing a meeting'..' And Ursula questions the value of Birkin's 'sensuality. 'Class-room'. that Lawrence himself believed in the value of such dark knowledge. now what Hermione is thinking of both of them. Walter Morel is represented much more objectively. nonfictional texts. where she is conducting a botany lesson. chapter 3. often in summary fashion. behaviour. containing a lot of direct speech).g. paftly because the latter has a subtext of emotional relationships. but Birkin is not allowed to triumph in this scene . for her part. of which Lawrence's treatment is remarkably even-handed. He is allowed to speak only in direct speech that is . flexible handling of point of view was always characteristic of Lawrence's writing. He is evoked for us by description of his dress. Wornen in Looe is not a roman i thise. The advantage is constantly circulating between the three participants in the debate. Ife may take as representative of the novel in this respect. and shows us now what Ursula is thinking of Birkin. Exasperated by this. The narrator also 'circulates' between them. and yet irresistibly. externally. $7e seldom get the actual movement of his thought represented in free indirect style. p. Both women were hostile and resentful. Hermione is trying to ingratiate herself with Birkin and to 'upstage' IJrsula. This fluid. he is often made to look slightly ridiculous (e. a5-7). The narrator seldom speaks in a clearly distinct voice of his own. and your lust for power. the great dark knowledge you can't have in your head' @p. is puzzled and disrurbed by Birkin's behaviour and opinions. now what Birkin is thinking of Ursula. whom she recognizes as a potential rival: but Hermione's sentiments strike Birkin as a kind of caricature of his own. a8). There are no winners. or the individual or collective character of the children. he attacks her with brutal scorn. or joy.When we have knowledge. \{rhat makes this scene dialogic in the ideological as well as the purely formal or compositional sense (i.64 After Bakhtin allowed to win these argumenrs. Hermione quesdons the value o{ education .indeed. he rapidly shifts his perspective on their level. almost unconsciously. don't we lose everything but knowledge?' Birkin questions her good faith -'You have no sensuality. 'There was silence in the room. and driven by a desire to break away from Hermione's influence.

as in the case of Barthes. that is to say. of language in ase. and grappling ith them is part of being 'after Bakhtin'. Barthes's lisible/scviptible. To Saussure . . However. I should admit my own interest. through the questions which preoccupy us. Only rhe system is stable. There is cenainly a temptation to regard Bakhtin as some kind of prophet providentially sent to deliver us from our critical discontents. But to the extent that a binary opposition becomes a hierarchy. canonical/carnivalesque. langue over parole in Saussurean linguistics. Jakobson's metaphor/metonymy. Bakhtin in contrast called for a linguistics of parole. adopted for polemical purposes. repeatable and therefore describable in grammatical terms . recognizing that this entailed taking into account the non-linguistic components of any speech act. he works with pairs of terms .monologic/dialogic. Bakhtin himself.the manifestations of the system being infinitely variable. there is a tendency for binary oppositions to become hierarchies. Sometimes this is a quite overt tactic. its explanatory power in application to the totaliry of its subject matter is weakened. As a critic I have always been concerned with the constnrction of a poetics of fiction. Bakhtin's thought is so many-sided and fertile that he is inevitably open to colonization by others. But the temptation must be resisted. and the development of a literary history of the novel grounded in such a poetics rather than in content or context. I have found the work of Bakhtin both useful and inspiring on all these counts.and so on. and thus abandoning the hope of a scientifically precise toul description of language. S/Z succeeds because it subverts its own hierarchy. In this respect he anticipated the interest of linguistics many decades later in what is sometimes called discourse analysis. contradictions and loose ends in Bakhdn's thought. One thinks of Saussure's kngre/parole. and his work as some kind of theoretical panacea. Jakobson frequently drew attention to the built-in bias of poetics and literary criticism towards metaphor rather than meronymy. As a practising novelist I find the post-strucruralist attack on the idea of the author and on the communicative function of language unappealing. Saussure's linguistics is focused on langue. decades before we even thought of them. by demonstrating how a lisible text can become soiptible in rhe hands of a clever critic.After Bakhtin 89 to secure his rehabilitation). on the abstract system of rules and differences that enables language to signify. one mighr say. began by questioning the privileging of. This habit of thought is of course characteristic of the whole structuralist tradition from Saussure onwards. and so on. However. and like many other readers have been awestruck by the discovery that he was thinking his way. one term being privileged over the other. e bias reflected in the relative neglect of realistic fiction by poetics and literary srylistics until recently. Bakhtin's thinking about language and literature is essentially binary. to say the least. poetry/prose. with the minimum of intellectual and material support. There are problems.

epic. that every decoding is another encoding. and to the carnival tradition in qopular culture that sustained an unofficial resistance to the monologic discourses of medieval christendom. depends heavily on the distinction between monologic discourse on the one hand. To Bakhtin whom it is meanr .90 After Bakhtin the word was a two-sided sign. as Bakhtin himself pointid out. oriented towards a furure answer word: it provokes an answer. .) Bakhtin's literary theory is attractive to me personally as both critic and novelist in putting the novel at the centre instead of at the margins of poetics. with which I shall concern myself in the rest of this essay.tragedy. especially his theory of the novel. If language is innately dialogic. and he traced it back historically to the comic and satiric writing of the classical period that parodied and travestied the stateapproved solemnities of tragedy and epic. we encounter a puzzle or paradox. If classical poetics privileged tragedy. It was later commentators who ried to reduce the Socratic ambiguities and obliquities of Christ's teaching to a monologic system. however. addressee. It is determined it was a equally by whose word it is and for by both addresser and 'Every decoding is another encoding'.z Bakhtin teaches us that this need . monologic ideology. is an orchestration of diverse discourses culled from heterogeneous sources. conveying different ideological positions which are put in play without ever being subjected to totalizing judgement or intirpretation. The genres canonized by traditional poitics .'6 'two-sided ltct . 'The word in living conversation is directly. A word is territory shared. lyric . Originally Bakhtin attributed the discovery of this discursive polyphony to Dostoevsky. and. modern poetiis has tended to privilege the lyric poem. Later he came to think that it was inherent in the novel as a literary form. a stylistics which takes lyric poetry as the literary norm is quiti inadequate to cope with the language of the novel. The discourse of the novel. blatantly. in conrrast. into account when we speak. To mean is precisely to take this condition. or rhe Romantic concept of 'style as the man'. . and approaching it via the typology of discourse rather than via the Aristotelian categories of plot and character. anorher modern authoriry has not be a reason for denying the possibiliry of communicating meaning in discourse. how can there be monologic discourse?e Bakhtin's literary theory. distinctly carnivalesque. anticipates it and structures itself in the answer's direction. (In passing it is important to trote that Bakhtin did not believe that christianiry itself was essentially or originally a totalizing. by the speaker and his inrerlocutor. In his view the New Tesramenr is essentially dialogic. . and dialogic or (in an alternative formulation) polyphonic discourse on the other.'E Here. signifier and signified. et the very heart of Bakhtin's thinking about language. bur. .are monologic: they employ a single sryle ind express a single world-view. in such episodes as Chrisr's enrry into Jerusalem on an ass and the crowning with rhorns. oral and written.lo That was the point I started from asserted.

In omitting the definire article before the word Language in my title (it is. for that marter. All the same. 6ve years older than he. But he did nor want to go. His talk was over. rosy. Bateson and B. and he peered out of the great. and I never took a passage that consisted mainly of direct speech. . restored in bibliographies) I was perhaps groping towards Bakhtin's perception that'ir makes no sense to describe "the lengaage of the novel" because the very objecr of such a description. It did one good to see him. more often than . In other words. for the prose arrist the world is full of other people's words. He works with a yery rich verbal palette. Since he had retired. the novel's unitary language. I was looking almost unconsciously for the most direct linguistic expression of the implied author's order for realistic fiction as for a poem'. let me cite the opening story by Katherine Mansfeld. I still tended tg select passages for analysis which were either authorial description or were focalized through characters with whom the implied aurhor was in sympathy. Though what he did there the wife and girls couldn't imagine. it was time for him to be off. stroke. they supposed . a novel is made up of more than one kind of language: Herein lies the profound distinction berween prose sryle and poetic style . the wife and girls kept him boxed up in the house every day of the week except Tuesday. srour. So there sat old Voodifield. On Tuesday he was dressed and brushed and allowed to cut back to the Ciry for the day. . does not exist'. called Language of Fiction (1966).rr But in trying to bring a New-Critical attentiveness ro verbal texrure to bear on a number of nineteenth. but in such a way thar this plane is not destroyed. perhaps so. values and world-view. and thus treating the novel by analogy with the lyric poem. among which he must orient himself and whose speech characteristics he must be able to perceive with a very keen ear.and twenrieth-century novels. I7. \7ell. .' piped old Mr Voodifield. Made a nuisance of himself to his friends. smoking a cigar and staring almost greedily at the boss. But as Bakhtin reminds us.l2 passage of a short As an example of what this means in practice. 'The fly'. since his . of Russian formalism and structuralism). Shahevitch. green-leather armchair by his friend the boss'J desk as a baby peers out of its pram. . He must introduce them into the plane of his own discourse. because it had been the subject of an interesting anicle in Essays in Citicism in 1962 by F. . endeavouring to show (as I was) thar 'close reading' was just as much . who rolled in his office chair. and still going strong. we cling to our last pleasures as rhe tree clings to its last leaves. . though the formal features to be analysed were different.r3 'Y'are very snug in here. which I discusseJ briefly in Language of Fiaion. still at the helm. a book written in complete ignorance of Bakhtin (and.After Bakhtin 9't in my first work of criticism.

seems disapproving of the women's dismissive attitude to lVoodifield's weekly outing. and l[oodifield's womenfolk. Certainly I did not when I first read it. and the rather poetic simile of the tree clinging to its leaves reproves the reader who may have taken the earlier simile of the baby in the pram as an invitation to patronize the old man. Instead. . but the idiomatic 'cut' seems to belong to l7oodifield's discourse.\(oodifield. pron. but by the discourses they quote and allude to. and whose story it is. Made a nuisance of himself to his friends. I think. in short. in a frame of thin lines of this quasi-narrative. patronizing chatter is evoked in. prejudices. and what position he should adopt towards the various characters in it. cast in the 'gnomic' present tense. whose repression of the idea of death. stroke'. suggesting that he is well aware of the indignities of second childhood. This is not the place to attempt a detailed and exhaustive analysis of the I wish merely to draw attention to the way in which the authorial narrator's discourse . 'Though what he did there the wife and girls couldn't imagine.most cleady identifiable. For instance: 'On Tuesday he was dressed and brushed and allowed to cut back to the City for the day. is listening. the full implications of which the authors themselves did not perhaps appreciate. Or is it the narrator quoting the eadier occurrence of the same phrase ('the wife and girls') in a sentence that is clearly Voodifield's indirect speech? The deixis of the passage is ambiguous and often undecidable. a repression that. is betrayed by the aposiopesis in the phrase 'since his . The authorial narrator's 'r$(ell. each with its own values. The reader. to a babble of different discourses. are constituted not simply by their own linguistic registers or idiolects. in the person of the boss.' The passive constructions. instead of being told at the outset what the story is to be about. . whose impatient. To give Bateson and Shahevitch their due. .is crossed by and intermingled with the discourses of the characters .'the wife and girls' suggests that Voodifield has heard or overheard their talk .' The familiarly possessive definite anicle here. 'as a baby peers out of its pram' and 'as the tree clings to its last leaves' . perhaps so'.that it is an indirect quote within an indirect quote. .92 After Bakhtin passage.r to be the central theme of the story. To Bakhtin this fusion of author's discourse and characters' discourses through free indirect speech and what he called doubly-oriented speech was constitutive of the novel as a literary form. . Characters. as it were. . . in the similes. perhaps. we have the effect of drama. recalling the ironic simile of the baby peering out of the pram. and is obliged to construct and continuously revise his own hypothesis about the story's import. ironies. and the persona of the authorial narrator herself. may encourage us to begin reading this sentence as authorial. they supposed . they observed that'This mixing of direct statement with indirect or concealed dialogue is used all through the story .'rs A very Bakhtinian remark. which could almost be spoken by a chorus. The result is that we have very little regular narrative. 'dressed and brushed'.

lane Austen seldom repeats the narrative presentation of a single event. Jane Austen's novels seem to have the tempo of life itself.left out a great deal from her novels: physical love. and so does Miss Bates. yet their stories occupy several months. Frank Churchill arrives and visits Hanfield and walks in the village with Emma. summoned by his aunt. discussions take place at Randalls and the Crown Inn about the proposed ball. Frank Churchill.Composition. because of the amount of direct speech in them. 124). historical events. create the effect of more or less neutral is one of the chief causes of critical controversy about her . unless we count Emma's reflections on the Elton-Harriet d6bicle (E. pp. all the principal characters meet at the Coles's dinner party. p. Harriet. the work men do. As we might expect. use summary (narrating once what happened several times) in linking passages and to express with sometimes disconcerting candour the tedium and repetitiveness of the social round to which her heroines are confined . which consists of sitting an hour or tu/o together in the same room almost every day' (SS. Jane Austen generally follows the historical. calls at Hanfield to say goodbye. pp. arrangement 125 thriller) or slower (the stream-of-consciousness novel) or to move at about the same pace. yet we have no sense of the acceleration of the normal tempo of life. we are scarcely aware of the intervals between them. 'local colour'. 'common-sense' norm of one-to-one. She never presents successive accounts of the same event as experienced by two or more characters. they visit again and meetJane.for example. Harriet visits the Manins. The illusion is achieved by the highly selective and dominantly scenic presentation of experience. in the manner of Richardson. By 'frequency'. She does. repetitive qualiry of these scenes. This brings us to the topic of 'point of view'. 134*9) or Edmund's and Fanny's inquests on the behaviour of Mary Crawford (MP. which is concerned ultimately with the choice of husband. Mrs Weston and Frank Churchill call on the Bateses. and because of the habitual. Jane Austen notoriously . and the reading of them takes only a few hours.and the reason it enjoyed such a vogue . Consider. The plot. however. Emma meets Mrs Elton and gives a dinner parry in her honour.was that it short-circuited the simple alternation . for example. Knightley calls at Hanfield. neither noticeably slower or faster than the tempo of 'reality'. Emma. the events in the second volume of Emma (chapters 1F36 in most modern editions): Emma and Harriet visit the Bateses and hear of Jane Fairfax's impending arrival. with news of Mr Elton's marriage. Her novels are concerned with the personal and social relations of young middle-class women confined to a very limited field of activity. The great advantage of Richardson's epistolary technique . 53-a). Two or three months have passed. Genette refers to the ratio between the number of times an event occurs in the fabuk and the number of times it is narrated in the sjuzet. 'that kind of intimacy must be submitted rc. distribution. is furthered in a series of social encounters or 'scenes' that.

126 After Bakhtin of diegesis and mimesis. in traditional narrative by making the characters tell their os/n story virtually as it happened. but the technique had cenain disadvantages. and the maid sent away. though Emma's consciousness remains focal: it brought pain and humiliation. allows the novelist to give the reader intimate access to a character's thoughts without totally surrendering control of the discourse to that character (as in the epistolary novel). caused Jane Austen to abandon it after some earh experiments. uneconomical. after Mr Elton's unwelcome declaration to Emma. indeed! . between the character's values and the 'implied author's' values. compared with the evil to Harriet. in which the narrator's judicial authority is perceptible. 134) Every part of Free indirect speech. we may speculate. combined with presentation of the action from the spatio-temporal perspective of an individual character (the usual meaning of 'point of view' in literary criticism) allows the novelist to vary. the next chapter begins: 'The hair was cuded. The passage continues in a more summary and syntactically complex style. of some sort or other. 'she wondered'. which Jane Austen was the first English novelist to use extensively.more in error .Such a development of every thing most unwelcome! . and she would gladly have submitted to feel yet more mistalren . for instance.Such a blow for Harriet! That was the worst of all' (8. all was light.a discourse that fused. could the effects of her blunders have been confined to herself. while the elimination of the authorial voice from the text deprived it of an important channel of meaning.more disgraced by mis-fudgement. author's voice and characters' voices. such as 'he thought'. from Homer to Fielding and Scon . and Emma sat dov/n to think and be miserable. from sentence to sentence. than she acrually was. and likely to strain creduliry. For instance. p. The gain in immediacy and realistic illusion was enonnous. which enters this passage at the second sentence. which. Elinor rather than Marianne as the heroine of Sense . but. Thus. This technique.Such an ovefthrow of every thing she had been wishing for! . consists of reponing the thoughts of a character in language that approximates more or less closely to their own idiolect and deleting the introductory tags. we ident- ify. 'he said to himself' and the like. the distance between the narrator's discourse and the character's discourse. Free indirect speech. 13a). and so rc control and direct the reader's affective and interpretive responses to the unfolding story. . especially through the srylistic device known as 'free indirect speech'. or interwove. The nineteenth-century novel developed a new and more flexible combination of author's voice and characters' voices than the simple alternation of the two one finds in traditional epic narration. that grammar would normally require in the wellformed sentence. (E. them. and identify with. p. The machinery of correspondence was clumsy.It was a wretched business.

'in such moments of precious. by any suspicion of vanity or disloyalry to her mostly tiresome family' Throughout the novel the reader is put in a privileged position of knowing more than any of the characters know individually. it had given her likewise a pedantic air and conceited manner. though not playing half so well. such effects are frequent. 83). p. . Although Elizabeth is the dominant centre of interest. Compare Elinor. attd tecaure there is much greater consonance between the narrator's language and the language of Elinor's consciousness' Marianne's unhappiness at \$(lilloughby's desertion is consistently ironized. (PP. and consciousness' the narrative frequently moves away from her perspective. Elizabeth is 'eagerly succeeded' at the piano by her sister Mary. she was almost overcome . . than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes (PP. In Pride and Prejadice. Here is a characteristic shift: was Occupied in observing Mr. Elizabeth. had been listened to with much more pleasure. distribution. There is considerable variation between the novels in the amount of switching from one character's perspective to another's and in the degree to which the narrator explicidy invokes her authority and omniscience. and she could hardly stand. 303). But no sooner had he made it clear to himself and his friends that she had hardly a good feature in her face. A little later in the same scene. Bingley's attentions to her sister. and she struggled so resolutely against the oppression of her feelings. for instance. Mary had neither genius nor taste. which would have injured a higher degree of excellence than she had reached. implicitly judged as selfindulgent. Darcy had at 6rst scarcely allowed her to be pretry. 23) It is important to the effect of the novel that the reader should know this and Elizabeth should not. . but exertion was indispensably necessary. and for the time complete' (p. she rejoiced in tears of agony to be at Cleveland' (p. easy and unaffected. confronted with apparent proof of Lucy Steele's engagement to Edward Ferrars: 'for a few momenm. and Elizabeth is not compromised. and though vaniry had given her application.25) This brumlly frank comparison of the sisters comes to us straight from the authorial narrator. Mr. here or elsewhere.her heart sunk within her. 13a). of invaluable misery. Elizabeth fir from suspecting that she was herself becoming an object of some interest in the eyes of his friend. p. because we have much more access to her private thoughts.Composition. by an authorial rhetoric of oxymoron: 'this nourishment of grief *ar enery day applied. arrangement 127 and Sensibility because we see much more of the action from Elinor's perspective. She spent whole hours at the pianofond alternately singing and crying' (p. that her success was speedy.

But with these resirvations it is true that the action of the novel is narrated wholly from Emma's perspective.'8 He never said an untruer word. . 3a3) and 'of to trifle with Jane Fairfax'. Leavis did.a more intimate relationship between fictional discourse and the processes of human consciousness. some inclination . The effect is not only a wonderful multiplication of ironies and reversals but also an intensification of what Henry James called the sense of felt life . And not until Henry James himself. to my knowledge. For signal examples of what composition. as F. axiomatically.128 After Bakhtin Emma follows an antithetical method. a dialogue between Mr Knightley and Mrs Weston about Emma that remains wholly 'objective'until the last paragraph. there is a shift of point of view to Knightley. In the fifth chapter of volume 3. perhaps.7 There are two imponant scenes in which Emma is not present and therefore.) There are also some very clear authorial comments about Emma's character at the outset of the novel that should put the reader on his guard against identifying too readily with her attirudei and opinions: for example. no precedent for such a novel before Emrna that is. so that the reader is obliged. The hrst of these is chapter 5 of volume 1. (In the following chapter Mrs Elton plans her strawberry-picking expedition when Emma is absenq but this scine is less important hermeneutically. which gives us a hint of Mrs !fleston's private hopes of a match between Emma and Frank Churchill. and a disposition to think a little too well of herself' (p. R. It is not quite true to say. that 'everything is presented through Emma's dramatised consciousness'. distribution' arrangement can do. was there a novelist in the English language who equalled the skill and subtlety with which Jane Austen carried out this difficult technical feat. to share her limited knowledge and perhaps her mistakes and surprises' There is.on that Jane Austen was instinctive and charming . a novel in which the authorial narrator mediates vinually all the action through the consciousness of an unreliable focalizing character. when he begins to susPect Frank Churchill oflsome double dealing in his pursuit of Emma' (p. of how they intensify the life of a work of art. cannot provide the point of view. 'The real evils indeed of Emma's situation were the power of having rather too much her own way. we have to go elsewhere. . To make that comparison inevitably recalls the astonishing perversity of James's own obseruati. on first reading at least. 5).

According to the Preface. is a double-edged tool for interpreting the story. It concerned a legal dispute between a Scottish widow and her son about the possession of the family house. From the beginning James saw the mainspring of the narrative as the mother's removal of the 'things' from the house. but who chooses an equally philistine wife. arising from the injury to the mother's pride and possessiveness at being forced rc relinquish the house she has made into a thing of beauty to a son who is not only indifferent to her connoisseurship. of the sacred mystery of structure. and to render them with the lavish descriptive detail of a Balzac would take up far too much space for what he then conceived of as a short story. in the form of an anecdote related at a dinner parry.' as he disdainfully observes in the Preface.'l Another disdnction of The Spoils of Poynton is that James left a more detailed account of its genesis and composition in his Notebooks than of any other of his novels. and it was a gain he attributed to his experience of writing plays. a process which we can trace through its various stages in the Notebook entries from May 1895 when. According to James's informant. but quickly realized that this would not do. supplemented by the Preface James wrote for the New York edition of 1908.The art ol ambiguity 131 required of the reader becomes equivalent to that required of the central character. in 1893. This. along with other paniculars. in his own working out of the situation. as being the centre of the story. and (more significantly) would work against the interests of 'the muse of dialogue'. The things were in themselves inarticulate. my wasted years and patiences and pangs. which was full of 'valuable things' collected by the former. a melodramatic twist which James characteristically eschewed.) The potential story James saw in the anecdote was about the effect of aesthedc taste on personal relationships. Originally this was to . To James it represented an enormous gain in intensiry and economy of effect. ('Clumsy Life at her stupid work.'James wrote in his notebook at the time of writing Tbe Spoils of Poynton. a few months after the d6bicle of. from Balzac to George Eliot. very different from the 'loose baggy monsters' of classic nineteenth-century fiction. the Notebook entries afford an unequalled insight into the laboratory of the writer's mind.of the art and secret of it. The original 'germ' of the story came to James. Jarnes at 6r$ thought of the contents of the house themselves. instead of the discriminating prot6g6e the mother had intended for him. the 'things'. he commenced work on the story.'the answer comes up as just possibly tbis: what I have gathered from it will perhaps have been exactly some such mastery of fundamental statement . as I shall suggest later. as so often. of theatrical experiment. Guy Dornvilk. Hence the 'growth and predominance of Fleda Vetch' as 'a centre' for the tale. 'Vhen I ask myself what there may have been to show for my long tribulation. of expression. but. the mother was prepared to deny her son's legitimacy to win her case.

'If there is a line in good literature between complexiry and self-contradiction. Murdock. albeit an ironic one. sensitive and perceptive in her dealings with the other characters. on the other hand. pathologically fearful of sex. She is the renouncing sensibiliry who is of love.7 According to l7illiam Bysshe Stein. and Fleda was ro have assisted in their restoration out of wholly dtruistic motives. not what will happen to the things. The Spoik of Poynton rs a variation of the Cinderella myth. R. however. without discussing The Spoik of Poynton in detail. or a! what. Tbe Turn of tbe Soean. and the impossibiliry of choosing berween them has led some critics to conclude that there is something deeply unsadsfactory about the work. For Fleda the dispute between mother and son becomes mordly complex because she stands to gain or lose by what she does or does not do in reladon to it. The Spoils of Poynton (which has followed aloery similar course to that of. The overarching narrative question of the text becomes. F. the question of their restoration became entangled wirh the question of Fleda's persond destiny. I[. Fleda is 'a srumbling bungler'. and contributing more harm than balm to the domestic row between the Gereths. The crucial interpretative question is: at whom. Iilhen the plor was revised so that Mrs Gereth made a pre-emptive strike." According to Nina Baym. but will Fleda come to possess them. especially when James. and he cites the similar opinions of F. removing the things before the marriage. Fleda is 'one of James's most extreme embodiments of imagination. Bellringer. rather to his own surprise.e This is only a sample of the contradictory opinions to be found in the criticism of. 'the possibiliry is that James's trearmenr of his material has overstepped that line'.5 Philip L.a Wayne Booth says she comes 'close to representing the author's ideal of taste. from Pameh rc Mansfeld Parh and Jane Eyre. taste and renouncing sensibiliry'. 'She sacrifices her reliable reflector love for moral mummery'and'her hypocritical respectabiliry converts social behaviour into a game that is a comic perversion of life'. along with her Prince Charming? For. to whom she is mordly superior. O. Both schools of thought can muster plausible arguments for their respect- ive readings of the tale. Eirher they take Fleda to be the heroine of the story in the traditional sense .8 John Lucas claims that 'Fleda invents most of her experience and in particular she invents Owen's love for her'. Matthiessen and Kenneth B. or they have taken her to be neurotic and self-deceiving. judgement and moral sense'. made Owen fall in love with her while engaged to Mona Brigstock. Greene assefts: James produces in Fleda Vetch a capable of his values.132 After Bakhtin have happened after the son's marriage. like many other great English novels.heroic in her readiness to sacrifice her ovrn happiness rather than compromise her principles. Leavis and Ivor lflinters. According to the editors of the Notebooks. have in various .' says A. is the irony directed? Most of the critics who have commented on The Spoils of Poynton faLl into two A number of recent critics. for similar reasons).

ooxs something. instead of preparing a plan by which a scandal might be averted. The tangle of life is much more intricare than you've ever. .'You simplify far too much .rr I shall argue that this is the appropriate perspective in which to read Tbe Spoils of Poynton. or thought he had written afterwards (many years afterwards in the case of the Preface). It is. what that fiction is about. (Matthiessen and Murdock note how many positive actions in the scenario were finally treated negatively. (p. he describes her as a 'free spirit' surrounded by 'fools' (p. 31). 'Fleda becomes rather fine. hesitates and delays rather than acts. up to a mere fairy-tale. up to the very taste of the beautiful peace she would have scattered on the air if only something might have been that could never have been. 186)t'? . arguing that whatever James thought he was going to write beforehand. This assenion of Fleda's superior sensibility is qualified by an adverb that . I think. however. James's tributes to Fleda are in fact always eguivocal. she gave herself.t3) Fleda vacillates. The and-Fleda party are likely to be anti-intentionalists. She makes no such declaration in the text. $[hat one might call the pro-Fleda perty relies heavily on James's own remarks in the Preface and Norcbooks.could be turned against many critics of the novel.62) This is less damaging rc Fleda if we read it as rendering a self-accusation rather than as an authorial judgement. 'Fleda almost demoniacally both sees and feels.) It seems clear thatJames intended his readers to admire and identify with Fleda. in the broadest sense. Fleda was to have demonstrated her heroism by sending Owen away from Ricks with a firm recommendation that he should marry Mona immediately. instructive to consider the arguments that have divided them. but it does seem to hold her panly responsible for the family 'war' that follows. in her sacred solitude. Chapter fV concludes: She dodged and dreamed and fabled and trifled away the time. justifying his choice of Fleda as the story's centre of consciousness. - that the impossibiliry of arriving at a single. is irrelevant to the inteqpretation of what he did write.' he writes in the Notebook (p. while the others but feel without seeing' (p. distinguishes herself (to the reader). (The conffoversy is therefore a classic instance of a general theoretical question about the bearing of authorial intention on interpretation. the Fleda of the text is generally notable for what she does not do.In the Preface. 31). Indeed. As to the Preface.The art ol ambiguity 133 ways suggested that James's later fiction constandy aspired to the condition of ambiguity of the 'truth' about any human action or experience is. Instead of inventing a remedy or a compromise. giving with one hand and taking away with the other. 233). simple version Vhat Fleda says to Mrs Gereth . In the Notebook scenario for instance. rather than for what she does. felt it to be' (p. .

whether. as we shall see). and rendered with an orgasmic lyricism rare in James's writing: He clasped her.she poured out her tears on his breast. She herself allows Owen only one embrace.these are interpretations which ir is impossible absolutely to prove or falsify. the later fiction of Henry James lends itself to psychoanalytical interpretation. 'Whether Owen's umbrella and the Maltese cross are phallic symbols. and is disrurbed by Mrs Gereth's hints that she should use it to captivate Owen. Something prisoned and pent throbbed and gushed. In the first chapter Fleda is shown as rather priggishly disapproving of Owen's 'romping' with Mona. and this contributes to rhe diffculties in which she finds herself. Because of its subjecdve method of representing experience. something . seeking a mother-substitute in Mrs Gereth. and Mona's physical charms and putative 'permissions' figure prominently in Fleda's thoughts. but forfeiting her regard because she 'holds on' (to her modesry) when Mrs Gereth urges her to 'let herself go'. She is however constantly kissing or being kissed by Mrs for instance. She lacks confidence in her physical aftractiveness.134 After Bakhtin sugges* all the hysteria and capacity for mischief unsympathetic readers have attributed to her. and in seeking to establish that Fleda is a deeply flawed character whose exposure is the whole point of rhe novel they usually overstate the case and make assumptions and inferences quite unwarranted by the text. to entertain both terms of the paradox. Such readers are however_ unable. or she desires him sexually but is guilry about her desire and represses it. Her one embrace with Owen is. Either she wants Owen as a husband only as a means of bettering herself. or she doesn't really want a heterosexual relationship but a lesbian or motheriaughter one with Mrs Gereth. or unwilling. Fleda is cenainly sexudly inexperienced. and is most characteristically seen as running away frorn him or shutting doors in his face whenever he shows signs of becoming amorous. There is some evidence for all of these interpretations (and some counter-evidence.ra Fleda is arrested at the anal stage of personal development. though the precise diagnosis of her condition varies. passionate. Ifhen Villiam Bysshe Stein. we must protest that there is nothing erotic about a game like football or rugby which is obviously being alluded to here. and she gave herself . bids us note Fleda's 'insidious conversion of [Owen's] quick speech into an erotic association' in her reflection that 'It was usually as desperate as a "rush" at some violent game'. But there are limits to interpretative licence. and their persuasiveness will depend ultimately on the credence the reader gives to the Freudian discourse itself. however. Central to this reading is the claim that Fleda is neurotic about sex. one of a string of sporting motifs associated with Owen. as Arnold Edelstein has ingeniously argued. and lets go of Owen when Mrs Gereth wishes her to hold on .

.she couldn't think at all of what in parcicular made him ask. to say the least. would have broken off his engagement to Mona. as she herself later admits. Owen's motivation remains an enigma till the end. when her confident asserdon that Owen 'hates' Mona for this ploy and will not cohabit with her. Mrs Gereth calls him 'disgustingly weak' (p. in their different ways.The art of ambiguity 137 According to Roben C. and inconsistent with Mclean's own judgement that Owen is 'the most humane figure in the book'. adding only that 'it's because he's weak that he needs me' (p. This seems improbable.Such. Owen is deceiving Fleda in order to get the spoils back. will be the marriage of Mona and Owen. but her words sound more like a self-justification: 'That he has The mystery of Owen's motivation is sealed by the wonderfully ambiguous conclusion of his letter asking Fleda to choose some treasure from Poynton as a gift: 'You won't refuse if you'll simply think a little what it must be that makes me ask' (p. This has been Fleda's attitude to Owen from her very first encounter with him. Owen. This was indeed because it might be one of so many things. and Fleda enacts in relation to it our own experience of reading the book: 'Fleda read that last sentence over more times even than the rest: she was baffled . It is an epitome of the whole book. and then reversed the process. is falsified.' Reviewing the critical discussion of Tbe Spoik of Poynton reveals the difficulties and dangers of reading this text with the aim of wresting from it a single answer to the guestions it raises. Mona compromised Owen into marrying her by seducing him. 196). with all the scandal and dishonour to himself that would ennil. to contribute all the cleverness. shows how right I was' (p. It is possible to make a plausible . This theory is somewhat undermined. if she should ever marry. why done it. had Fleda accepted his suit. but the most likely explanation is that he is a weak and. cowardly man. 40). She herself was prepared. does he marry Mona after all? Fleda suggests that he recognized where his dury lay. has also been the nature of the marriage between Mrs Gereth and her late husband. when he strikes her as being 'absolutely beautiful and delightfully dense . 209). we may guess. in personal relations. One of the many ironies of Tbe Spoils of Poyntoz is the spectacle of three. and such. however. strong-willed women fighting for the allegiance of a decidedly weak man. Mclean. for just so long as it took his mother to renrrn the spoils to Poynton. apparendy." This intelpretation requires us to believe that. 186) and Fleda accepts the verdict. with the collusion of the Brigstocks. that he couldn't not do it. and she liked to figure it out that her husband would be a force grateful for direction'(p.r8 But if Owen's declaration of love for Fleda is not a callous trick. Mrs Gereth has a coarser explanadon: taking advantage of Fleda's foolish scruples. 186). and engaged himself to Fleda. .

Where is . that friend should on the other hand pan with them what on eafth would there be to return to? If her friend should really If (p. .2o The plot of Tbe Spoils of Poynton exhibits the same pattern in the movement of the spoils themselves: present at Poynton absent from Poynton present at Ricks: absent from Ricks present at Poynton absent from Poynton.138 case After Bakhtin as soon as we for almost any answer by selective quotation.te or is it typical of her confused and illogical mind that she acts when it is too late to have any effect? To read the text carefully is to be swayed back and forth between these alternatives. an example of moral pragmatism.132) . what was the maner with her own silly self? If if he did. .e. when she declares herself ready to 'go to the Registry Office' and takes steps to recall Owen. . but return speech or action is capable of a double interpremtion. that she loves Owen) reasonable and honourable (given that he is engaged to another woman) or obsessive and perverse (given that she has reason to think he loves herself and is disil- to the text itself we find that nearly every in the other woman)? Is her refusal to take any of the several oppornrnities she has to atmch Owen to herself and detach him from Mona indicative of high moral principle and selflessness. Does it arise from authentic conflict or neurotic contradiction? Is her anxiery to protect her'secret'(i.162) 'If he's at Waterbath-he doesn't care for you. responding to Mrs Gereth's changed status as the 'victim' of the situation. which is as ambiguous - - - as everything else about it. (p. at l0aterbath. for example: lusioned he didn't dislike Mona what was the matter with him? And Fleda asked. without ever finding a conclusive answer. Rhetorical figures of parallelism and antithesis abound. This brings us to the ending - of the story. and that every hint is balanced by a countersuggestion. If it's real there's plenry of time. or of moral egotism and sexual neurosis? Is her sudden change of mind in chapter XVIII. Some deep imaginative fascination with symmetrically opposed ideas has left its mark on every level of the text. . . At the hean of the story is the ambiguity of Fleda's character and conduct. your freedom? .' if (p. and it isn't there's more than enough. 186) This last is a good example of the figure of chiasmus (repetition of words or phrases in reverse order) which Ralf Norrman has plausibly argued is the key to James's imagination.' If he cares for you he's not (p. 10s) keep the spoils she would never return to her.

'hung back'. 'dropped'. P. 'debated'. they had simply recovered their own. and the attentive reader perforce must do the same. in the ominous silence and absence of Owen. 'hung fire'. unlike base animals and humans. and like any other of the passionately pious she could worship now even in the desen. 'rather floundered'. consoles herself. by imagining the restoration of the spoils to Poynton in rapturous religious language: It was redly her obliterarcd passion that had revived. 'had a pause'. was of the religion. 'cast about'. These verbs also apply well enough to the experience of reading The Spoils of Poynton. 'failed of presence of mind for a moment' and 'seemed for an instant to have to walk round it'. The joy of that for them was the source of the strange Peace that had descended like a charm.or her. to be reducible to anything so narrow. and with it an immense assent to Mrs. a page or two earlier. far round as she had gone she had been strong enough: her love had gathered them in. S. 'took it so'. She equally. ft. she felt. 'faltered'. They were nobody's at all too proud.142 After Bakhtin Yet Fleda herself.. 'waited for thought'. Gereth's early judgment of her. In the New York edition of 1908. it was all f. 'wondered'. The text itself is describes continually hesitating between alternative meanings. Yes. . In the first edition of The Spoik of Poynton James frequently his characters as 'hesitating'. It was Poynton that was - theirs. Rosenbaum has noted. 194) It is difficult to decide whether this flight of fancy is sublime or ridiculous - and whether its reversal in the last chapter is a spectacle of tragic suffering or poetic justice. . 'thought again'. James substituted severd variations for the verb 'hesitated': 'gasped'. .

Mrs Gereth in final defeat seems to 'represent the final vanity of everything' (p. comes to acknowledge the force of this question. almost maniacal disposition to thrust in everywhere the question of 'things'. we mean they attriburc an exaggerated or irrational importance to it.8 When it was serialized in the Atlantic Monthly he called ir The Old Things. they are the cause of a war between the principal characters to Possess them (imagery of battle is persistent) and they are finally 'spoiled' by the fire. James originally thought of calling his tale 'The house beautiful'. This conclusion to the tale must carry some implication of ttanitas aanitatum.The art of ambiguity 141 possible to pass off the motive of her conduct as a mere passion for his property' (p.They become'a torment of taste' (p. the Paterian title of a lecture Oscar Vilde was trailing around the country in l8g3. but there are frequent suggestions that Mrs Gereth's obsession has warped her human nature. +1). Sfl'hat profit hath a man of all his labours which he taketh under the sun?' asks the preacher in Ecclesiastes. To Fleda. 58). all is vanity. when she faces the prospect of losing the 'war'. Mrs Gereth. The religious imagery associated with the beauty of Poynton is characteristically ambiguous in irnport. 86). to read all behaviour in the light of some fancied relation to them. attaching itself now to sexualiry.'Yaniry of vanities. for instance. As noted above. the sum of the world was rare French furniture and oriental china. and if we see the Maltese cross as symbolically phallic rather than sacrificial. Fleda. whose marriage had seemed to her'a long sunny harvest of taste and curiosity' (p. The word 'fetish' literally denotes an object invested with magic or supernatural properties in primitive religion. and finally settled on Tbe Spoils of Poynton for the first book publication. early on recognizes it the poor lady's strange. It is a measure of Fleda's moral . The shift from a metonymic to a metaphoric title suggests a wish to moralize the theme. and trailing with it connotations of religious ecstasy and suffering. for Mrs. In that remarkable scene in chapter XVIII. 196). 'Passion' is a floating signifier in Tbe Spoils of Poynton. and when we say colloquially thit somebody 'makes a fetish' of something. we may accuse Fleda of sexual fetishism too.your Leautiful feeling for those accursed vanities' (p. 'Things' were of course the sum of the world. 85). Fleda's 'passion' seeks its final outlet in the acquisition of one of the 'things' at Poynton. superiority that she can take no pleasure in the things when they are illicitly removed to Ricks: 'there was a wrong about them all that turned them to ugliness' (p. now to decor. she reproaches herself for having adopted Fleda as her prorl. The 'things' are 'spoils' in a multiple sense: they are boory brought back by Mrs Gereth from her Continental travels. 185). in these terms: 'It was your clever sympathy that did it . only.

Michel Foucaulq one of the most forrnidable of these theorists. who controls it. the more anonymous ind collecdve the production of srories. and it need not be so in tbe future't It is. and in comradely spirit lent his fur hat to Gottwald. Only those who take such freedoms for granted in their daily lives could perhaps contemplate_ with satisfaction the obsolescence of the idea which sustains and justifies them. freedom of religious worship . of course. and regardless of onr manner of handling them. Certainly in Nineteen Eigbty-Four. lyrics and drama appears. Of course. George Orwell imagined such a culture in Nineteen Eightycollaborate Four. And Foucault is quite right to say that. the post-structuralist critique of the bourgeois or liberal humanist concepr of i.Milan Kundera.'idual man does not represent itself as totalitarian. and the idea of the author in modem criticism 157 in this process. Copyright is only one of many 'rights'.tdi. would no doubt explain it by saying that the institution of literature is still in thrall to bourgeois ideology. freedom of movement. says Foucault in the Passage cited above: No longer the tiresome repetitions. whatever their status.6 $Thether one would wish to live in it is. none of Foucault's questions is permitted. but it was not always so. Coillctive. 'Discourses. where only anonymous discourse is allowed to circulate. anonymous art belongs historically to eras when slavery and serfdom were deemed ethically acceptable. The Book of Laughter and Forgettizg begins with an Orwellian story about the czeih communist politician clementis. The funher we peer back into history. however. would unfold in a pervasive an-onymity'. looking in the opposite direction. as they received the plaudits of the . undeniable that the modern 'author' is a comparatively recent phenomenon. form or vdue.which the bburgeois ideology of liberal humanism has claimed for the individual human being. owned and authenticated the literary text. prefers to speak of the author as a 'function' rather than as an origin of discourse: the era of bourgeois capitalism required the idea of the author as one who individualistically produced. how is it circulated. difficult to understand how an anonymous discourse could ask of itself. who controls it? \[hat placements are determined for possible subiects?' It is however.freedom of speech. who stood on a balcony beside his leader Gorwald on a cold day in February 1948. ''We can easily imagine a culture where discourse would circulate without any need for an author'. but as utopian. Vho is the real author? Have we proof of his authenticiry and originalityi lrhat has he revealed of his irofound self in his language? New questions will be heard: \rhat are ihe modes of existence of this discourse? \yhere does it come from. anorhef matter. The idea of the author which Barthes and Foucault seek to discredit is the product of humanism and the Enlightenment as well as of capitalism. the second set no more than the first.

been an anonymous discourse. There would be no ground. obviously. produced by individual writers employing shared codes of signification according to a cenain design. The propaganda section immediately airbrushed him out of history and. 'The Death of the Author. but also. but the authentically modern text aspires to an infnite plurality of meaning as required by model B. at least . 'Released from the constraints of a single and univocal reading.158 After Bakhtin crowd at the inauguration of the Czech Communist State. either. contradictory. there is only bare palace wall.'e Behind this argument is a quite false antithesis between two models of interpretation. Subfect of literature. 'Without such conrol and design there would be no reason to write one sentence rather than another. like the anti-government iokes that circulate in all totalitarian states. Sflhere Clementis once stood. the politicians would have found it easier to ignore. plural. A historicist version of this antithesis. states that rhe classic text pretended it conformed to model A. says Catherine our era of civilization. the Absolute when activated by the reader. out of the photographs as well. No one who is seriously engaged in the practice of writing fiction and familiar with modern critical theory (I speak personally. and thus succeeded in placing ceftain limits on the reader's freedom to interpret. Four years later Clementis was charged with treason and hanged. the text becomes available for production. or to arrange one's sentences in any particular order. One reason why the post-strucnrralist critique of the idea of the author has been so warmly welcomed in some quarters of academe is that it is presented as a liberation. one of which we are told we must choose: either (A) the text contains a single meaning which the author intended and which it is the duty of the critic to establish. the government of Czechoslovakia deprived Milan Kundera of his citizenship in absentia. lforks of literature . Ever since. They are intentional acts. expounded by Banhes in the essay already cited. for Kundera) could accept either of these positions as starkly stated here. All that remains of Clementis is the cap on Gottwald's head. capable of change. or (B) the text is a system capable of generating an infinite number of meanings . I venture to think. enthusiastically paraphrasing Barthes.8 VhenThe Booh of Laughter and Forgettingwas published. Photographs of the occasion were widely not come into being by accident. means the liberadon of the text from the authoriry of a presence behind it which gives it meaning'. a critical utopia. Gottwald has stood on that balcony alone. That a government should be stung into taking such revenge on an individual author is perhaps a good reason for wanting to defend the idea of authorship. projecting the work against the anticipated response of a hypothetical reader. weighing and measuring the interrelation of part to part and parts to the developing whole. If The Book of Laaghter and Forgettinghad.

I was quick to interject. by hiding secret meanings in his rcxt . even from Milan Kundera seems to be a case in point. and which do not require his 'authorizarion' to be accepted as valid interpretations of the text.a different situation obtains. someone called Tbe Johe "a major indictment of Stalinism".S7hen. The writer therefore finds ways of evading such questions. finally forced into exile as rhe price of his intellectual independence. But it does point us in the right direction. The serious modern writer is. as of position B. the model of composition which Barthes seeks to discredit . especially fctional ones. that they have gaps and indeterminacies which may be filled in by different readers in different ways.than with politics. a consciously simplistic description of The loke. during a television panel discussion devoted to my works. obliquities and ambiguities. and to ask the latter what he 'meant' by his text instead of taking the trouble to read it anentively. Kundera records. and it is of the nature of codes that. Kundera's work is ultimately more concerned with love . therefore.the book is published . To that extent. Tbe Johe is a love story". designed to head off a differently reductive reading of the text.of the author noarishing his book as a father his child . must this not be what his fiction is about? That is precisely how The Johe has been received in the rVest. But. which we are not bound to accept. bur it has been his fate to live in a country where life is willy-nilly conditioned by politics to an extent that has no equivalent in western democracies. Bafthes's own experience) than the one he offers in its place. they may generarc patterns of significance which were not consciously intended by the author who acdvated them. It is. disguises. or confusing such questioners. by masks. in 1980. and the idea of the author in modern criticism 159 on which to object to censorship or to the kind of mutilation of an author's text by his publishers which Kundera suffered in respect of the first English edition of Tbe Joke.' This interjection is itself a shtement of authorial intention. .secret.Milan Kundera. please. that. as Kundera himself pur ir.12 Here is a writer with a history of courageous resisrance to the dominant ideology of a Communist state. Must he not be labelled a 'dissident' writer? Since his books refer to the injustices and bad faith of the Communist r6gime in Czechoslovakia. indeed. so that these themes present themselves to his imagination inevitably and inexrricably entangled with recent political history. repudiating the label of 'dissident writer': . once brought into truer to experience (including. He (or she) knows that the proponents of A are all too eager to discard the 'implied author'lo of a text in pursuit of the 'real author'. sometimes. It is of the nature of texts. in the preface to the new edition. But once the child leaves home . "Spare me your Stalinism. I would wager.and death . likely to be just as suspicious of position A. above. He was at the very outset of his literary career a victim of the intentional fallacy (a fillacy that is committed by imputing and inferring intentions on the basis of extra-textual evidence).

Ludvik's revenge misfres when Helena tells him that she is estranged from takeover . then describe how Ludvik was expelled from his university because of a silly political joke and the treachery of his contemporary. elisions. on the strength of social and human experience of a kind people here in the West cannot even imagine. The fabala is the story in the most objective. The modernist novel is generally cherecterized by a radical rearrangemenr of the spatio-temporal continuity of the narrative line . often black comedy. as I shall now attempt to show by comparing the forms of these books. while Zamaneck cannily exploited the changing ideological climate and Jaroslav tried to forget the eniui of. who is reporting a folk ritual called the Ride of the Kings.what the Russian formalists called the deformation of the fabuk in the sjuzet.r3 As if to elude being read exclusively in the 'political code'. when Ludvik returns to his home town for his assignation with Helena. determined to get his revenge on thi latter by seducing her. Eventually our summary would reach the climax of the storyr some time in the mid-1960s. repetitions and emphawhich invest the story with meaning. The importance of this aft does not lie in the fact that it pillories this or that political regime. and his rehabilitation after the post-1956 thaw. Kundera concentrated subsequently on erotic comedy. you murder it. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting is a masterpiece of post-modernist fiction. his mastery of the modernist novel. in which Jaroslav's son is taking a leading part. Budapest or 'Warsaw in any other way than by means of this wretched political code. idiosyncratic and surprising in form that it offers the srrongesr possible resistance to a 'single. at the first anempt.160 After Bakhtin If you cannot view the an that comes to you from Prague. \flhereas in The Jobe Kundera displayed.but in a book so original. his ill-starred love-affair with the waif-like Lucie. in such works es Tbe Fareanell Party and Laughable Loves. by general consent Kundera's rwo most important productions. ft would narrate Ludvik's wearisome penal military service.Zamxreck. the sjuzet is the represenrarion of rhat story in an aesthetically motivated discourse. chronological form in which we can conceive it. no less brutally than the work of the Stalinist dogmatists. A summary of the fabuk of The Joke would begin in 1948 with the enthusiasm of the young Ludvik and his home-rown friend Jaroslav for the Communist ses of their country. but that. a safe Pany job in a passion for folklore. And you are quite unable to hear its true voice. rearrangements. it offers new testimony about mankind. and on realizing that she was the wife of Zamaneck. It would explain how one day Ludvik was interviewed by a radio journalist called Helena. univocal reading'. ln Tbe Book of Laugbter and Forgetting he returned to the explicit rrearment of political material and dealt very directly with the effect of politics on his own life . Tbe Joke is an exemplary case. with all the gaps.

justify or judge their own actions.but through the interwoven monologues of four of rhese characters: Ludvik. They are interior monologues. to record thoughts and sensations as they occur. in a series of 'recognitions'. Jaroslav and Ludvik's friend. for instance. The novel opens.that. At first we seem to be presented with several life histories which have little or nothing to connect them.identifying and distinguishing between the characters. Such a summary (drastically condensed here) would give some idea of the narrative content of. The 'base time' of the narrative starts then and covers three days in the mid-1960s. The Joke. Bloom and Molly in Joyce's Ulysses. impersonal authorial retrospective narrative. leading up to the Ride of the Kings. in an effort to understand. the woman Ludvik is planning to seduce is the wife of the man who masterminded his expulsion from the Parry and the Universiry . though they do have something of the quality of confession. do we perceive just how many connections there are . on the other hand.t5 like those of the characters in Faulkner's Tbe Sound and the Fury. both the three-day acdon in the provincial town. and suffers a heart attack. like those of Stephen. and the story of their entire lives. or as oral anecdote or deposition. filling in the gaps in their knowledge. they are not naturalized as journal or diary entries. however detailed. are mediated to the reader not by a reliable.Milan Kundera. but. These monologues do not pretend. into much the same doubt. to some absent Other. One important consequence of this method of narrarion is rhat it rhrows the reader. and all the analepses. to their own consciences. Helena. Only gradually. Everything else . putting the reader in a privileged position of knowing more than any one of them knew .T\ey are cast in the past tense.rhe entire life histories of the characters before those few days . or 'analepsis' to use G6rard Genette's term. or to themselves. and the idea of the author in modern criticism 161 her husband. such as I pretended to be just now in summarizing rhe fabala . Jaroslav discovers that his son has tricked him over the Ride of the Kings. confusion and uncertainty about the import of the tale as the characters experience in negotiating their lives. Kostka. would convey very litde sense of what it is like ro read the novel. not with Ludvik's youth.ra Furthermore. Helena's suicide attempt and Jaroslav's heart attack. and are linguistically too well-formed to imitate rhe 'srream of consciousness' in Joycean fashion. in which the same information comes to the reader in an entirely different order and in an entirely different mode of discourse. the srory of the last few hours. but with his arrival as a middle-aged man in his home town to prepare for his assignation with Helena. at the outset. The characters seem to be telling their stories. while she is so shattered by the discovery of Ludvik's real indifference that she takes an overdose * fonunately (but humiliatingly) mistaking laxatives for sleeping pills. but are rather what Dorrit Cohn calls 'memory monologues'.

the backfiring of Ludvik's revenge plan. consrantly readjusting a provisional interpretation in the light of new knowledge. Jaroslav's deception by his son. and with every excuse for cynicism. . tricks played on the characters by fate . And as with all multiple-viewpoint novels. whose charm for himself consists precisely in its air of ideologi- cal'abandonment' (pp. The novel is indeed full of 'jokes'. \[hat he has painfully to recognize is that this was one manifestation of a universal condition.2aQ. is in no way that The Joke is manifesdy a 'modern' novel. all ar once I realized I was powerless to revoke my own joke: I myself and my life as a whole had been involved in a joke much more vast (all-embracing) and absolutely irrevocable' (p. because he has invested so much emodonal and psychic capital in it. 217-21). that man ii not master of his own fate. ro ironic and instructive effect. The Ride of the Kings which seems so charged with poetry and magic to the consciousness of Jaroslav.trtt is that actions widely separated in time and space are juxtaposed in the text and interact semantically. re-enacts the efforts of the characters to make sense of their own lives. Thus Ludvik's coldblooded prepararions ro seduce Helena are present to the reader's consciousners aJ hJ follows the story of the young Ludvik's more spontaneous but equally destructive attempt to possess Lucie. from Samuel Richardson's onwards. It must be said. rhar the coincidences upon which the narrative stnrcture oI Tbe Joke heavily depends seem much less obvious and contrived when encountered in the sjuzet than they may appear in the clear light of the fabuk. if bnly he could discover what it is. responding to rhe clues and cues provided by the rexr.. too. comic and ironic. - but it would be hard to believe was composed in the manner Roland Barthes attributes to the 'modern scriptor'. Ludvik. As we read Tbe Johe we necessarily 'make sense' of the narrative by restoring the codes of causaliry and chronology which have been delibeiately 'scrambled' in the text. Understandably he is obsessed with the disproponionate effects on his life of his 'joke'. But this is not to say thar the meaning of the text is the fabuk which we can disinter from the sjuzet.162 After Bakhtin many years ago . to name but three ingeniously juxtaposed and counterpointed in a text that manages to be both serious and moving. we are frequently afforded different subjective versions of the 'same' evenr. the humiliating consequences of Helena's overdose. who 'is born simultaneously with the text. it t .and the effect of these delayed recognitions is as powerful as are similar moments of recognition and reversal for the characters. Another effect of the deformation of the original logic of iu. On the conrrary. especially. . appears to Ludvik's eye as a rather shabby and perfunctory ritual.means somerhing'. the meaning inheres in the hermeneuric process itself: the reader's activiry in interpreting and making sense of the story. '!trfl'hat if history plays jokes? . in spite of his scepticism. is convinced that 'everything in life that happens to me has a sense beyond itself.

to fit Barthes's prescription/description of the modern text as a'multidimensional space in which a variety of writings. whose husband. we have in reading Tbe Jolee an overwhelming sense of a creative mind behind the text. \(e cannot. disjunctive. is not the subject with the book as predicate'. The closest equivalent I can think of is Kurt Vonnegut's Shughterhouse Fiqte. who constructed its labyrinth of meanings with love and dedication and immense skill over a long period of time. and a single main storyline. and through the repetition-with-variation of ceftain themes and motifs. to determine what it 'means'.Milan Kundera. however. blend and clash'. as it were. 'deep'. in a rather straightforward . during which the design of the whole must have been present to his consciousness.It is fragmentary. but harder. The kind of 'recognidons'which illuminate Tbe Johe are deliberately frustrated in the later book. The seven parts do not have clear boundaries separating one from another. 'This entire book is a novel in the form of variations' (p. There are too many discretefabuks to cope and relates several apparently 'true' stories about his own life. with its mixture of historical. a Czech political exile called Tamina. It r's 'original'. On the contrery.inferring the fabuh and comparing it with rhe sjuzet . but lacks the rich. none of them original. satisfying aesthetic and thematic unity of The Joke. however. fictional and metafictional discourses. The Book of Laughter and Forgett. The chief character of the first story is e Czech dissident intellectual called Mirek . which makes it all the harder to identify the implied author's attirudes and values. se€ms. very closely related. and the idea ol the author in modern criticism 163 equipped with a being preceding or exceeding the writing. leapfrogged over the implied author. This narrator identifies himself quite unambiguously as 'Milan Kundera'. only rwo of which concern the same character. and in any case they are narrated summary fashion. digresses and interjects. obviously. it tells several separate stories. slowly emerging. They flow or leak into each other. confused and confusing. The real author has. its 'implied author'. this overt appearance of the author in the text does not make it easier. it has an improvised air. The method used to study the form of Tbe Johe . Paradoxically. Mirek.will hardly do in this insmnce. another post-modernist masterpiece. to appear as a trope in his own text. These three versions of the author are. but even that artfully heterogeneous text. died shortly after they left their country. but do not quite coincide with each other. but through the omnipresence of the authorial voice who comments. 165) an authorial voice rclls us at one point. often in very personal and 'non-fictional'ways. has a single main character. unifed story. The 'deformation' of the fabak in the sjazet consists not so much in the manipulation of chronology and point of view as in the disruption of the temporal-spatial continuity of the narrative by the intrusions and digressions of the authorial narrator. Instead of telling a single.but it does not seem to be the same Mirek. in part. treat it as a collection of short stories. not via narrative continuity.

This. Yet.magazine w_hich she helped to edit. I shall take as an example part Three. taking advantage of the opportunity ro encourage the editor to 6e more amiable to his colleagues.angels. because they-always kept tireir on her and . were doing an analysis of this play as part of a summer school course for foreigners in a smali town on the Riviera. all political pirtiei have that laughter in common'(p. critically.k on our times'. This begins: by Eugene Ionesco during which people obsessed to be identical to one another gradually turn inio rhino".r. as he muses on the subject. Laughtei as an instrument of ridicule was an invention of the Devil. S*21. 'All churches. through the kind offices of a young woman friend (called R.. jeering. 'If there is too much uncontested meaning on earth (the reign of the angels). The second secrion of 'The Angels' begins with a long quotation from a lyrical description of laughter -'real hugbter. 'On rwo kinds of laughter. earned a litde money. man collapses under the burden. It was so effective that an angel sought ro neutralize it by making the same sound but . and I had a good laugh over it later. 58). by writing horoscopes under an aszumed name for a . rwo American girls.ror. .ry (p. with The Boole of Laugbter and Forgetto review its texrt'al strategies in the order in which they are e*peri -'The enced by the reader. Then suddenly let out short. ridicule' . They were pets of Madame Raphael. 'only an imbecile could make fun of this manifesto of delight' \np. beyond johing.. 56).s5) The girls are baffled by their assignment until one of them ventures the opinion that '"The author meant to create a comic effect!" ."r. 61). . if the world loses all meining (the reign of the demons) life is every bit as impossible' (p. Gabrielle and Michelle. all underwear manufacrurers. deprived of his academic post after the Russian invasion of 196g. section 3 consists of an apparently autobiographical account of how Kundera. 61). by a desire Rbinoceros is a play word. It is a very vivid. all generals. She claimed he had improved' (p. h". intitled Angels'.ToT and. Section 4 is a kind of essay entitled. shrill. is the sound of laughter. He did this so plausibly that the editor-in-chief asked for a personal horoscope. "y."g\ After Bakhtin The only way to deal.lU . which Kundera'duly supplied. life-enhancing laughter is undermined by the introduction of the irediaclich6 of two lovers running hand in hand and laughing. this celebration of orgiastic. breathy sounds very difficult to describe in words' (p. engaging piece of writing. "o. and that an equilibrium berween these rwo powers is desirable. ' 'one of those passionate feminists who have made their m-a. Kundera proposes (how seriously?) that domination of the world is divided berween {.fully *rot" ao*r. t. their teacher. and Kundera comments. in the text). of course.

But Eluard was too busy dancing in the gigantic ring encircling Paris. doyen of the French Communist literati. Section 5 begins by describing a photograph of youthful political demonsffators dancing in a circle. Then one day I said something I would better have left unsaid. Kundera actually witnessed Eluard reciting his utopian poetry in Prague to the rhythmic accompaniment of feet moving in a circular dance. . encircling all rhe socialist countries and all the Communist panies of the world. lifted first one leg and then the other. . friend of Andr6 Breton and Paul Eluard. one step forward. Eluard took swo steps in place. he shook his head. and the idea of the author in modem criticism 165 endowing it with the opposite meaning. . Mme Raphael. Br6ton had called on Eluard to protest against the condemnation of Kalandra. when 'the streets of Prague were once again crowded with young people dancing in rings. and Athens. 63). Everyone was smiling. . but I was forbidden entrance' (p. for instance. one step forward. 'There are two kinds of laughter.62). and Eluard leaned down ro a girl he had his arm around and said. I wandered from one to the next. (p. . too busy reciting his beautiful poems about joy and brotherhood. Prague. Section 6 begins: once danced in a ring.Milan Kundera. 'had cut the picrure out of the magazine and would stare at it and dream. there being always something to celebrate .66-7) On this day in June 1950. It happened to be the day after a politician called Milada Horokova had been hanged for alleged treason. Sofia. Moscow. fill innocence (pp. and we lack the words to distinguish them' (p.'Warsaw. and instead. 65) I too He recalls 'another of those anniversaries of God knows what' in June 1950. I took other Communist students by the hand. . I was expelled by the Party and had to leave the circle. refusing to stand up for a man who had betrayed the people. She too longed to dance in a ring' (p. 66). and we did it just about every month. It was the spring of tg+8 . and the powerful appeal of this image and this activity. Dancing in a ring is subtly associated with the joyful laughter of her pupils. and we took rwo steps in place. After reading Br6ton's letter. . recited in a metallic voice We shall Witb the strength arc haue So long been hching We shall never again be alone. I put my arms around their shoulders. along with the Czech Surrealist Zavis Kalandra. . . Michelle and Gabrielle.

then the other. and R. I kept looking up at them and they floated on. and I realised with anguish in my hean that they were flying like birds and I was falling like a stone. that they had wings and I would never have any. loses her job. at a secret rendezvous to hear the story of her dismissal. Giinter Grass and Salman Rushdie. ends with their resisting the demonic. 74). pulling the others along with her. derisive laughter of the rest of the class by laughing themselves and dancing in a circle until they rise into the air and disappear through the ceiling. but in its asronishing shift from the historical to the fantastic it strikes a characteristically 'post-modernist' note . they were rising up over'Wenceslaus that has caused Milan Kundera to be linked with such writers as Gabriel Garcia Mdrquez. yes. lifting first one leg. Kundera comes to the conclusion that he must leave the country to avoid endangering his friends. Kundera uses this technique more modestly and sparingly (and perhaps for that reason more effectively) than they do. It is this periodic conaergence of diverse and apparently disparate discourses that gives Tbe Book of Laugbter and Forgetting its unity. and I ran off after them down on the ground. It brings together. The power and effectiveness of this passage could not. their ring the very image of a giant wreath taking flight. The story of Kundera's career as an astrologer ends more grimly: his identity is discovered. however. and in the crematorium they were just finishing off one Socialist representative and one surrealist. Looe is at uork it is tireless and I ran after that voice through the streets in the hope of keeping up with that wonderful wreath of bodies rising above the ciry. bits of information and symbolic motifs that have been previously introduced into the text with deceptive casualness. they were taking two steps in place and one step forward without touching the ground. and the smoke climbed to the heavens like a good omen. The story (such as it is) of Michelle and Gabrielle and Mme Raphael. and before long not one of them was touching the ground. Kundera . Meeting R. but with the same implied justification: that the contradictions and outrages of modern history are of such a scale that only the oven 'lie' of the fantastic or grotesgue image can adequately represent them. with devastating rhetorical force. under the umbrella of 'magic realism'. and I heard Eluard's metallic voice intoning. 'leaving the stupefied srudents with nothing but the brilliant fading lights of these archangels from on high' (p. be conveyed by quoting it out of context.Prague with its caf6s full of poets and its jails full of ffaitors.166 After Bakhlin man possessed by peace neaer stoPs srniling A And she laughed and stamped the ground a little harder and rose a few inches above the pavement. and down below . 67_8) This passage has the sublime perfecdon of a Joycean 'epiphany'. oP.

Kundera has always resisted the temptation (one to which 'dissident' writers are especially prone) to claim. his confession of it makes him hostage to 'those passionate feminists who have made their mark on our time'. her impeccable outfits. To throw myself on her and take possession of her with all her intolerably exciting contradictions. But where can I find her? (p. which are not resolved. her pride and her misery' G. her reason and her fear. contradicdons. Or to be more exact. gifted. The Booh of Laughter and Forgetting contains many such enigmas. premeditated gesure. like Ludvik. Although he suppressed the urge. or vicariously through his fictional heroes. rather than righteous selfjustification. all they have done is give me another push to make me fall farther. I know she is. It happens casually. I am still falling. as the result of a joke.76) Sarah is the name of an Israeli fellow-student of Gabrielle and Michelle. a violent desire to rape her. 75). who expresses her contempt for them by kicking them on their behinds. away Perhaps that from my country and into the void of a world resounding with the terrifying laughter of the angels that covers my every word with its din. He never pretends that he excluded himself from the charmed circle of ideological togetherness by a grand. . her rebellious insides. I have not stopped falling. self-conscious 'author' is never in doubt. in the subject. though whether she is a'real'or symbolic person remains unclear. was merely a desperate attempt to grab at something during the fall. ambiguities. 'The Angels' ends: wild desire to rape R. It never allows the reader the luxury of identifying with a secure authorial position that is invulnerable to criticism and irony. my Jewish sister Sarah. and provokes a sense of loss. a special moral authority or spirirual status just because he has suffered political persecution. But that it is the work of a distinctive. Sarah is out there somewhere.Milan Kundera. either in his own person. deeper. accidentdly. and the idea of the author in modem criticism 167 is astonished to find that his strongest emotion is one of lust. Because from the day they excluded me from the circle. 'I felt a violent desire to make love co her.

G. A Dialeaical rext/ Book. and Soeen Reader derives from Soeen.. John Ellis. practical criticism works through a competing proliferation of 'persond' interpretations.Chapter 12 Reading and writhing in a double-bind Srylistically. by Bernard Sharratt. therefore. 'Sharrott'. in which the author's name is carelessly misspelled throughout.Althusserian . like'S. and member of the edirorial board of Sczeen.P.p. several of which seem to have been carried out. of Reading Rehtions: stractures of Literary Produaion. just as the main body of the book parodies and subverts its own procedures and the institutional practices and discourses to which it belongs. of a book entided Scveen Reader I edited by John Ellis. as 'Sharrett'. The passage quoted above is cited in the course of another review of another book:-a fiercely hostile-review. The book ends with a few pages of acknowledgements in which the author gravely thanks. written from the Soeen position. rhe urbane lackey of the IZS who.Marxist school of literary semiotics in Britain). among others. and a socalled 'paracritical review' by rwo friendly deconstructionists who identify themselves as'Marie and Bill'bur are. is likely to approach his task in the spirit of a . faidy transparenr aliases for Dr sharratt himself. is incorporated in the final pages of the book Reading Rektions itself. These endpieces.G. who suggested drastic cuts.'and J. gathered together under rhe heading'suite-talk'. anticipate and parody almost every possible evaluative response rc Reading Rehtions. invited to review Reading Rehtions. published in a journal celled Screen Education. This observation was made in the course of a review. his colleague at the Universiry of Kent. it is not surprising that the review was a favourable one. it is therefore fundamentally aliscourse of individual polemic (masked by that urbanity we all know so well from Tbe Times Literary Sapplenent). J.'. etc. Soeen (a iournal that has been one of the principal mediators of the Lacanian . It is not only. and signed 'S. Since Soeen Education is an offshoot of. This review. 'sherratt'. published by Harvester Press in 1982..r. together with an exasperated reporr on the original manuscript by the publisher's reader..

127). The New Historicism is just as heavily theorized. Frank Lentricchia and Stephen Greenblaa. towards a Foucauldian or Marxist focus on literature in its social and ideologicd contexts.) It would be quite misleading. to see this debate in terms of the old opposition berween'formalism' and'relevance'. I believe. travesties the new historicism in the course of a wonderfully funny. from a well-off right-wing Christian family. 1987. in a mordant commentary on the current critical scene in America. The essays collected in Beginnings (1975) end Tbe World' tbe Text and the Critir (1983) traced his fascinated and ultimately disillusioned exploration of structuralism and deconstruction.a somewhat lonely eminence requiring not a little much so that J.) Said's intellecrual development is an interesting story. and almost as impenetrable to the layman. His first book was a phenomenological srudy of Joseph Conrad. Harold Bloom. given the strength of the Jewish constiruency and Zionist lobby in America. as the deconstructionist school it it seeking to supplant. educated in British schools in the Near East and later at an American university). outrageously Vildean performance in front of Salusinszky's mpe recorder: I'll tell you. He is a member of the Pdestine National Council and the chief intellectual spokesman for the Palestinian cause in the United States . and current lircrary scene of criticism. But Said's life-sryle is a long way from Yasser Arafat's. Josepb Conrad and the Fiaion of Autobiography (1966). theory and praxis. is this lust for social enlightenment. this extraordinary and. dear Imre: what I understand least about the current academy. applying Foucault's analysis of discourse as a 6eld of power-relations to western writing about the East. 'Ivory Institutes'. has inspired a recent 'turn' in American academic criticism. along with Fredric Jameson. Said. and Oientalism (1978) marked his plunge into a politically engagl sryle of criticism. Iflhen Salusinszky met him he frankly admitted to being 'surprised at the New York persona: urbane and rather assimilated' (p. for many years a kind of heterodox fellow-traveller with the Yale school of deconstructionists. as complex and tornrous as his ethnic and social background (he is a Palestinian. mindless movement towards proclaiming our way out of all introspections.A kind of business 179 revered guru of Yale deconstructionism. TLS. (My aaendon was drawn to this fascinating document by John Sutherland. away from Derridean deconstruction. Hillis Miller felt obliged to assert the continuing need for deconstructive reading in his Presidential Address to the MLA in 1986. wrote many newspaper anicles in occupied Belgium in the early 1940s urging cultural collaboration with Nazi Germany. however. our way out of guilt and . 18-24 December. Something called the New Historicism is all the ruge . Only in a theoretical sense (or a purely emotive sense) has it politicized the professional practice of criticism.

. This is clap-trap . H. It has nothing to do with my experience of reading pogtrl. thus inviting them to comment on each other's contributions. These critics are American versions of that Parisian intellectual and social disease I can least abide . who was an unwilling member of the International Ladies Garment Sflorkers' Union. (p. they are nor. I'm almost the only person I know at Yaie who was born and raised in a working-class family. and will not put u-p with it. Everything else is imposture. and all of this rabblement that follows them now in the academies.or the Universiry of Melbourne . I'm the son of a New York garment worker. like literature. .6G7) one of the novel features of salusinszky's book is that he showed each of his subjects transcripts of the preceding interviews. and I. I am weery of this nonsense. and was evidently srung-by*Harold Bloom's remarks: Those wh-o speak cynically of left intellectuals should examine the implications suggesting thal the universiry is not a good place to pursue -of social change. which is the high bourgeoisie being unable to stand its starus as the high bourgeoisie. let them live up to their pretensions. The oniy critical wisdom I know is that there is no method except yourself. . of a politically progressive. . . historicising approach to criticism.and that there is no distinction berween yale universiry . What the fuck are they doing? If diey bJieve thai.whether he wants to be or not . they are the self-deceivers and deceivers of others . they should resign their jobs. thougL disowning the label 'Marxisr'.. (pp. . 1e0) !(hen sdusinszky resrares Bloom's position -'I think he would say that the authentic thing is ro stay within the academy and admit that critiiism.oy ir it thar they don't bore themselves to death? .'. Criticism and Sockl Change [1983). let rhem abandon thi acad9my a1d go our there and work politically and economically and in a humanitarian spirit. is the advocare (in his After tbe Neat criticism [1980] end. Frank Lentricchia. There is only oneself. They are the hypocrites. of writing criticism and teaching other people ho* to read poetry and write criticism. . I am a proletarian. I am more than weary of this. the so-called Marxist crirics.m especially yearl of the self-righteousness that goes with their hypocrisy. .and the New york Stock Exchange. self-discovery and self-exfoliation' Lentricchia makes a rather subtler response: 'Vhose self? Vhere is this self? The reader's self? Harold's self? My self? - .180 After Bakhtin sorrow' by proclaiming that the poet is a slum-lord . They are the charlatans. If they wish to alleviate thelufferings of the exploited classes. which he always despised. while continuing to enjoy it in every possible respect. is a form of self-explorarion. .

nor-. Lentricchia says: you. . by first nalnes ..t the avant:garde edge of certain movements. speeds the tribal Process by which boys become yotrrrg'*. another-way. This style of naming again reminds one of the world of sport. Yh:t: toP athletes who hercely against each other on the football field or tennis court "o-p. to get published. we need to further . as well as smart to k. we need a certain language and terminology to do it. "r.the delusoriness of 'origins'. which is a powerful sense . Neady all the interviewees refer to each other. The very difficulty and esotericism of theory make cation. th-"t. we need to publish our using.rir^i. I just dirt*tt the whole enterprise. a mutual resPect based on their sense of belonging to a professional 6lite' There is surely a hidden link between the professionalism of the American academic world'and the eagerness with which it has devoured. But there is a certain factitiousness about the counter-attack. .hrop'. even when expressing strong disagrlement. whereas the methods of traditional L. betrayed by the familiar'Harold'.A kind ol business 181 'where did this self come from? \vas Harold self-born? \(as he selforiginated? This is the problem with Harold's theory:_ with all of its hisiorical. to become important in literary-critiial circles in this country is to be perceived as being o. 1. *orrde.. .professionalism'in its hoffid sense . worries about this in an interesting Lentricchia It the odd . . les) Aficionados of this son of debate will admire the dexterity with which ienricchia turns against Bloom one of the onhodoxies of post-structuralism. or. domesdcated and developed European th.i a kind of pr6fessiond camaraderie at other times.r-"Itirti" scholarship have hardly altered since the nineteenth cenrury' the changing all the time.[n "I man'out. nry. self-conscious sophistication.ha. it carries buried within itself a radical desire for self-origination.Harold.No. the thin! everywhere is politics and history.. and you have to be fast rules of the theory gJ*. . it all the more ef$ctive for purposes of professional identifiapprenticeship and assessment. common to alfits sects and schools . It sons out the men from the boys. with_a strong dash of Marxism arrd ie*inism.i. Geoffrey. . . and push out the old this as in_other respects.o p. since this is what we do. there is an almost instant iniermixing of any new idea or approach with professional ends'. vhen salusinszky shrewdly observes.r. if anyone dares to call him Northrop).. .ory.p of the phenomenon and acknowledgand revealing walr boJh disapptoving it: in implicated ing that he is inescapably let's face ir. I wish that Harold would pursue his sense of himself as the only proletarian at Yale' (p. 'In the united states . because I guess I think it is an enterprise: there's a kind of business going on here. one of the ways to get noticed. Jacque_s. Right-now.

to drive a decenr car. much as he wants to integrate that awareness into his criticism. the American Dream.182 After Bakhtin our careers .) To return to Lentricchia: indignant as he is at the social injustice his forebears suffered. That is to say. (p. have enabled Lentricchia. I like Garcia Marquez's notion of Marx much better: what we need is for everybody to be able to drink wine. the leading American Mandst critic. is not so much the critics' accounts of their respective intellectual . incidentally. quickly recruited Annabel and Lee Parrerson and Barbara Herrnstein Smitli. te7) By 'pigs'. . he cannot bring himself to knock the system thar enabled him to achieve. The pigs have a chance. bankrolled by the Duke administration. is itself a striking illustradon of the same system. It's a pity Salusinszky didn't 6nd an oppornrniry to interview Stanley Fish. what they have in common is high-profile professional distinction. The dynamic Fish was made chairman of the Department and. followed in 1985 by stanley Fish. the professionalism of American academic life. (p. decided to buy its way into the top league of English depanments. to become a well-paid professor at the pristigious English Department at Duke. by a shrewd expendirure of large amounts of money on top-class players. but a decent cer . All these men and women occupy very different and probably incompatible positions in the ideology of English studies. and conscientiously as he scatters slang and four-letter words in his conversation to establish his working-class credentials. (This institution. Just so can an unsuccissful baseball or football team become champions in a season or rwo. I don't have the theory of Marxism that what Marx wanrs for the wodd is for everyone to be poor. te2) This is avery American idea of the Revolution: not just a car for everyone. the AmericanistJane Tompkins. To go back to Michael Novak's little word. the son of poor Italian-American parents. brillianr exponent of reader-oriented critical theory. the grandson of Calabrian peasants. In the mid-tg8Os Duke. and its 'srar-sysrem'. at least for me. I like teaching at Duke and making the salary I make. Perhaps it is clear by now that the primary inrerest of this book. . on a modest bui not negligible scale. Professionalism in a democratic context (in a US context) has one fantastic sense for me. a rich but not particularly distinguished university in Nonh Carolina.and no nitpicking about the social and ecological consequences. and Fred Jameson. Lentricchia was hired in 1984. and so on. it allows the'pigs'in. Lentricchia (and Novak) means the ethnic minorities despised and for so long repressed by American \UilASP sociery. The Duke departrnent was soon acknowledged as one of the top depanments in the country.

s of various kinds of discourse.seem wholeness and integrity of their life-work as if it were a classic realist narrative text. one cannot help wondering whether that isn't because of Conrad's scorn for politically motivated violence. which most readers will know already from their published work. es qi-ell as showing his subjects the transcripts of preceding interviews. J. gaps and fissures between the p-ublic Pefsona impfieJby the critical te*t and the living breathing Person. to constract a self that he wishes the world to see. Hillis Millei also seems wholly consistent with his plblished Persona. . Lut rhe incidental insights which one obtains into aspects of their lives and characters not revealed in the printed word: their sryles of impromptu speech. related to and yet different from tite literary tradition of the reported 'conversation' which goes back through works iike Boswell's Johnson. Imre Salusinszky is always probing for contradictions. as a discursive form.A kind ol business 183 positions. it is suprising that tron. to write fiction'. disgmingly confesses to having reid Derrida's Grammatologie with total bafflement only to discover some time later that his copy had many crucial pages missing.he really is as vain.) Vhen Said confides that although he still admires Conrad. so powerfully expressed in works like Tbe Seoet Agent and Under Westem Eyes. intimately linked to the development of electric and electronic media. ultimately to Plato's dialogues. under theoretical scrutiny. anxieties. It is a very modern genre. whereas the aim of interviewee is. selfobsessed and perversely brilliant as he seems to be from the books. hence less amusing. dieams and seU-imagls. the deconstructionists among them . If Haiold Bloom's is the most enjoyable perfonnance in the book it may be because there really isn't much difference berween what we think of him and what he thinks of himself . usually. hopes. (Frank Kermode. while his subjects anxious to defend the . Derrida's response to a question about his intellectual life ('I don't know what my "intellecrual life" is. 'my deepest desire being to write literature. my inteliectual life from my life?') for instance. \[hen he says in an aside. of them thought to put the interview itself. and Drummond of Hawrhornden's Convirsations with BenJonson. rheir sociological backgrounds. is a kind of epiphany of wlat it means to be a Parisian intellecrual. The distinctive feature of the interview is what Harold Bloom would call its 'agonistic' element: the object of the interviewer is to get the interviewee to reveal or betray his authentic self. much that seems wilfully obscure and self-indulgent in his writing becomes-instantly more explicable. tut that self is more reasonable and professional than Bloom's. How could I seParate. and he has not the slightest interest in ingratiating himself by pretending otherwise.iln"r. 'now it's almost unbearable for me to read him'. personal histories. Given the preoccupation of these men and a solitary woman (a rather subdued Barbara Johnson . incidentally.the feminist perspective on Criticism in Sociery is somewhat undir-represented in this book) with the underlying and often suppressed convenrio.

we export it in a new form all over the wodd . who sees criticism as a struggle for mastery: mastery of the critic over the rcxq of the critic over his piers. on here'. for he is the complete American professional. since each critic is on his or her mettle to cap or go beyond the comments of their predecessors in the s€quence of interviews. Miller said. coming last. lO2 L1g84 n\. of one critical culture ovei another. .184 After Bakhtin Imre Salusinszky tried to give some continuiry to his book by showing each of them a poem by Sflallace Stevens. . not for a permissive pluralism that says anything goes. but for a fair and open fight for survival that is not even sure the fittesiwill survive but recognizes such an open fight as our only hope' (PMLA. of one school of criticism over another. S7'hat would it have been like. are paniculady devoted to Srevens (the exception is Said. but it is also what makes America the most inreresting. Sutherland cynically observed that Miller's endorsement probably added thousands of dollars to their market value at a stroke. Hillis Miller. J. ar the moment.' says an impressed Salusinszky at the end. . and inviting them to commenr on it. He also named sixteen young literary theorists whom he expected to make the running in the immediare furure. I've read [the poem] a little. he points our. 287 and 290). that'Although literary theory may have its origin in Europe. The exercise lends an additional agonistic element to the interviews. If that's what you want to do. In that remarkable 1986 Presidentid Address to the MLA. In Lentricchia's words. Even his shon answer is easily the longest speech in pp. which means that if I really gave you an answer it would taki another hour and a half ' (p.. It is indeed a formidably clever reading of the poem. Hillis Miller is shrewdly placed at the end of the book. 'Your discussion was so clear that I didn't feel the need to interrupt. who observes epigrammatically that Stevens' poems are liki 'an orchestra tuning up. without obvious irony. A surprising number of them. but never acrually playing'). but its very thoroughness is slightly we do many of our scientific and technologicd inventions. It is rather shocking to those brought up in a more genteel tradition of scholarship. exciting and challenging place in the world. but the Thing Itself '. for example the atom bomb'. 'Not Ideas about the Thing. Miller had read the poem more than just a little? J. Sixreen! Imagine being a young American literary theorist and not being on the list! rVhat humiliation! As for the lucky ones. and put forward a frankly combative model of the critical enterprise: 'I am for diversiry . one wonders with a certain if "*. 'there's a kind of business going the book. and siezes it with ielish: 'since I knew that you were going to ask me this. has an opportuniry to demonstrate his superiorisy over all of them. in which to practise academic literary criticism.

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