The Origin of Genres Author(s): Tzvetan Todorov and Richard M. Berrong Source: New Literary History, Vol. 8, No.

1, Readers and Spectators: Some Views and Reviews (Autumn, 1976), pp. 159-170 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press Stable URL: Accessed: 04/08/2009 11:34
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The Origin of Genres
Tzvetan Todorov I
O PERSIST discussing genres today might seem like an idle if not in obviously anachronistic pastime. Everyone knows that they existed in the good old days of the classics-ballads, odes, sonnets, tragedies, and comedies-but today? Even the genres of the nineteenth century the novel(though not altogether genres to our way of thinking)-poetry, seem to be disintegrating in our era, at least in the literature "that counts." As Maurice Blanchot wrote of one modem writer, Hermann Broch: "Like many other authors of our era, he experienced that impetuous impulse of literature that no longer tolerates the distinction of genres and wants to shatter the limits." This might be the very sign of the authentically modem writer-one who no longer respects the separation of genres. Such an affirmation, whose transformations can be followed from the Romantic crisis at the beginning of the nineteenth century (although the German Romantics were themselves great builders of generic systems), has in our time found one of its most brilliant spokesmen in Maurice Blanchot. Blanchot has said, more forcefully than anyone else, that which others dared not think or did not know how to formulate: that today there is no intermediary between the particular, individual work and literature as a whole, the ultimate genre; there is not, because the evolution of modern literature consists precisely in making of each work a questioning of the very being of literature. Let us reread this particularly eloquent page from Le livre d venir (Paris, 1959): The book alone is important,as it is, far from genres, outside rubrics-prose, poetry, the novel, the first-person account-under which it refuses to be arranged and to which it denies the power to fix its place and to determine its form. A book no longer belongs to a genre; every book arises from literaturealone, as if the latterpossessed in advance, in its generality, the secrets and the formulasthat alone allow book realityto be given to that which is written. Everything would happen as if, genres having dissipated, literaturealone was affirmed, alone shined in the mysterious light that it spreads and that every literary creation sends back to it while multiplying it-as if there were an "essence" of literature.(pp. 136, 243-44) Blanchot's sentences seem to have the power of evidence on their side. One might question only one point of this argument: the privilege accorded to our now. We know that every interpretation of history is made starting



from the present moment, just as the interpretation of space is constructed starting from here, and that of others, from I. Nevertheless, when the I-here-now constellation receives so exceptional a location-the end point of all history-one might ask if the egocentric illusion does not have something to do with it (an illusion which, in the end, complements that which Paulhan called the "illusion of the explorer"). For that matter, in reading those very writings of Blanchot in which this disappearance of genres is affirmed, one sees at work categories whose resemblance to generic distinctions is difficult to deny. Thus one chapter of Le livre d venir is devoted to the private diary, another to prophetic speech. In speaking of Broch again ("who no longer tolerates the distinction of genres"), Blanchot tells us that he "trusts to all the modes of expressionnarrative, lyric, and discursive" (p. 141). More importantly, this entire book rests on the distinction between two fundamental modes, if not precisely genres, the narrative and the novel, the former characterized by the persistent search for its own point of origin, which the latter erases and hides. Therefore, it is not "genres" that have disappeared, but the genres of the past, and they have been replaced by others. One no longer speaks of poetry and prose, of first-person accounts and fiction, but of the novel and the narrative [le r&cit], of the narrative [le narratif] and the discursive, of the dialogue and the diary. The fact that a work "disobeys" its genre does not make the latter nonexistent; it is tempting to say that quite the contrary is true. And for a twofold reason. First, because transgression, in order to exist as such, requires a law that will, of course, be transgressed. One could go further: the norm becomes visible-lives-only by its transgressions. This is, for that matter, what Blanchot himself writes: If it is true that Joyce shatters the novelistic form by rendering it aberrant,he also makes one suspect that it now lives only by its alterations.It would develop, not by engendering monsters, formlessworks without law and without rigor, but by provoking only exceptions to itself, which establish a law and at the same time suppress workswhere a limit it.... It is necessaryto believethat, each time, in these exceptional is reached,it is the exception alone that revealsto us this "law"whose uncommonand necessary deviation it also constitutes. Everythingwould happen as if, in novelistic literature,and perhapsin all literature,we could never recognizethe rule exceptby the exception that abolishes it: the rule, or more specificallythe centerof which the certain work is the uncertainaffirmation,the alreadydestructivemanifestation, the momentary and soon negative presence. (pp. 133-34) But there is more. Not only does the work, for all its being an exception, necessarily presuppose a rule; but this work also, as soon as it is recognized in its exceptional status, becomes in its turn, thanks to successful sales and critical attention, a rule. The prose poem may have seemed like an exception in the time of Aloysius Bertrand and Baudelaire, but who today would dare to write a poem in alexandrines, with rhymed verse-unless as a new transgression of a new norm? Have not Joyce's exceptional puns become the rule for a certain kind of modern literature? Does not the novel, no matter how



"new" it may be, continue to exercise its influence on the works that are being written? By defending the legitimacy of a study of genres, we have found, in the process, an answer to the question implicitly raised by the title "the origin of genres." From where do genres come? Why, quite simply, from other genres. A new genre is always the transformation of one or several old genres: by inversion, by displacement, by combination. Today's "text" (which is also a genre, in one of its meanings) owes as much to the "poetry" as to the "novel" of the nineteenth century, just as the "comedie larmoyante" combined the traits of the comedy and the tragedy of the seventeenth century. There has never been a literature without genres; it is a system in continual transformation, and the question of origins cannot be disassociated, historically, from the field of the genres themselves. Chronologically, there is no "before genres." Did not Saussure say, on a similar occasion: "The problem of the origin of the language is none other than the problem of its transformations"? Or Humboldt before him: "We call a language original only because we are not familiar with the previous states of its constitutive elements." The question of origin that I would like to raise is not, however, of a historical nature, but rather of a systematic one: both seem to me equally legitimate and equally necessary. At issue is not what preceded genres in time but, rather, what presides at the birth of a genre, at any time. Or more precisely, do there exist in language (since we are dealing with the genres of discourse) forms that, while announcing genres, are not yet genres themselves? But in order to answer these questions, we must first ask: what exactly is a genre?

Initially, the answer seems obvious: genres are classes of texts. But such a definition only partially disguises its tautological character behind the plurality of the terms in question. Genres are classes; the literary is the textual. Rather than multiplying terms, we should question the content of these concepts. We can begin with the concept of text, or, or suggest yet another synonym, discourse. One might say that a discourse is a series of sentences. And this is where the first misunderstanding occurs. We too often forget an elementary truth regarding all activities of knowledge: that the point of view chosen by the observer redelimits and redefines his object. Thus with language we forget that the linguist's point of view sketches an object at the heart of the language material that is peculiar to him, an object that will not be the same if the point of view is changed, even if the material remains the same. The sentence is an entity of language, and of the linguist. The sentence is a possible combination of words, not a concrete speech act. The same sentence can be spoken in different circumstances; it will not change identity for the linguist even if, as a result of altered circumstances, it changes meaning.



A discourse is not made of sentences, but of spoken sentences, or, to be more concise, of enunciations. The interpretation of the enunciation is determined, in part, by the sentence that one speaks, as well as by the speech act itself. A speech act includes a locutor who speaks, an allocutor who is addressed, a time and a place, a discourse that precedes and follows it: in short, a speech-act context. In other words, a discourse is always and necessarily a speech act.1 Let us now turn to the other term in the expression "class of texts": class. It raises a problem only by its simplicity. One can always find a property common to two texts, and therefore put them together in one class. But is there any point in calling the result of such a union a "genre"? I think that it would be in accord with the current usage of the word and at the same time provide a convenient and operant notion if we agreed to call "genres" only those classes of texts that have been perceived as such in the course of history.2 The accounts of this perception are found most often in the discourse on genres (the metadiscursive discourse) and, in a sporadic and indirect fashion, in the texts themselves. The historical existence of genres is indicated by the discourse on genres; that does not mean, however, that genres are only metadiscursive, and no longer discursive, notions. To take an example, we can attest to the historical existence of the genre "tragedy" in France during the seventeenth century thanks to the discourse on tragedy (which begins with the existence of the word tragedy itself); but that is not to say that the tragedies themselves do not have common features and that it would not be possible to give an other than historical description of them. As we know, every class of objects can be converted into a series of properties by a passage from extension to comprehension. The study of genres, which has as its point of departure the accounts of the existence of genres, must have the establishment of these properties as its final objective.3 Genres are therefore units that one can describe from two different points of view, that of empirical observation and that of abstract analysis. In a society, the recurrence of certain discursive properties is institutionalized, and individual texts are produced and perceived in relation to the norm constituted by this codification. A genre, literary or otherwise, is nothing but this codification of discursive properties. Such a definition in turn requires an explication because of the two terms that compose it: discursive property and codification. Discursive property is an expression that I understand in an inclusive sense. Everyone knows that, even if one limits oneself to only literary genres, one can make any aspect of the discourse obligatory. The song is contrasted with the poem by phonetic traits; the sonnet differs from the ballad in its phonology; tragedy is opposed to comedy by thematic elements; the suspense narrative differs from the classic detective novel by the fitting together of its plot; finally, autobiography is distinguished from the novel in that the author claims to recount facts rather than construct fictions. To rearrange these different types of properties (though this classification is of little interest to my subject), one could use the terminology of the semiotician Charles Morris, adapting it to



our purpose: these properties arise either from the semantic aspect of the text, or from its syntactic aspect (the relation of the parts among themselves), or from the pragmatic aspect (the relation between the users), or finally from the verbal aspect (a term absent in Morris, and which we can use to include everything that involves the materiality of the signs). The difference between one speech act and another, and thus between one genre and another, can be situated at any one of these levels of the discourse. In the past, one could attempt to distinguish, indeed to oppose, the "natural" forms of poetry (for example, the lyric, the epic, the dramatic) and its conventional forms, such as the sonnet, the ballad, or the ode. One must try to understand on what level such an affirmation still has meaning. Either the lyric, the epic, etc. are universal categories, and therefore part of discourse (which does not preclude their complexity, their being, for example, semantic, pragmatic, and verbal all at once), but then they belong to general poetics, and not (specifically) to the theory of genres: they characterize the possibilities of discourse, and not the "realities" of discourses. Or else, such terms refer to historical phenomena; thus the epic is that which is incarnated by Homer's Iliad. In this case, it is certainly a question of genres; but, at the discursive level, these genres are not qualitatively different from a genre like the sonnet-which itself is also based on thematic, verbal, and other constraints. All one can say is that certain discursive properties are more interesting than others. I personally am more interested by the constraints that bear on the pragmatic aspect of texts than by their phonological structure. It is because genres exist as an institution that they function as "horizons of expectation" for readers, and as "models of writing" for authors. These, indeed, are the two aspects of the historical existence of genres (or, if one prefers, of this metadiscursive discourse that has genres as its object). On the one hand, authors write as a function of (which does not mean in accord with) the existing generic system, which they can demonstrate both within the text and outside it, or even, in a way, between the two: on the cover of the book. This demonstration is obviously not the only way of proving the existence of models of writing. On the other hand, readers read as a function of the generic system, with which they are familiar through criticism, school, the distribution system for the book, or simple hearsay; it is not necessary that they be conscious of this system, however. Genres communicate with the society in which they flourish by means of institutionalization. It is also through this process that they most interest the anthropologist or the historian. Indeed, the former remembers about a system of genres above all the categories that differentiate it from the systems of neighboring peoples; these categories are correlated with the other elements of the same culture. The same is true for the historian: each era has its own system of genres, which is in relation with the dominant ideology, etc. Genres, like any other institution, reveal the constitutive traits of the society to which they belong. The necessity of institutionalization makes it possible to answer another question that one is tempted to raise: even if one concedes that all genres result from speech acts, how does one explain why all speech acts do not



produce literary genres? The answer is that a society chooses and codifies the acts that most closely correspond to its ideology; this is why the existence of certain genres in a society and their absence in another reveal a central ideology, and enable us to establish it with considerable certainty. It is not chance that the epic is possible during one era, the novel during another (the individual hero of the latter being opposed to the collective hero of the former): each of these choices depends upon the ideological framework in which it operates. The place of the notion of genre could also be specified by two symmetrical distinctions. Since genre is the historically attested codification of discursive properties, one could conceive the absence of each of the two components of this definition: historical reality and discursive reality. In the latter case, one would be dealing with categories of general poetics that, according to the levels of the text, are called modes, registers, styles, or even forms, manners, etc. The "elevated diction" or the "first-person narrative" is certainly a discursive reality; but neither can be fixed in a single moment in time: both are always possible. In the former case, however, there is a question of notions that belong to literary history as understood in the broad sense, such as current, school, movement, or, in another sense of the word, "style." There is no doubt that the literary movement of symbolism existed historically, but that does not prove that the works of the authors who claimed to be part of it possess (other than unimportant) discursive properties in common; the union may well be organized around friendships, common manifestations, etc. Let us agree that such is the case; we would then have an example of a historical phenomenon that has no precise discursive reality-which does not make it inappropriate for study, though it does distinguish it from genres and, even more, from modes, etc. Genre is the point of intersection of general poetics and literary history; in this sense, it is a privileged object, which is enough to make it the principal subject of literary studies. Such is the global framework of a study of genres.4 It is now time to return to the initial question concerning the systematic origin of genres. In a way, it has already received an answer since, as I have said, genres arise like any speech act from the codification of discursive properties. We would therefore have to reformulate our question as follows: is there any difference at all between (literary) genres and other speech acts? Praying is a speech act; prayer is a genre (which may or may not be literary). The difference is minimal. But, to take another example, recounting a story is a speech act, and the novel is a genre in which something is certainly recounted; however, the distance between the two is great. Finally, a third case: the ballad [la ballade] is certainly a literary genre, but "to stroll" ["(se) ballader"] is not necessarily a verbal activity; there therefore exist genres that do not derive from a simpler speech act. On the whole, three possibilities can be imagined: either the genre (such as the ballad) codifies discursive properties, just as any other speech act would; or the genre coincides with a speech act that also has a nonliterary existence, such as prayer; or, finally, it derives from a speech act via a certain number of transformations or amplifications, as would be the case with the



novel, beginning with the action of recounting. Actually, only this third case presents a new situation. In the first two, genre is in no way different from other acts. Here, on the other hand, one does not start directly with discursive properties, but with other, already constituted speech acts; one goes from a simple act to a complex act. This is also the only case that merits a treatment apart from other verbal actions. Our question about the origin of genres therefore becomes: what are the transformations that certain speech acts undergo in order to produce certain literary genres?

I will try to answer this question by examining some concrete cases. This choice of procedure already implies that, just as genre is not in itself either a purely discursive or a purely historical fact, so the question of the systematic origin of genres cannot be maintained in pure abstraction. Even if the order of this presentation leads us, for reasons of clarity, from the simple to the complex, the order of discovery itself follows the opposite path: beginning with observed genres, one tries to find their discursive germ. My first example is taken from a culture different from our own, that of the Luba, who live in Zaire; I choose it because of its relative simplicity.5 "Inviting" is one of the most common speech acts. One could restrict the number of forms used and thereby obtain a ritual invitation, like that which is practiced in our own culture in certain solemn cases. But among the Luba there also exists a minor literary genre, derived from the invitation, and which is practiced even outside its original context. In one example, "I" invites his brother-in-law to come into the house. This explicit formula appears only in the last verses of the invitation, however (it is a text with a verse rhythm). The preceding twenty-eight verses contain a narrative in which it is "I" who goes to his brother-in-law's house, and the latter who invites him. Here is the beginning of this narrative: I went to my brother-in-law's, My brother-in-lawsaid: hello, And I said: hello to you also, A few moments later, he said: Come into the house, etc. The narrative does not stop there; it leads us to a new episode, where "I" requests that someone join him during his meal. This episode is repeated twice: I said: my brother-in-law, Call your children, Let them eat this pastry with me. Brother-in-lawsaid: well! The children have already eaten, They have already gone to sleep.


NEW LITERARY HISTORY I said: well, So that is how it is with you, brother-in-law! Call your big dog. Brother-in-lawsaid: well! The dog has alreadyeaten, He has alreadygone to sleep, etc.

There follows a transition composed of several proverbs, and at the end, we get to the direct invitation, this time addressed by "I" to his brother-in-law. Without even entering into the details, one can affirm that several transformations occur between the verbal act of invitation and the literary genre "invitation" (of which the preceding text is an example): (1) An inversion of the roles of addressor and addressee: "I" invites the brother-in-law, the brother-in-law invites "I." (2) A narrativization, or more exactly the embedding of the verbal act of writing in that of recounting: in place of an invitation, we get the narrative of an invitation. (3) A specification: one is not only invited, but invited to eat a pastry; not only does one accept the invitation, but one hopes to have company. (4) A repetition of the same narrative situation, but which contains (5) a variation in the actors who assume the same role: first the children, then the dog. Of course, this enumeration is not exhaustive, but it can already give us an idea of the nature of the transformations that the speech act undergoes. They are divided into two groups that may be called (a) internal, in which the derivation occurs within the initial speech act, as is the case in transformations 1, 3, 4, and 5; and (b) external, in which the first speech act is combined with a second one, according to a given hierarchical relation, as is the case in transformation 2, in which "inviting" is embedded in "recounting." Let us now take a second example, still from the same Luba culture. We will begin with an even more essential speech act: naming, attributing a name. In our own culture, the meaning of anthroponyms is most often forgotten; proper names signify by evoking a context or by association, not by the meaning of the morphemes of which they are composed. This is also possible among the Luba; but along with such names lacking in meaning, one also finds others whose meaning is quite contemporary and whose attribution is motivated by this meaning. For example (the tones are not marked): Lonji means "ferocity"; Mukunza means "light-skinned"; Ngenyi means "intelligence." In addition to these more or less official names, the individual can also receive more or less stable surnames, whose function can be praise or simply identification by the characteristic traits of the individual, such as his profession. The elaboration of these surnames already brings them closer to literary forms. Here are examples of one of the forms of these surnames, the makumbu, or names of praise: Cipanda wa nshindumeenu, "beam against which one leans"; Dileji dya kwikisha munnuya, "shadow in which one takes refuge"; Kasunyi kaciinyi nkelende, "ax that does not fear thorns." It becomes apparent that surnames can be considered as an expansion of names. In both cases, the beings are described such as they are or such as



they should be. From the syntactic point of view, one goes from the isolated name (noun or nominalized adjective) to a phrase composed of a name plus a relative that qualifies it. Semantically, one passes from names taken in a literal sense to metaphors. These surnames, just like the names themselves, can also allude to current proverbs or sayings. wellFinally, there exists among the Luba a well-established-and studied6-literary genre called the kasala. These are songs of variable dimensions (sometimes more than 800 verses long) that "evoke the different people and events of a clan, exalt its deceased and/or living members with great praises, and declaim their great acts and deeds."7 This is, then, once again a case of a mixture of characteristics and praises. On the one hand, the persons' genealogies are indicated, situating them each in relation to the rest. On the other, notable qualities are attributed to them, which often include surnames, like those that we have just observed. Furthermore, the bard calls on the people and commands them to behave in an admirable manner. Each of these procedures is repeated many times. As becomes apparent, all the characteristic traits of the kasala were potentially contained in the proper name, and even more in the intermediate form represented by the surname. Let us now return to the more familiar field of the genres of Western literature to attempt to find out if we can observe in them transformations similar to those that characterize the Luba genres. As a first example, I will choose the genre that I already had occasion to describe myself in The Fantastic. If my description is correct, this genre is characterized by the hesitation that the reader is invited to experience with regard to the natural or supernatural explanation of the events depicted. To be more precise, the world described is certainly ours, with its natural laws (we are not dealing with the marvelous), but at the heart of this universe an event occurs for which it is difficult to find a natural explanation. That which the genre encodes is therefore a pragmatic property of the discursive situation: namely, the attitude of the reader as it is prescribed by the book (and which the individual reader can adopt or not). This role of the reader does not, most often, remain implicit, but instead is represented in the text itself, in the traits of a witness-character; the identification of the reader with this character is facilitated by the attribution of the function of narrator to the latter. The use of the first-person pronoun "I" allows the reader to identify with the narrator, and thus also with the witness-character who hesitates when it comes to giving an explanation for the events that have occurred. For simplicity's sake, let us leave aside his tripartite identification between implicit reader, narrator, and witness-character; let us agree that it is a question here of an attitude of the represented narrator. A sentence in one of the most exemplary fantastic novels, Potocki's Saragossa Manuscript, sums up this situation emblematically: "I almost came to believe that some demons had animated bodies of hanged men in order to trick me." The ambiguity of the situation is evident: the supernatural event is designated by the subordinate clause; the main clause expresses the narrator's adhesion to reality, but an adhesion modulated by the approximation. This main clause therefore implies the intrinsic nonverisimilitude of that which follows, and



thereby constitutes the "natural" and "reasonable" framework in which the narrator wishes to maintain himself (and, of course, us). The speech act found at the base of the fantastic is therefore a complex act, even if we simplify the situation somewhat. Its formula could be rewritten as follows: "I" (a pronoun whose function we have explained) + verb of attitude (such as "believe," "think," etc.) + modalization of this verb in the direction of uncertainty (a modalization that follows two principal routes: the verb tense, which will be the past, thus allowing for the establishment of a distance between narrator and character; and the adverbs of manner, like "almost," "perhaps," "probably," etc.) + subordinate clause describing a supernatural event. In this abstract and reduced form, the "fantastic" speech act can of course be found outside literature. It is that of a person reporting an event that exceeds the framework of natural explanations when this person does not want to abandon the framework itself and thus informs us of his uncertainty (a situation that is perhaps rare in our day, but nevertheless perfectly real). The identity of the genre is entirely determined by that of the speech act; the two, however, are not identical. This kernel is enriched by a series of amplifications in the rhetorical sense: (1) a narrativization: a situation must be created in which the narrator will end up formulating our emblemsentence, or one of its synonyms; (2) a gradation, or at least an irreversibility in the appearance of the supernatural; (3) a thematic proliferation: certain themes, such as sexual perversions or states of mind bordering on madness, will be preferred over others; (4) a verbal representation that will exploit (for example) the uncertainty that one can experience in choosing between the literal and the figurative meaning of an expression. These are all themes and devices that I have attempted to describe in my book. From the point of view of origin, there is therefore no difference in the nature of the fantastic genre and those that we encountered in oral Luba literature, even if there subsist differences of degree (i.e., of complexity). The verbal act expressing "fantastic" hesitation is less common than that which consists of naming or inviting; nevertheless, it is no less a verbal act than the others. The transformations that it undergoes in order to become a literary genre are perhaps more numerous and varied than those with which Luba literature familiarized us, but they remain of the same nature. The autobiography is another genre peculiar to our society that has been described with sufficient precision to enable us to examine it from our present perspective.8 To put it simply, autobiography is defined by two identities: that of the author with the narrator, and that of the narrator with the main character. This second identity is obvious; it is the one summarized by the prefix auto- and that allows one to distinguish autobiography from biography or memoirs. The first one is more subtle; it separates autobiography (as well as biography and memoirs) from the novel, even if the latter is impregnated with elements drawn from the life of the author. In short, this identity separates all the "referential" or "historical" genres from all the "fictional" genres. The reality of the referent is clearly indicated, since it is a



question of the author of the book himself, a person registered in the legal records of his birthplace. We are thus concerned with a speech act that codifies both semantic properties (which is what the narrator-character identity implies) and pragmatic properties (this by the author-narrator identity--one claims to tell the truth and not a fiction). In this form, the speech act is extremely widespread outside literature: it is practiced every time one tells a story about oneself. It is interesting to note that Lejeune's and Bruss's studies, on which I am relying here for a genre description, have in fact established the identity of the speech act which is only its kernel. This object displacement is revealing. The identity of the genre comes from the speech act that is at its base: to tell a story about oneself, which does not mean that this initial contract, in order to become a literary genre, does not have to undergo numerous transformations (I leave it to the specialists of the genre to establish them). What about still more complex genres such as the novel? I do not dare to begin formulating the series of transformations that preside at its birth; but, though it probably betrays my optimism, I will say here that the process does not seem to me qualitatively different. The difficulty in studying the "origin of the novel" (as understood in this sense) would result only from the infinite combination of speech acts each in the other. At the very top of the pyramid there would be the fictional contract (thus the codification of a pragmatic property), which in turn would require the alternation of descriptive and narrative elements, i.e., describing immobilized states and actions unfolding in time (it should be noted that these two speech acts are coordinated one with the other, and not embedded, as in the preceding cases). To this would be added constraints regarding the verbal aspect of the text (the alternation of the narrator's discourse and that of the characters) and its semantic aspect (the personal life, preferably in the great frescoes of the era), and so forth. The rapid enumeration which I have just made is in no way different, except in its brevity and schematic nature, from the studies that have already been devoted to this genre. And yet it is. There was lacking this minuscule displacement, or perhaps an optical illusion?perspective-a which makes it possible to see that there is no abyss between literature and that which is not literature; that literary genres have their origin, quite simply, in human discourse.

(Translated by Richard M. Berrong) NOTES 1 This mannerof posing the problems is in no way original (the differencebetween sentence and enunciation goes back at least to the distinction between grammatical meaning and historical meaning made by F. A. Wolf at the beginning of the nineteenth century);I am only reviewing the evidence, even if it is sometimes forgot-



ten. For more complete discussions using modem-day terminology, one should consult the writings of Austin, Strawson, Searle, or my presentation of this problematic in "L'enonciation," Langages, 17 (1970), 3-11, and, in collaboration with Oswald Ducrot, in our Dictionnaire encyclopedique des sciences du langage (Paris: Seuil, 1972). See also a more recent work, Dan Sperber's "Rudiments de rhetorique cognitive," Poetique, 23 (1975). 2 This affirmation has its corollary: the diminished importance that I now accord to the idea of theoretic genre, or type. I in no way renounce the necessity of analyzing genres in abstract categories. But the study of the possible types now seems to me to be a reformulation of the general theory of discourse (or of general poetics): the latter entirely contains the former. Historical genres are theoretical genres; but insofar as the reverse is not necessarily true, the separate notion of theoretical genre seems, for me, to lose its interest-unless in the framework of a heuristic strategy, as in the examples presented by Christine Brooke-Rose. 3 Overall, I am more optimistic than the authors of two recent studies, which have led me to clarify my own views: Dan Ben-Amos, "Analytical Categories and Ethnic Genres," Genre, 2 (1969), 275-301; and Philippe Lejeune, Le pacte autobiographique (Paris: Seuil, 1975), pp. 311-41. Lejeune and Ben-Amos are willing to see an unbridgeable abyss between the abstract and the concrete, between genres as they have existed historically and categorial analysis to which they can be subjected today. 4 The idea that genres should be related to speech acts is formulated in K. Stierle, "L'histoire comme exemple, l'exemple comme histoire," Podtique, 10 (1972), 176-88; Lejeune, Le pacte autobiographique, pp. 17-49; E. Bruss, "L'autobiographie consideree comme acte litteraire," Poetique, 17 (1974), 14-26. Genres are examined from an ethnological point of view in P. Smith's "Des genres et des hommes," Poetique, 19 (1975), 294-312; and from a historical one in "Autobiographie et histoire litteraire," the concluding chapter of Lejeune's Le pacte autobiographique. 5 I owe all my information concerning Luba literary genres and their verbal context to the kindness of Ms. Clementine Faik-Nzuji. 6 Cf. P. Mufuta Kabemba, Le chant Kasala des Lubas (Paris, 1968); C. Faik-Nzuji, Kasala, chant heroique luba (Lubumbashi, 1974). For analogous data concerning Rwanda, see Smith, "Des genres et des hommes," esp. pp. 297-98. 7 Faik-Nzuji, p. 21. 8 I am thinking in particular of the previously cited studies: Lejeune's Le pacte autobiographique and Bruss's "L'autobiographie considere comme acte litteraire."

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