This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
1, Critical Challenges: The Bellagio Symposium (Autumn, 1975), pp. 135-163 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/468283 Accessed: 05/07/2010 19:44
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=jhup. Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Johns Hopkins University Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to New Literary History.
Magical Narratives: Romance as Genre Fredric Jameson
0, she's warm! If this be magic, let it be an art Lawful as eating. The Winter'sTale
feature of what must be called the ideology of modernism. And it is certain that of all literary works, so-called modernistic ones are the least classifiableaccording to traditional "kinds": witness the rise of a new and hybrid form in the novel, and in our own day, the emphasis on the incomparable uniqueness of the style and "world" of the individual writer. Yet the waning of the modern and the return to plot suggest that a reexamination of the question of genre may be in order. Genres are essentially contracts between a writer and his readers; or rather, to use the term which Claudio Guillen has so usefully revived, they are literary institutions, which like the other institutions of social life are based on tacit agreements or contracts. The thinking behind such a view of genres is based on the presupposition that all speech needs to be marked with certain indications and signals as to how it is properly to be used. In everyday life, of course, these signals are furnished by the context of the utterance and by the physical presence of the speaker, with his gesturality and intonations. When speech is lifted out of this concrete situation, such signals must be replaced by other types of directions, if the text in question is not to be abandoned to a drifting multiplicity of uses (or meanings, as the latter used to be termed). It is of course the generic convention which is called upon to perform this task, and to provide a built-in substitute for those older corrections and adjustments which are possible only in the immediacy of the face-to-face situation. Yet it is clear at the same time that the farther a given text is removed from a performing situation (that of village storyteller, or bard, or player), the more difficult will it be to enforce a given generic prescriptionon a reader; indeed, no small part of the art of writing is absorbed by this (impossible)
genre theory in recent times is a strategic
NEW LITERARY HISTORY
attempt to devise a foolproof mechanism for the automatic exclusion of undesirable responses to a given literary utterance. Traditional genre theory has been understood as performing the distinct but related functions of furnishing specifications for the production of this or that type of composition, and of providing a typology according to which the various existing compositions may be sorted out by genus and species. In recent times, the first of these functions, with its so-called techniques and its literary recipes, has become the property of commercial literature, where the older genres continue to live the half-life of the various paperback lines, gothics, mysteries, bestsellers, and the like; while the second has become an almost exclusively academic or antiquarian enterprise, drawing its inspiration from nothing fresher than the classificatory ideals of early nineteenth-century science. Still, it is hard to see how any genuine literary history could be written without the aid of something like a concept of genre. The genesis of an individual work, the development of an individual writer, might furnish illuminating footnotes to the story of overall cultural and literary change, but would surely never figure as the principal events it has to tell. Only the history of the forms themselves can provide an adequate mediation between the perpetual change of social life on the one hand, and the closure of the individual work on the other. Such a history is a social one to the degree to which it takes as its object a social institution, namely, the generic contract itself as a relationship between producers and public, while retaining the use of what are almost exclusively literary-critical instruments, inasmuch as its data must be drawn from precise and concrete experience of the works themselves. When we look at the practice, rather than the theory, of contemporary genre criticism, we find two seemingly incompatible tendencies at work which we will characterize as the semantic and the structural or syntactic approaches respectively. A glance at some of the classic theorists of comedy will illustrate the distinction: for some, the object of inquiry is not the individual work but rather something like the comic vision, which may be seen as a more general or universal attitude towards life or form of being-in-the-world. Obviously, there is room for wide variation within this approach: thus, for Bergson, comedy is essentially an expression of society as a whole, and has the function of punishing deviance with ridicule and thereby preserving the social order; while for Emil Staiger, on the contrary, it constitutes one of the few avenues by which the fundamental absurdity of existence may be apprehended in a fashion still tolerable for the human mind. Whatever the nature of the hypothesis, however, the advantage of this approach is surely that it aims explicitly at giving an account of the meaning of the genre; while just as clearly its weakness lies in the prospect of the invention of a whole series of imaginary entities and abstract personifications after the fashion of German idealism (the "spirit" of comedy, of tragedy, etc.), and of which Dilthey's elaborate system of Weltan-
while for the structural approach. The latter would then be defined as that literary phenomenon which may be articulated either in terms of a fixed form or in terms of a mode. it would no longer make any sense to wonder whether the novel as such can be considered a genre. as Levi-Strauss has suggested in his critique of Propp. and not otherwise. we will suggest. Judging from similar alternations in stylistic theory and in linguistics itself. let us see whether it may not be possible to turn the dilemma into a solution in its own right by making it the basis for some fresh hypothesis about the nature of genre. or of irony. that of tragedy. the opposite will simply be the noncomic or the unfunny. the alternative is rather a view of comedy as a determinate laughter-producing mechanism with precise laws and requirementsof its own. It does not seem particularly rewarding to perpetuate it by continuing to choose sides in a dogmatic and sectarian spirit. For the second. but also . We may further suggest the distance between these two general approaches by pointing out that the object studied by each has a different "opposite. the joke that falls flat or the farce that remains a dead letter. In this approach. but rather the building of a model. or structural approach. This approach. of some more generalized existential experience of which a description is then given which can range from the impressionisticto the phenomenologically rigorous. that the genre in question is dealt with in terms of fixed form. whose realization in the various media of theater or narrative. and which must be susceptible of expression in either of these critical codes optionally. such a method stands condemned out of its own mouth as intuitive and unscientific. Rather. In this second. On the other hand. the essence of genre is apprehended in terms of what we will call a mode.1 the danger of this kind of analysis lies in its susceptibility to a kind of mesmerization by the sheer empirical existence of the functions or mechanisms it uncovers. thus leading it to conclude (as does Propp himself in his classic work) with the peremptory but unsatisfying declaration that the structure in question is thus. this methodological hesitation between a structural analysis and a semantics of genre must find its ultimate source in the ambiguous constitution of language itself. The advantage of a definition like this consists not only in its exposure of false problems (thus. inasmuch as one cannot imagine any determinate literary mode which would correspond to such a "form"). not in the expression of a meaning. for the individual work in question. for want of a better term. has the advantage of forcing even its ungifted practitioners to remain closer to the text itself. in film or in daily life.MAGICAL NARRATIVES: ROMANCE AS GENRE I37 schauungen may serve as an instructive example. resulting. may be the object of analysis and synthetic reconstruction."or negation: for the phenomenological approach. or syntactic approach. whose monuments range from the lost chapters of Aristotle's Poetics to Freud's joke book. The conceptual operation involved in this particular approach may be characterized as the substitution. say. the contrary in terms of which comedy will be defined will be another mode.
this time of a white or theological variety. The conflict however takes place in. and the hero with spring. confusion. So romance comes to be seen as the struggle between the higher and lower realms. To say that it is a wish fulfillment is not. Hence the opposite poles of the cycles of nature are assimilated to the opposition of the hero and his enemy. and old age. to suggest that romance longs for total freedom from that everyday world or ordinary life: rather. Not unnaturally. sterility. then at least as a framework for indicating the formal requirements which any really adequate account of such a genre must meet and the steps necessarily involved in fulfilling them.138 NEW LITERARY HISTORY in its capacity to generate new lines of research. but rather as the result of curse and enchantment. order. to raise the question of the nature of the mode to which such a fixed form as the historical novel may be said to correspond. Romance is for him a wish fulfillment or utopian fantasy. and which is characterized by the cyclical movement of nature. moribund life. with whose theory we therefore begin. baleful spell. II The fullest account of romance as a mode has been given by Northrop Frye. or at any rate primarily concerns. between heaven and hell. which is in the middle. and in what follows. and his enemy is analogous to the demonic powers of a lower world. darkness. whether in an effort to restore it to the condition of some lost Eden or to inaugurate and usher in some new and ultimate realm from which the old mortality and imperfections have been effaced.3 Such a passage calls for several remarks. for example. includes criteria for judging the completeness of any given piece of genre criticism. which aims at the transfiguration of the world of everyday reality. Yet such a definition also." 2 To put it this way is therefore to turn our attention to those elements in the ordinary world which must be transformed. our world. at least implicitly. We may first of all feel some . "the quest-romance is the search of the libido or desiring self for a fulfilment that will deliver it from the anxieties of reality but will still contain that reality. The enemy is associated with winter. or that of the fixed form of which a familiar mode like that of the romance may be said to be the expression. vigor. dawn. we will use problems raised by the criticism of romance. not as the humdrum contingencies of an ordinary finite and mortal existence. or the angelic and the demonic or diabolic: the hero of romance is analogous to the mythical Messiah or deliverer who comes from an upper world. fertility. if the earthly paradise is to reveal its lineaments behind it: it then becomes clear that for romance such elements are conceived. if not as the basis for some new and substantive account of the latter. indeed. and ritual desolation. the forces capable of resisting this sinister power themselves partake of magic. and youth. black magic.
or better still. not to romance as such. To put it another way." suggests that the hero's dominant trait is naivete or inexperience. and that his most characteristic posture is that of bewilderment. It will of course rightly be observed that Frye's description applies. or what we may more loosely call a series of deeds: the hero is he who by his own action struggles and earns his victory or suffers his defeat. rather than causes in their own right. we may now turn to the nature of the "states of being" of which the hero of romance is both a vehicle and a registering apparatus. At this stage. a sequence of events which are closer to states of being than to acts. Surely. to reap the rewards of victory without even quite being aware of what was at stake in the first place. For the present. and that we therefore need to mark the contemplative nature of romance as narrative by the choice of some other term for the human figuration of which its pattern is in part woven. pictorial. We will return to this problem later." the hero of romance is something closer to an observer. a mortal spectator surprised by supernatural conflict. who then himself is gradually drawvn in. the hero is called upon to struggle with the villain or demon. as being themselves results and attributes. I would argue that such a description is appropriate only for a narrative in which action as such is the predominant category of the event.). yet the account of Propp reminds us that he is able to do so only after elaborate preparation. no doubt. for it becomes theoretically more urgent when we try to grasp romance as a fixed form."4 etc. In fact. a casual glance at the traditional heroes of romance. far from being an emissary of the "upper world. from Yvain and Parzifal to Fabrice and the Pierrot of Queneau or the "grand Meaulnes. but rather the relevance of the very concept of the hero as a critical category What Frye ascribes to the character of the "mythical Messiah or deliverer" is indeed what Propp calls a series of functions. we might suggest that the very category of the "hero" as such belongs more properly to a dramatic literature. in which even human acts and deeds are apprehended in relatively static. whereas what we find in romance is something quite different. but to the myth of which it is itself a degraded form. the basic issue involved is not so much the relative elevation of the hero (Frye's own distinctions are well known: "superior in kind both to other men and to the environment. when that proves possible. However. In most romances. whose own feats are responsible for the regeneration and transfiguration of the fallen world." "superior in degree to other men but not to his natural environment.MAGICAL NARRATIVES: ROMANCE AS GENRE I39 skepticism about the importance assigned the hero in Frye's account of the romance paradigm (which in this respect is very similar to that proposed by Propp for the fairy tale). for these go to the very heart of what is distinctive about romance as a mode. contemplative fashion. and in particular with the help of various benign and preternatural agencies." "superior in degree. what we would want to observe about Frye's account is that it fails to come to grips with the conceptual categories which inform and preselect the attributes and qualities by which those states are charac- .
the stranger from another tribe. etc. indeed. In the shrinking world of today. in which the triumph of an inhuman fate or destiny is felt to be something that radically transcends the mere human categories of good and evil. different. unclean. and that it can therefore scarcely serve as a distinguishing characteristic of romance as a form.e. the "barbarian" who speaks an incomprehensible language and follows "outlandish" customs. it is worth observing the absence of this particular opposition from tragedy.high and low. in our own day. he is evil because he is Other. under which all the other types of attributesand images (light and darkness. it is becoming increasingly clear that the concept of evil is at one with the category of Otherness itself: evil characterizes whatever is radically different from me. the vicissitudes of the human race up to the moment in which. as historical and as humanly "constructed. which is the basis of all ethics. the avenger of cumulated resentments from some oppressed or Communist-behind whose apclass. or that animism which forms a classical stage in the development of religion.I40 NEW LITERARY HISTORY terized. an ideological formation as little natural. rather. I would suggest that the most important of those organizational categories is the conceptual opposition between good and evil. Thus seen. whatever by virtue of precisely that difference seems to constitute a very real and urgent threat to my existence.. alien. Now it will be said that such an opposition. say. as a genre and a literary institution. in socialism. yet to think so would be to take this particular conceptual category at face value and on its own terms. As for the notion that the concept of good and evil is far more widespread in its literary use than this.) are clearly subsumed. or. So from earliest times. it becomes clear that while belief in good and evil is a very old form of thought which has spanned most of what Marx called man's "prehistory" (i. The point.5 Any analysis of romance as a mode will then want to come to terms with the intimate and constitutive relationship between the form itself. rather than to attempt to "estrange" it in such a way as to view it as an anthropological phenomenon in its own right. it begins to exercise mastery over its own fate)." as are. in which such a belief fulfills a crucial function. with its gradual leveling of class and national and racial differences. strange. and this deep-rooted ideology which has only too clearly the function of drawing the boundaries of a given social order and providing a powerful internal deterrent against deviancy or subversion. The proof is that . is present in every conceivable literary form at every moment in human history and may thus be thought to have its roots deep in the nature of man. however. or else that alien being-Jew human features an intelligence of a malignant and preternatural parently superiority is thought to lurk-these are some of the figures in which the fundamental identity of the representative of Evil and the Other are visible. and unfamiliar. the totemic systems of certain primitive tribes. is not that in such figures the Other is feared because he is evil. it is by no means without an intimate link to the social structure.
we cannot impose a single. as it were. the latter may in that respect rather be considered a degraded form of romance. be itself the object of experience or perception. but rather between youth and age. it would seem that the role of magic as such is considerable. while the oedipal resolution of comedy aims. not at the restoration of a fallen world. then. in particular. and it seems better to an recognize that it has. It is a term now used relatively loosely. we will see a little later that its categories are also quite distinct from those of romance. and that of magic. or in other words. as in the preceding use. while the formulation in terms of magic rather orients us towards the economic organization of the society in question and the relations it entertains with the world of nature. and without much awareness of its origins in the phenomenological movement and its status there as a relatively technical philosophical concept. as a struggle between good and evil. but rather at the regeneration of the social order. however. exoteric-or physical and geographical sense of landscape or nature. however. essentially agricultural way of life. judgments that come from the ethical realm (as when we see this or that character as a villain). ultimately. In its technical acceptation.MAGICAL NARRATIVES: ROMANCE AS GENRE I41I when we do encounter. even when it has become relatively figurative. A final observation must come to terms with the very notion of world itself as it has been presupposed in the preceding remarks. there would seem to be. In this sense. It may. indeed. that is. between white magic and black magic. Unlike Humpty Dumpty. binding use on such a term. we generally describe such works as melodrama. being in particular far more social in application: thus the classical conflict in comedy is not that between good and evil. world here means "realm. Thus the two systems. are inextricably intermingled. the overall organizational category within which the various empirical innerworldly phenomena are perceived and the various innerworldly experiences take place. It is difficult to imagine a conflict of magical forces which would not be marked in some way as positive and negative. a world cannot. As for comedy. world originally designated something like the frame or the Gestalt. that of Otherness directing our attention to the political and social attributes of such a world view. Yet the belief in good and evil is precisely a magical thought mode.6 Thus. also be objected that there are other semantic codes in the romance which are equally as important as that of good and evil. from . one which springs from a precapitalist. if not indeed constitutive. and may indeed prove simply to be different dimensions of the same ideological phenomenon. both an esoteric-or technical-and The latter conveys a relatively more popular-meaning. and." even when it is associated with the presumably more disembodied powers of good and evil. in something that looks like a tragedy. and the exoteric use of the term never completely severs its connections with sense perception. that of good and evil. for it is rather that supreme category which permits all experience or perception in the first place and must thus lie outside them as their own first condition. however.
a very basic incompatibility between these two uses of the term. seeming to offer itself. and the "natural" imagery of earthly paradise or waste land. The solution to the dilemma lies. hypothesis. nor indissolubly linked to a given type of verbal artifact. in the increasingly secularizedand rational world that emerges from the collapse of feudalism. can have been found to replace the constitutive raw materials of magic and otherness which medieval romance found ready to hand in its socioeconomic environment. when we project it as a history of the various codes which. for in the first. in other words. if only intermittently. romance is that form in which the world-ness of world reveals itself. but could not then itself figure within that description as one of the latter's components. of the bower of bliss or the enchanted wood. but rather persists as a temptation and a mode of expression across a whole range of historical periods. as objects of representation. we are for the first time in a position to show what is interesting and useful about such an approach. the notion of "world" may serve as the framework for a description of the distinctive features of this or that world structure. be something like a nature left as a mysteriousand alien border around the still precariousand minute human activities of village and field. both uses of the term are appropriate. the precondition of such a revelation is itself historical in character: for there must. the world or worlds of a given romance are understood as phenomena within the narrative. and so forth. what is misleading is that he should suggest that this "nature" is in any way itself a "natural" phenomenon. namely. under wholly altered historical circumstances. taking on the shape of world in the popular sense of nature. So Frye is surely not wrong to evoke the intimate connection between romance as a mode. then. as in medieval times.142 NEW LITERARY HISTORY the point of view of practical literary analysis. for romance as a literaryform is that event in which world in the technical sense of the transcendental horizon of my experience becomes precisely visible as something like an innerworldlyobject in its own right. that. if we may be permitted the cumbersome Heideggerian formula. I think. namely. while for the second. in the following III With this correction of Frye's account. as a formal possibility which can be revived and renewed? The persistence of romance as a mode raises the very precise historical question of what. that it makes a genuinely historical account of romance possible. And in its turn. iiiore technically philosophical perspective. are called upon to assume the literary function of those older codes which . For when we speak of a mode. what can we mean but that this particular type of literary discourse is not bound to the conventions of a given age. For romance. for the structure of world-ness to find an adequate vehicle through which it can manifest its existence. A history of romance as a mode becomes possible. landscape.
in which moral essences exercise a power which greatly transcends their own immediate local manifestations. still conceived of in relatively external terms. is an accepted part of the oral tales of primitive peoples. the fate of romance as a forIm is dependent on the availability of elements more acceptable to the reader than those older miagical categories for which some adequate substitute must be invented. or a causal convention of. to put it the other way round. voodoo or curse. serves as the substitute for the old agon of chivalric romance at this particular stage in the secularization of the form. Renzo was a peaceable open youth who hated deceit of young man and averse to bloodshed-an any kind. Manzoni's Promessi sposi."7 The passage is important. such narrative in much the same way that action by distance. prepared also to witness and to believe in the appeasing power of Archbishop Federigo as he moves through an anarchic and plague-ridden countryside touched by the grace that radiates from his presence.MAGICAL NARRATIVES: ROMANCE AS GENRE I43 have now become so many dead languages. which broods over the landscape like the very promise of evil. one is contaminated by it: thus. all those who do any wrong to others. a process whereby supernatural powers are supplanted by the more psychological "miracle" of conversion. on learning of Don Rodrigo's plot to stop his marriage. but because it blocks out a world of a determinate and peculiar structure. but at that moment his heart only beat to kill. The conceptual form taken by magic in Manzoni's work may then be . but also of the twists they cause in the minds of those they have injured. In our present context. we are able to post-Jansenist preperceive that Manzoni's sophisticated theology-a occupation with the states of sin and grace. one of the few persuasive postrevolutionary attenmpts to frame a genuinely religious narrative. . we are prepared for the baleful spell exuded by the Gothic fortress of l'Innominato. and. seize him by the throat. . and it is the internal struggle for the soul which. In such a world the climactic event is that of conversion. not because it gives us Manzoni's personal opinion on the subject. surely. along with Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov. and conceived as lpowers which radiate outwards from the affected characters. An instructive example of this process of secularization and renewal may be observed in one of the earliest and monumental reinventions of the genre. then. are guilty not only of the harm they do. Here one does more than suffer evil. a post-Calvinist preoccupation with Providence-functions precisely as a replacement of the older medieval structure of the magical world and marks the beginning secularization of romance as a form. He would have liked to rush to Don Rodrigo's house. Or. Renzo is possessed by "a miad longing to do something strange and awful. The plot of I Promessi sposi dramatizes a conflict of ever-widening proportions between forces of good and evil still closely linked to older animistic notions of white and black magic. ." on which Manzoni conmments as follows: "Those who provoke or oppress. In such a world. a world in which something we may call character-emanation becomes an event within. and his mind turned only on thoughts of treachery.
the religioussense of fate or destiny has been secularized still further. an instant later he said to himself: It will be cowardice on my part not to carry out a scheme that may be useful to me. the "upper" and "lower" realms of white and black magic. may be seen as archaic survivalsof the older magical romance within the framework of that new type which it was his originality to have invented. as a concept of some benign guiding order in human affairs which marks out Manzoni's "religion" from other theological systems. the twin worlds of magical romance. a source of vanity and ambition. who had distinct ideas about feminine beauty. find their fulfillment in commerce and in the obsession with status. indeed. the substitutionof providence for magic. the locus of all those ego activities which. would have sworn at that moment that she was only twenty years old. to rescue magic out of the more secular mode into which it had devolved."8 The resultant transformation in Julien is something like a psychological equivalent of that physical and natural desolation which in the older Grail romances is visited on .I44 NEW LITERARY HISTORY formulated in terms of providence. All of a sudden the wild idea occurred to him of kissing her hand. as Julien's discovery of a scrap of newsprint which prefigureshis own ultimate death on the scaffold. based on deferred gratification. and is conceivable only in a society strongly influenced by the new Enlightenment values but not yet wholly secularized in the manner of the more advanced European countries of the postrevolutionary era. Yet in Stendhal. in that he shows signs of uncertainty as to his own narrative and generic aims: such episodes. Yet Manzoni's solution. and cut down this fine lady's contempt for a laborer just liberated from his sawmill. on the other. the mechanisms by which they short-circuit each other. At first he was afraid of his own idea. as they make for a survival of the form while compelling significant semantic transformations in its content. the latter rather suggesting an attempt to reexternalize the same material and to project psychological analysis back into the form of fairy tale. have become two independent psychological "instances. a realm of spontaneity and sensibility." two incommensurable and irreconcilable inner dispositions: on the one hand. of the erotic as well as the political passion. are registered: "Grace is perfect when it is natural and unselfconscious: Julien. and a close inspection of the text suggests that the operations of magic now take place in the realm of what henceforth must be called psychology. or which function as vehicles for social and instinctual repression. is historicallya transitory one. to restore the fixed form of the romance. hypocrisy and calculation.such as those which stress sin and corruption. In The Red and the Black. It is therefore instructive to glance at the other national options. Nothing in Stendhal is quite so striking as the language in which the interference between these two systems. or the various astrological predictions and superstitious omens of the Charterhouse. of "bonheur" and of natural man. This is perhaps more noticeable in The Red and the Black than in the Charterhouse. Stendhal is indeed particularly useful for this purpose.
from the Charterhouse: "La pensee du privilege avait desseche cette plante toujours si delicate qu'on nomme le bonheur. in a somehow peculiar way. but rather as the interiorization of that struggle between two worlds which characterizes the romance as a genre. and in Eichendorff by the demonstration that it was not really there at all in the first place. the strategy for reinventing the sacred consisted in the substitution for it of new positivities (theology. but rather as a determinate. so that what we have called the replacements for the older magical function also serve as so many rational ways of explaining it away-in Stendhal by way of psychology. Andreas went back and was annoyed to find. through an open doorway. looked like the right one. But quite different replacement strategies are also possible in the same general historical situation: witness. and walked to the end of the rather narrow street. that he could no longer recognize the house among the simple buildings of similar construction. such passages must be seen."9 In the present context. yet it was closed. In the context of romanticism. of what we may henceforth term the art-romance. dark green. Still. One door. in many ways a purer and more perfect example of the romantic revival of the old romance form. the formal problem of romance may perhaps be understood as that of slipping past the everwary censorship of the new bourgeois reality principle: the reader craves the mystery inherent in the form. and to be replaced by the new and characteristic indirection of modernism. not as documents in support of the originality of the contribution Stendhal himself felt he was making to the nascent "science" of psychology (or of "ideologie. the older magical landscape. the good-for-nothing himself. a little bridge over the canal led to a small oval plaza with a chapel. there was little . historically that of the secularization of the world and the birth of science and rationality. still clings to the wondrous sentences with which Stendhal "notes" the process. but he now finds himself obliged to justify the henceforth scandalous and archaic activity of fantasy. which. psychology. Thus. than the more complex and eclectic narratives of Stendhal. for example. Eichendorff's Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts.MAGICAL NARRATIVES: ROMANCE AS GENRE I45 the waste land: indeed." seeks to convey the sacred. after so few minutes. at the end of the nineteenth century." as his master Destutt de Tracy termed it). Coincidence and comic misunderstanding are "motivated" and reinforced by the point of view of the Candide-like naif or inverted picaro. however. weakened into figuresof speech. but on the other side. in the first great period of bourgeois hegemony. the dramatic metaphor). whose presence as hero articulates the twin filiation of the novella as a combination of picaresqueand romance. marked absence at the heart of the secular world: Andreas turned from the house into which Zorzi had vanished. not as a presence. It ended in an arch. with a bronze knocker in the form of a dolphin. the search for secular equivalents of this kind seems to have reached a dead end. in what from Kafka to Cortazar is henceforth termed the "fantastic. much as a sick body craves the elements in which it is deficient. and Andreas thought he could rememberseeing Zorzi in the hall. as in the following.
and we are indebted to Propp for analytical instruments which allow us to reformulate the sequence and episodes of individual romances in terms of a fixed form. in the overrated Dubliners). Street and square were utterly deserted.146 NEW LITERARY HISTORY enough chance of their missing one another if Andreas went back to the bridge and took a look at the little square with the church on it. forever disposed to receive a revelation. whereby surface events or elements are . the great realizations of the modern fantastic-the last unrecognizable avatars of romance as a their magical power from their unsentimental loyalty to mode-draw those henceforth abandoned clearings across which higher and lower worlds once passed. as when the glimpse of a particularly sordid wallpaper unaccountably chokes us with anxiety. below. following James Joyce. let alone a cry or repeated shouts if Zorzi came looking for him. with all its faults. IV If Frye may stand as the richest source of materials for a phenomenological description of romance. So he crossed the bridge. he would have heard steps. a succession of trivial and apparently insignificant feelings (the "seltsamerweise" that nags at Andreas' attention. the oppressive silence. that never takes place. convey this as yet indefinable presence like a word on the tip of your tongue. a little boat hung tethered upon the dark water. surely it is the Morphology of the Folktale of Vladimir Propp which. terms an "epiphany. for an account of the genre in terms of mode. whether of evil or of grace. like a dream you cannot quite remember. remains the model of a structural analysis of such narratives. Yet Frye's term is misleading. most oppressive sense.10 The unnatural neutrality of this vacant cityscape may stand as an emblem of the modern fantastic as a whole. organizing itself into a revelation of meaning. into some new and unimaginable language." the sense of a whole environment slowly gathering. or. while for the subject. less often.1 For Stimmung-what in English is generally called "mood" in its strongest. as when a landscape seems to us charged with foreboding (Julien Gracq). its expectant hush denoting an object world forever suspended on the point of meaning. a framed and distant vista fills us with an equally unaccountable elationis the very element of what Frye. the sudden bursts of inexplicable humor-"Andreas war drgerlich") record the internal activity of a psyche buffeted by forebodings and confirm Heidegger's account of Stimmung as the privileged medium through which the world-ness of world manifests itself. not another human being to be seen or heard: the whole square had something lost and forsaken about it. or better still. However. Such an operation essentially amounts to a process of abstraction. The unpeopled streets. precisely to the degree to which it suggests that epiphany or revelation is conceivable as an event within the secularized world of modern capitalism (and such an illusion explains the ultimate sentimentalism of Joyce's own first attempts.
his model is insufficiently disengaged from the surface of the narrative text. is insufficiently formalized or abstracted. (3) The sequence of functions is always identical. (As far as the second one is concerned. his abstractions still entertain as it were too great a complicity with the conscious storytelling categories. this second operation is of course inseparable from the first) is the abstraction of the innumerable and often quite unequal and diverse types of happenings or events in the novel to a relatively limited number of acts.MAGICAL NARRATIVES: ROMANCE AS GENRE I47 assimilated to emptier and even more general categories. This is the sense of the charge of empiricism which Levi-Strauss levels against Propp's conclusions. the third axiom. as in his retention of the notion of a "character. so many versions or manifestations of the single irreducible figure of the donor. constant elements in a tale. and this is nowhere quite so strikingly demonstrated." To sum up this aspect of the critique. and which. or in Propp's terminology. Fabrice's encounters with various helpful and motherly women are all so many manifestations of that basic relationship to the feminine donor which will find its ultimate realization in his indebtedness to the Duchess. and the operation should hold both for characters and acts. it is methodological rather than formal. takes as its object the point at which Propp is content to stop . and so forth. etc. in the long run. for example. Mosca. l'Abbe Blanes.12 Now what is "fixed" in Propp's model would seem essentially to be the irreversibleorder of the functions themselves. or in other words. Thus the various secondary male figures of Stendhal's novels--l'Abbe Pirard. So. for not all fairy tales include all possible functions. so that such "limits" are rather to be seen as imposed by the analyst rather than the tale itself. Even more important than this preliminary simplification of the dramatis personae (and. Propp formulates the basic axioms of his analysis as follows: (1) Functionsof charactersserve as stable. The other reproach one may make about Propp's methods and procedures suggests that on the contrary his analysis is not yet meaningful enough. (2) The number of functions known to the fairy tale is limited.-prove to be so many father-surrogatesof the Hero. then. just as the hero's enemies reduce themselves to so many emanations of the villain. as we have already suggested. as we shall see shortly. (4) All fairy tales are of one type in regard to their structure.) The theoretical weaknesses of Propp's model (Levi-Strauss has already given an account of them in his important review article) may be summed up in a two-fold and paradoxical way: on the one hand. has not placed sufficient methodological distance between its own operative categories and the official claims of the text for itself. or what Propp calls functions. independent of how and by whom they are fulfilled. we might suggest that Propp's series of functions is still too meaningful. a series of minor mishaps visited on the hero may be read as so many versions of a trial or test to which he is being put.
Structural analysis now gives us the critical instruments for implementing our proposal to replace the older category of "character. his identity as Hero crowned and fulfilled by ritual marriage and elevation to the throne. As has been suggested above. more appropriate to romance. the long and rather desultory coda which follows the Hero's triumph over his enemies. of the rest of Fabrice's life after his climactic liberation from the tower. in which the concept of the actant is substituted for that-more anthropothe character itself. To return now briefly to the first of these objections. that the functions of the fairy tale are "thus and not otherwise. of "states" or world configurations: characters would then be understood as so many "actants" and . part of his description. and in which. Such is indeed the weight of A. That something similar is present in the more complex and sophisticated form of the art-romance is suggested by the rambling and foreshortened account. it also reconfirms and ratifies the operative category of the Hero as such. united only by the inexplicable fact of a certain fixed order: and to juxtapose such analysis with that which his structuralist critic makes of. Greimas' reworking of Propp's scheme. an ideological value inherent in the story itself. of tying beginning and end. we may reformulate it in terms of a critique of Propp's concept of the Hero. together in the unity of a single overall process (generally conceived of in structural analysis.14 and which functions as something of a decompression chamber for the reader slowly disengaging himself from the epic duree of the work from which he is about to withdraw. but also challenging. informed by categories of bourgeois individualism or what has more recently been described as the ideology of the subject. Such a lengthy and anticlimact. at the end of the Charterhouse. J. no longer seems adequate. or in other words. he is at length ceremoniously recognized. say. the Oedipus myth (in "The Structure of Myth") is to measure the distance between Propp's relatively empirical approach to his series of functions and a type of analysis which aims at seeing the entire narrative in terms of a single mechanism." Propp's model tends to fall apart into a relatively random sequence of events. but if Propp's reading is accepted. the establishment of a series of functions whose reason for being is subsumed under the simple observation that they turn out to exist.c sequel must surely be associated with Eichenbaum's remarks about the coda or epilogue with which the novel tends to end in general. in terms of the mechanism of exchange). digression and climax. first confronting a false Hero in a renewal of his struggles. namely.13 The problems to morphic and representational-of which Propp's approach gives rise may be illustrated by what is for me the most enigmatic.I48 NEW LITERARY HISTORY work. rather than a neutral analytical tool. namely. with that. for this is essentially a category of the surface narrative. as is well known. this particular terminology. however. for in these final pages it is a question of a kind of narrative ritual in wxhich the qualifications of that lofty position are tested and at length sealed once and for all." as it dominates such psychology-oriented forms as the Bildungsroman.
for instance. in some ultimate and unimaginably rapid pass between higher and lower realms. as in the final scene of Cocteau's Orphee. where. to formulate a structure rigidly applicable to all of its possible exemplars. This avoidance of the essential metaphysical conflict or confrontation is of course made possible by the attenuations of the force of black magic or baleful enchantment: it is characteristic that in this novella authority is incarnated only by an older woman briefly glimpsed. we may call "transformation scenes. of course. and new complex or inverted or neutralized conditions make an unexpected appearance. rather. but also in solving the false problems to which a generic misreading of the form has given rise. "le decor monte au ciel. where an exchange takes place between the so-called higher and lower worlds. but rather to construct a norm in terms of which even deviations may be read in a meaningful way. If on the other hand we follow Barthes' sensible transformational formula. ideological). from the very beginning. the single villain- . Thus." something like a mediator or a catalyst designed to restore the family fortunes. beginning with Lockwood's initial impression of the Heights. not as the history of individual destinies." and a new and idyllic family takes shape through the love of Hareton and the second Cathy. then Heathcliff himself can no longer be seen as a hero in either the dramatic or the developmental sense: he is. following Wagnerian opera.MAGICAL NARRATIVES: ROMANCE AS GENRE I49 their deeds as so many properties in the complex mechanism which effectuate a transition from one state to the next. all the valences are suddenly changed. for instance. for reasons that are ultimately semantic (or in other words. negative and positive poles reversed. way. the role of the "jeune premier" and the role of the villain-in such a way as to permit the final exchange to take place. The task of structural analysis would then be to show how such a mediatory agency must necessarily combine positive and negative elements-good and evil. "as dark almost as if it came from the devil. leads us to the conclusion that. the transformationscene has here been left out.15 we will want to see the novel. of the character of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. love and money. and the archaic story of origins that lies behind it. an attempt to fit the Eichendorff novella mentioned above into the structure we have just described. and its absence disguised by a variety of compromise formations. from the abrupt introduction into the family of the orphan child. if not exactly measurable. whose ambiguous and enigmatic nature cannot be properly understood if we remain locked in the older categories of individual psychology. while romance as a whole would be seen as a sequence of what. But if this is the central transformation and constitutes what Greimaswould call the principal "isotopie" of the narrative. to that final ecstatic glimpse through the window. but rather as that of a "house" itself. as a late reworking of family or dynastic material. The point of such a model is not. Such a model ought to serve not only in describing the narrative structure of romance in a far more precise. I am thinking." in which.
" The basic conflict between the two worlds of Eichendorff's story-the humdrum workaday world of the village. who.150 NEW LITERARY HISTORY ous figure being that secondary and grotesque one of the Italian spy. in which elements of both are constantly and playfully recombined in various proportions (e. the old peasant with silver buckles as a representative of the bourgeois ethic with a few ancillary "artistic" or aristocratic decorations. while it is from the latter that the various (illusory) complications of the plot. or in other words what would in classic romance be the power of evil or the malignant spell. based on the structural compromise rather than lifeand-death conflict between the two worlds at odds here-reflects the presence of a threatening perception of class realities. in which the Taugenichts is reconciled through marriage with the world of work. galloping across the field in moonlight. its gardens and eyes twinkling through half-opened shuttersis in fact the object of a systematic mystification.g. its historical reality must rather be disguised and defused by the sense of moonlit revels dissolving into thin air: so the French revolution proves to be an illusion and the grisly class conflict of decades of Napoleonic world war fades into the mere stuff of bad dreams. his very presence marking the chateau as an aristocratic space with a bourgeois corer in it. and so forth). the flute-playing porter as a bourgeois with an aristocratic hobby. V Yet these alternate and complementary methods-the semantic and the structural readings of romance-can obviously only be called into play after an individual work has been so classified: we have. but precisely a compromise in which everything finds its proper place.and the enchanted space of the chateau. at the same time that it leads on to the conclusion that Eichendorffs solution-the phantasmagoria of pure Schein and Spiel. This "deviation" from the basic model of the structure of romance thus allows us to perceive and to respect the specificity and the originality of the novella's inner structure. swap functions with each other: for the realm of work borrows its magic and its fantasmagorical elements from the other. "looked like a ghost riding on a three-legged horse. The resolution of the narrative is thus not a genuine purification or triumph of one force over the other. with its music and candelabra. the opposition between good and evil so nearly approaches and coincides with the incompatibility between the new bourgeois life form and the older aristocratic traditions of the ancien regime that the narrative must not be allowed to press on to a decisive conclusion. indeed. of what in other national contexts would have been identified as bourgeois utilitarianism.. originate. in other words. in Eichendorff. The two realms. while at the same time finding himself provided with a miniature chateau of his own within the enchanted grounds of the aristocratic estate itself. higher aristocratic realm of leisure. up to this point taken for granted the initial moment of all genre . It is because.
the anarchy of the bravi and the incompetence of the state. rather one of the supreme embodiments of that relatively new form which we know as the his- . namely. of these two quite different generic modes of narrative which lends Manzoni's book an appearance of breadth and variety scarcely equaled elsewhere in world criticism. confronting villains of ever blacker nature. the plight of Lucia gives him the material for a Gothic novel. namely. but also and above all of determining what it means to assert that a work "belongs" to such a classification in the first place." The phenomenon of eclecticism may indeed be converted into a useful instrument of analysis. the realm of the destiny of peoples and the vicissitudes of their governments. then. and ultimatelygoing beyond history itself to those "acts of God" which lie behind itin the plague and the rejuvenation of the land which follows its passing. and systematic interweaving. ought it not also to be thought of as a late and unexpected variant on the Byzantine novel itself. Is not. But perhaps we may distinguish between two versions of the problem. as it were: for there would seem to be a significant difference between the difficulties raised by a work in which several different generic strands or modes seem mingled or interwoven. In this half of his plot. experiences-they allow the novel to register the misadventures of peasant Candide-thus a very different dimension of reality from that revealed by the Lucia story. and onewhich there perhaps formally and stylistically more homogeneous-about nonetheless persists a global uncertainty as to its "kind. His own episodic make up formally something like a roman d'aventures. Meanwhile Renzo wanders through the grosse Welt of history and of the displacement of vast armed populations. the Bildungsroman itself. far from being a romance. Manzoni has at his disposal a modal instrument for developing his vision of evil and redemption. for instance. It is the presence. and conveying narrative messages about the inward life and the fate of the soul. as an object lesson in romance. it becomes clear that the separation of the lovers provides Manzoni with two distinct and alternating story lines which in fact constitute two very different types of narrative: on the one hand. Manzoni's great work. of a novel-the which has traditionally been read as the very prototype of a form by our own account antithetical to that under study here. there would seem to be something impertinent in Charterhousethe use. It is not just a question here of deciding to what genre a given work belongs. or even if it is. the experience of social life itself as it comes to its moment of truth in the bread riots and the economic depression of Milan.MAGICAL NARRATIVES: ROMANCE AS GENRE I51 torical novel? (If not. namely that arbitrary ranging of complicated works into oversimplified categories which is surely what those who repudiate the generic approach have found most offensive about it. an internal and an external one. in which the victim eludes one trap only to fall into a more agonizing one. with its lovers torn asunder by the labyrinthine adventures and coincidences which end up reuniting them?) Meanwhile. In I Promessi Sposi. for instance. then. a distant avatar of the Ethiopica of Heliodorus.
of course. myth. we pass from the internal to the external version of the problem of classification. although the opposition of tragedy/comedy . not so much about the work itself. The notion of system. as rather about the system of genres under whose configuration the individual work itself comes into being. is Manzoni's novel a romance or a historical novel?) raises a question. that the discovery of an apparently contradictory set of affiliations of Stendhal's novels to different generic traditions is no reason to abandon the categories of generic thinking entirely. be invested with all the content of the older stories of magic and spells. constellations which shift and rearrange themselves ceaselessly as certain genres fall into neglect. traditional generic system to redefine itself in order to accommodate them. in which the various existent genres are related to each other only by difference. but rather the occasion for widening the critical inquiry and raising a new theoretical issue.16presupposes a series of synchronic states. which can then. The story of Fabrice is on the other hand dominated by a quite different type of discourse. We conclude. for generic uncertainty (e. namely. Bildungsroman. At this point. the generic distinction is here not unlike an X-ray technique designed to project a model of the layered or marbled structure of the text. as we have seen.). while its privileged form is the anecdote centering on characters who are greater and more powerful than the observersand narrators. of which so many contradictory classifications have been made (fairy tale. have to be binary ones.g. To study these associative processesis to construct a kind of micronarrative of an essentially allegorical type. however. so that Stendhal's books-medmoires plus moral epigramsprove to unite two relatively conventionalized strains or impulses of French classicism. or as new ones emerge unexpectedly and force the older.I52 NEW LITERARY HISTORY literature. which derives from Saussure. that of the relationship of the various genres among themselves. As an instrument of exploration. The Enlightenment rationality of this mode is. but who can doubt that the fundamental task of criticism hereafter is to come to grips with the coexistence of these two modes in Manzoni and to read them in some meaningful systematic relationship to each other? The situation is similar with respect to the Charterhouse. to be seen as a variant on the older moralizing tradition of the French philosophes. which we have in connection with The Red and the Black characterized as that of introspection or of psychology in the limited and highly specialized sense of the ideologues or of Stendhal's own book De l'amour: the anatomy of conscious mechanisms of the mind. etc. therefore. It seems clear that the court material.. centering around the figure of the Duchess. then. political novel. is generically related to that literature of memoires and political gossip which has nourished the French tradition from Balzac to Proust and of which Saint-Simon remains the fountainhead and monument: this is a mode which demands study in its own right and whose privileged content is the gesture (more particularly its verbal manifestation in the trait d'esprit). Such systems do not.
and it is instructive to retrace our steps for a moment in order to grasp to what degree such an opposition has been at work. is to evolve a different model of the relationship of particular to general than that of traditional logic in which a given item is ranged in the class appropriate to it. while romance is metaphysical. It is in this sense that comedy may be said to be social.while its heroes represent the younger generation as it supersedesand triumphs over the older one. as in the case of Manzoni himself and of Sir Walter Scott. the generic approach has always been implicitly comparatist and has always used the systematic differentiation of the genres as its principal instrument for defining any one of them. finding its culmination in the renewal of that order by marriage and sexual fulfillment. even when the opposing term of comedy was never thematically mentioned as such. verse epistle. Here. Comedy is therefore active and brings into play desire and the obstacles to its fulfillment while romance unfolds beneath the sign of destiny. Both forms are. Frye's account of romance is systematicallyorganized through the function of his definition of comedy. following and satire as somehow related yet distinct forms. according to Frye. The element of comedy is therefore not that of magic. than these timehonored and virtually metaphysical oppositions: thus Garcilaso's poetry defines itself against the unstable conjuncture of elegy. If. and somehow more empirical. Thus. in terms of systems. the other-the work itselfbeing a concrete verbal composition. but the materials of comedy are those of the oedipal situation itself. by proposing a new synthesis (the historical romance). and the difference might ultimately be conveyed by the quality of the wish-fulfillment involved. we find the triad lyric/epic/dramatic. which emerges into a world in which the genres form a given determinate relationship among themselves. nor does it unfold within the metaphysical framework of upper and lower worlds: rather it remains resolutely within the social order. in which a given species "belongs to" a given genus. But it should be emphasized that for the most part a given generic system will be more local. we would observe that. however. whatever the theory. gests that to think of genres in this way. or that of traditional taxonomy. and its antagonists are not the villains or evil forces called into play in romance. and which then seeks to define itself in terms of that relationship. make an implicit commentary on the system itself. where the romance must seal the hero's mission by some form of revelation. on the contrary. or it may.17 The example sug- . but rather simply fathers and father-surrogates. the two basic elements are wholly distinct in nature from each other. the one-the generic systembeing a constellation of ideal relationships.MAGICAL NARRATIVES: ROMANCE AS GENRE I53 is one of the oldest in the Western tradition: alongside it and coexisting with it. of which the most celebrated is of course the appearance of the enigmatic Grail itself. We must then understand the former as constituting something like an environment for the latter. either benevolent or malign. A work may then be conceived as work in a given genre. wish fulfillments. From the point of view of practical criticism. more provisory.
some more passive symbiotic relationship with the mother. for example. oral stage. from our account of the Eichendorff novella. genital wish-fulfillment with its origins in the oedipal stage of psychic development. in the poems of Chretien de Troyes. For to speak of romance surely suggests a kind of relatively autonomous formal development in which a type of narrative initially realized. is there effaced by magical phantasmagoria. When. in its diachronic existence. either on the concrete occasion of the text. knows a new kind of existence as what we have called the art-romance of Stendhal and Manzoni. the "man who deprecates himself. Thus seen. to deal a little more explicitly with the relation of genre analysis to historical thinking in general. This is the moment. then. the relationship between the genres may itself play a signifying and functional role within the individual work itself. of what we have called a generic system. in both the anxieties (the baleful spell) and the appeasement (the providential vision) to which it gives rise. In particular. The relationship of the opposing generic terms of comedy and romance is thus to be seen as a functional one of substitution or repression in which one mode is used to defuse the other. it is the moment to do what we have postponed until now and to characterize the mode of being of a genre itself. or Balzac and Emily Bronti. as opposed to the alazon. or of the older generation. and. more archaic origins and reflects some earlier. which we have elsewhere called a "diachronic construct. that the romance mode in the latter has the function of disguising or masking off the comedy structure. of the obstacle to desire. which would otherwise too openly emerge as a social antagonism: the place of the father." or . in the attempt to account for a given historical configuration of the genres among themselves. For the moment we will set aside the question of the historical value of a sequence of this kind. or. under the guise of the novel itself. Frye discusses the various auxiliary figures in comedy. VI Thus we reemerge in history itself. in the concrete historical situation of the Germany of the Holy Alliance. then evolves into the elaborate Italian and Spenserian poems. is revived in romanticism. knows its brief moment upon the stage in the twilight of the Shakespearean spectacle. for an explicitly ideological purpose. only to survive on into modern times under the unexpected guise of the fantastic on the one hand and of fantasy (Alain-Fournier. and in particular the eiron.I54 NEW LITERARY HISTORY Norman Holland's account of the fantasy sources of art. So it would seem clear. Julien Gracq) on the other. say." and content ourselves with an inquiry into the operations by which the critic brings it into being before our eyes. we may want to distinguish the wishfulfillment implicit in romance by suggesting that it has older. comedy is essentially an active.
So entity designated as intertextuality-is we have ourselves above constructed a Promessi-Sposi-considered-asGothic-novel. its use is perhaps directly proportional to the outlandishness of the terms placed in conjunction. namely. and in Spanish drama is called the gracioso. Wodehouse is a more direct descendant. "Another central eiron figure. with the result that the text of Dickens is enlarged to include all previous (and successive) actantial prototypes. who. or indeed through.MAGICAL NARRATIVES: ROMANCE AS GENRE I55 boastful imposter." he goes on. This character in Roman comedy is almost always a tricky slave (dolosus servus). is the type entrusted with hatching the schemes which bring about the hero's victory. So the work of juxtaposition is designed to make us glimpse behind. he evolves into the amateur detective of modern fiction. Some such procedure-a systematic construction of that imaginary at work in all genre criticism. and in Renaissance comedy he becomes the scheming valet who is so frequent in Continental plays. or indeed a combination of the two. Yet to see the operation in this way is to avoid the danger of assuming what Frye's work has so often been used to demonstrate. and the notion of some larger one. G. like the gracioso.g. nor the slave of Roman comedy. which encompasses them all and includes them within itself. Modern audiences are most familiar with him in Figaro and in the Leporello of Don Giovanni. a structured relationality in terms of which each element receives its value. Through such intermediate nineteenth-century figures as Micawber and the Touchwood of Scott's St. such a criterion would itself depend precisely on an analogous fictive construct or model. a Hofmannsthal-considered-as-variant-of-medieval-romance. since it is only by such a shock that the model makes its point. in a kind of stereoptic vision. but the process is in any case the same).18 Such a passage. Micawber. rather. and so on. and it becomes evident that the value of such constructs does not depend on some hypothetical historical accuracy (if not meaningless. a fiction which makes of this paragraph a kind of micro-narrative. e. in which a number of texts are superposed. the "influence" of some "tradition"). the prototypical eiron figure (I would have taken him to be an alazon myself. Yet this system of comic characters is so far a synchronic one. In reality. it is clear that the discussion already constructs a system in the sense of the word hitherto used. proposed. Ronan's Well. of course. Indeed.. The Jeeves of P. We no longer apprehend Micawber all by himself in Dickens' narrative. have buffoon affiliations. we see him together with all his predecessors in stage comedy back to the original Roman model. The idea that there "is" something called the eiron which can "become" the scheming valet of Continental drama. but some new composite and multidimensional entity which can perhaps best be designated a Micawber-considered-as-a-dolosus-servus. we have to do here with that phenomenon more recently termed intertextuality. in which Frye's characteristic strengths are in evidence. also reveals rather openly the constructional process at work. is itself. that there exists somewhere some realm of archetypes of which all of our . and what comes into being in Frye's hands here is neither the character of Dickens.
linked up with some modern narrative in the form of the construct described above. sexual confusion. ritual unmasking). thereby projecting a very different view of history itself as a series of irrevocable qualitative breaks.I56 NEW LITERARY HISTORY guises. the same material being dramatized now in high. We have indeed the same kinds of Shakespearean quid-pro-quos which. a scandal which can. far more dangerous and explosive transgression. to draw the power of another. namely that it would not do to remind the new postrevolutionary readership too insistently of the survival of the feudal power structure. But a diachronic construct can also be based on difference and discontinuity.). depending on whether the protagonist is an aristocrat or his low-born servant. Here the absence. For its theatricality-stylistically. flirting with scandal. from Roman comedy to Shakespeare. rather than the persistence. Such formal affinities suggest yet another one. But with this alteration in the form. the distinguishing trait of which is the class differentiation between the two plot lines. and it should be clear that its ideological function lies in its apparent reinforcement of the notion of a tradition. etc. end in laughter. the bewildered hero is simply asked whether he has never read any novels! The aristocratic main plot is thus in Taugenichts repressed-for precisely the ideological reasons we have given above. This new historical model. the play with homosexual overtones. the comic or lower-class version. only modern stories are so many variants. But the relationship of this form to Eichendorff's novella is a negative one. of some deep and unbroken continuity between the mythic imagination of primitive man and the sophisticated products of the modern societies. the other material-that of disguises and misunderstandings-also shifts its function. and at the moment of explanations. in a feudal context. found between the pages of such manuals as Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces). dis- . but for purposes surely doctrinal and proselytizing in character. and Taugenichts can again serve as an apt illustration of the process. now in low. Yet this flirtation with taboo and transgression has in Eichendorff a very specific structural function. style. namely. that obtaining when a peasant youth courts an aristocratic lady. for it is clear that those "archetypes" are themselves merely texts in their turn (and impoverished ones. as for the aristocratic one (the background situation of the elopement. is only one of the various possible forms which the diachronic construct can take. based on the identity between its various stages. with the theatrical double plot as it has been described by Empson in his Some Versions of Pastoral. forbidden encounters between disguised and apparently male figures which turn out to be safe because one of them is suddenly revealed to be a girl. that of a marked or signifying absence: Taugenichts is a double plot of which we are only given the secondary line. it is too well known to need a fresh representation. the work may be seen as a virtual transcriptionof a theatrical performanceinscribes it in that long tradition of the comedy of errors (doubles. of a given element provides the methodological guide throughout a given generic progression. namely. namely.
from what men say. and allow us to read its structure as ideology. This third series is of course the realm of concrete or infrastructural history in the sense of Marx and Engels. conceived. for a famous passage from The German Ideology warns us that the progression of forms with which we have been dealing must not be mistaken for anything like a genuine historical event: "We do not set out. along with this their real existence. to our class relief. conceive. and the systematic deviation from them.20 Genre criticism may thus be seen as a process which involves the use of three variable terms: the individual work itself.19 I have tried to show elsewhere that such ideal constructs earn their reality by the operation of historical regrounding. and it is through such an operation that any consequent genre criticism must be completed. their thinking and the products of their thinking.MAGICAL NARRATIVES: ROMANCE AS GENRE I57 be characterized as miscegenation. in order to arrive at men in the flesh. as a socially symbolic act.21 Such a combinatoire is hierarchical: that is. VII It remains to suggest the relationship between the generic approach we have outlined here and history itself. The relationship between these three variables may now be formulated in terms of a permutational scheme. the sexual disguises are there to distract us from it.but it is rathermen who. developing their material production and their material intercourse. necessarily. active men. Life is not determined by consciousby ness. and which thus stands as something like a parallel sequence to the purely formal one. They have no history. metaphysics. and we find. at one and the same time the former situation changes as well. as a protopolitical response to a historical dilemma. and finally that series of concrete historical situations within which the individual works were realized.sublimates of their material lifeprocess. provide clues which lead us back to the concrete historical situation of the individual text itself. all the rest of ideology and their corresponding forms of consciousness. that the girl in question. religion. is none other than the porter's niece! So generic affiliations. or what recent French theorists a set of parallel series articulated into have called a combinatoire: of features or factors such that a variation in one results in complexes a shift or transformation in the other. and on the basis of their real life-processwe demonstratethe development of the ideological reflexes and echoes of this life process. We set out from real. imagine. the intertextual sequence into which it is inserted through the ideal construction of a progression of forms (and of the systems that obtain between those forms). thought of. far from being a noblewoman. imagined." Marx and Engels tell us. nor even from men as narrated.thus no longer retain the semblance of independence. changes in the infrastructure always result in shifts in the superstructure. and when at the end. While this situation lasts. no development. the latter are unmasked.alter. The phantoms formed in the human brain are also. and not the other way round (at least in the realm . Morality. which is empirically verifiable and bound to material premises. but consciousness life.
otherness) suggests that this genre expresses a nostalgia for a social order in the process of being undermined and destroyed by nascent capitalism. the combinatoire aims at revealing.g. the notion of a reciprocal interaction between base and superstructureis derived from other more overtly ideological types of superstructural phenomena. between labor and canital. political discourses. might just as well have remained unwritten. In this context. which do not enjoy the semiautonomy of the literary text). The "causal" action exerted by the concrete or historical series on the combinatoire is rather one of exclusion than of production: the historical moment blocks off a certain number of formal possibilities which had been available in earlier situations..sie and the new and unglamorous social forms developing out of the market system. So Shakespearean romance (like its echo in Eichendorff) opposes its phantasmagoria to the bustling commercial activity at work all around it. This code finds its expression in the vision of higher and lower realms in conflict. not the causes behind a given form. while the great art romances of the Romantic period are only too obviously symbolic attempts to come to terms with the triumph of the bourgeo. yet it does not seem inconsistent to suggest that it is itself dependent on a kind of historical coexistence within the social order itself between two distinct moments of socioeconomic development.I58 NEW LITERARY HISTORY of literary history. it would seem that this genre is dependent for its emergence on the availability of a code of good and evil which is formulated in a magical. evolution of the mode of production in question. say. then. and the archaic character of the categories of romance (magic. a late variant like that of Alain-Fournier may be understood as a reaction to the stepped-up pace of social change . but rather of establishing what are essentially limiting situations. and so forth) does not cause the individual work which reflects it to come into being: such a work is the symbolic response of an individual consciousness to his historical circumstances. dependent on the vicissitudes of individual life. yet still for the moment coexisting side by side with the latter. and as such. Thus. all the while opening up certain determinate new ones which may or may not then come into being. sense. e. rather than a purely ethical. but rather the conditions of possibility of its existence. good and evil. in the case of romance. It should be emphasized that this permutational model does not imply a return to the older mechanical notions of causality for a reason which may also be helpful in distinguishing the critical method proposed here from some of the cfuder forms which so-called vulgar Marxism has taken in the past: for it is not here a question of the relationship of positivities to each other. yet one of a very special type: its contemporaries must feel their society torn between past and future in such a way that the alternatives are grasped as hostile but somehow unrelated worlds. The social antagonism involved is therefore quite distinct from the conflict of two groups or classes within a given social order. The infrastructural series (development of social life. as in the case in recent times. To put it another way. Romance as a form thus expresses a transitional moment.
We have grown accustomed to the view that interpretation or explanation is essentially a process of transcoding. what marks both as materialisms and sharply differentiates them from self-contained philosophical "systems" of the traditional kind. not with such conceptual abstractions. more properly literary or formal. and a peculiarly anticlimactic one at that: for if the terms of the infrastructural series are simply a conceptual code and nothing more. is that both presuppose some previous concrete or depth-psychological-designated experience of the objects-political by their respective terminology. as with Freudian doctrine. the various Marxist concepts of the social classes and the stages of production. for what is distinctive about both Marxism and Freudianism. The parallel with psychoanalysis is instructive. But if this is all that is involved. It is this disappointment. industrialization. the reader of Freudian or Marxist analyses is in the position of a child who grasps the Sinn of adult conversations without sensing their Bedeutung. clearly. "truth" itself. . being abstractions or simplified models designed to clarify the far more complex and multidimensional realities of social history (or of the psyche as the case may be). This final step in the generic operation-the crucial one in any Marxist literary criticism-calls for a basic qualification as to the nature of the infrastructural series with which the other. I assume. and.). this shorthand status of the language of materialistic explanation. And of course. idealism as a worldview would be untenable were not just such purely formal and "intrinsically literary" analyses capable of seeming self-sufficient in their own right. or if you like. But this is not the case. in which the privileged conceptual order. or in other words. constitute just such a code or organized conceptual system. and the critical operation we have presented requires us to correlate literary phenomena. then the whole process of Marxist interpretation becomes an allegorical reading of texts in which the various literary materials are simply "translated" into their infrastructural counterparts. but rather with the realities to which those abstractions correspond. etc. without having the slightest suspicion he is missing anything in the process: for. may simply be seen as that ultimate code with which we agree to be content. series are to be correlated. it follows that some different code or specialized terminology might do just as well. while that of Julien Gracq only too clearly reflects the regressiveposition of a province like Brittany.MAGICAL NARRATIVES: ROMANCE AS GENRE I59 in the French countryside at the end of the nineteenth century (laicization and the loi Combes." in other words. Without some prior "personal knowledge. accounts for the disappointment which even the well-disposed reader may feel when all of these elaborate formal analyses end up in a few perfunctory remarks about the class situation in a given period. that in this perspective Marxism would be simply one more critical language or method among others. On the other hand. electrification. which gives rise to the curious reproach of "reductionism" (as though all abstraction were not a process of reducing reality and making simplified models of it). what is more important. its deliberately secondary and referential character.
analogous to the function of shifters or pronouns in linguistics. indeed. the form obviously has a very different symbolic resonance from that. The strategic value of the generic combinatoire for Marxism lies precisely in its ability to coordinate the synchronic relationship between work and immediate historical situation and the equally indispensable diachronic perspective in which that situation itself is grasped as a moment of an ongoing infrastructural evolution: it is this diachronic dimension which then permits a qualitative evaluation of the form as well-by juxtaposing it with what had been possible at other. to an Aristotelian emphasis in the late two-volume Aesthetik). not by virtue of any particular characteristics of his own. which we have attributed to it in its later manifestations. as one of the moments of "high seriousness"in the history of recent Marxist thought that when the aged Lukacs responded to the urgency of supporting Solzhenitsyn's denunciation of Stalinism. regressive and nostalgic. while at the same time coming to terms with the tendentious antisocialist and religious propaganda to which the latter lent his talent and the authority of his personal suffering. Still. incidentally one of his finest. in which a . it may be admitted that some literary phenomena seem to demand such completion more immediately and insistently than others: such would seem. I take it.I6o NEW LITERARY HISTORY This is not the place for a defense of Marxism as such. but also the chanson de geste from which romance emerged. has been genre-oriented from beginning to end (seeming. We have already suggested the constitutive relationship between romance and something like a positional concept of evil. that of Lukacs. as well as the American western with which both have so much in common. such a category of thought is only too intimately related to that fragmented and anarchic world of the post-Carolingian period. but simply in function of his relationship to my own place. as the cultural expression of a dominant class. to be the case with the very origins of romance in medieval times. Yet such a positional notion of good and evil does not characterize romance alone. in Sociology of the Modern Drama and The Theory of the Novel. indeed. where the person standing opposite me is marked as the villain. to recapitulate some ideal trajectory from a Hegelian interrogation of genre. Indeed. indeed. Franz von Sickingen-is in fact essentially generic in its approach. where. "reductive"moment is that of the completeness of the critical operation. Ultimately. but rather for pointing out the privileged relationshipbetween historical materialism and genre study.22 while in our own time the most substantial corpus of Marxist literary analysis. the justification for such a final. he did so by sitting down at his desk and writing a genre study. the nature of the literary work as a symbolic act not becoming visible until the frame is expanded to include the historical situation itself. structurally different moments of social development. The first extended monument of genuinely Marxist literary criticism-the letters of Marx and Engels to Lasalle about the latter's verse tragedy.
tests of strength-he reflects as in a mirror image. the implications of the revival of medieval romance by English neo-Catholicism. which-challenges. for example. in which the antagonist ceases to be a villain. there arises what can only be called a contradiction between the older positional notion of evil and this emergent class solidarity.MAGICAL NARRATIVES: ROMANCE AS GENRE population terrorized by barbarian incursions increasingly withdrew into the shelter of local fortresses. points of honor. S. exudes that insolence which marks a fundamental refusal of recognition and stamps him as the bearer of the category of evil. purely social world. in armor. Yidiers. this vision of a realm of magic superimposedon the earthly. up to the moment in which. this conceptual dilemma is overcome by a dramatic passage from appearance to reality: the hostile knight. in particular by Tolkien and C. Romance may then be understood as an imaginary "solution" to this contradiction. and the archaic nostalgia with which it becomes associated (consider. li filz Nut. and which thus completes the requirements for the emergence of romance as a distinctive new genre. thereby furnishing material for other quite different symbolic uses as the form itself is adapted to the varying historical situations described above. When. that baleful optical illusion which we henceforth know as the realm of sorcery or of magic. his identity unknown. defeated and unmasked. can alone restore . This moment. this kind of social isolation is overcome and the feudal nobility becomes aware of itself as a universal class. So the persistence of romance poses problems even graver than those suggested to Marx by the "normal childhood" of Greek art: 23 for this crueler and more superstitious adolescence. For now that the experience of evil can no longer be invested in any definitive or permanent way in this or that human agent. in the twelfth century. he asks for mercy and tells his name: "Sire. more positive consequences for the development of the new form as well. ai non" (Erec et Enide. it must be expelled from the world of purely human affairs in a kind of foreclosure and projectively reconstituted into something like a freefloating and disembodied realm in its own right. with a newly elaborated and codified ideology. Such an interrogation-of the ideological nature of form-can alone rescue literary study from its trivialization at the hands of antiquarian and aesthete. that is. at which point he becomes simply one knight among others and loses all his sinister unfamiliarity. Lewis) raises something like an aesthetic counterpart to the problem of ideology. Yet as a literary device. when what is responsible for his being so characterized is simply the identity of his own conduct with mine. 1042). is thus what distinguishes the use of the category of evil in romance from that to be found in the chanson de geste or the classical western: but it has other. clearly outlives the particular historical and ideological contradiction which it was invented to resolve. a symbolic answer to the question of how my enemy can be thought of as being evil. as other than myself and marked by some absolute difference. In the romance.
1968). p. thereby passing through the black box. 187-88. The Red and the Black. 1966)." See. Ch. Henry and the Theory of the Short Story (Ann Arbor. 4: "first establish the two ensemble-termini.i62 NEW LITERARY HISTORY to literature itself its gravity as a mode of organizing experience and thereby a social and political act in its own right. 1969].. "Systeme d'un genre descriptif. but equally poststructural. pp. 18 Frye. tr. 8 Le Rouge et le noir. tr. Semantique structurale (Paris. 9 La Chartreuse de Parme. "Literature as System. 1960). 33-34. pp. Two quite different. pp. pp. 415-34. Anti-Semite and Jew and Saint Genet. 5 See J. A convenient survey of other recent theories is offered by Paul Hernadi. 4. 1972). pp. J. or Selected Prose. 99 (Mar." Poetique. tr. Terry Eagleton. p. 1968). 1952). 6 (or. 4 Ibid. p. 3-36. 1975). 209-33. 172-91. p. 1945). the opening and closing tableaux. 375419. 1957). 15-30. "A Modern Way with the Classic. 59. "Litterature medievale et theorie des genres. 173. 47.. 63-66. translation modified. p. 21-23." 10 Hugo von Hofmannsthal. 1972). SAN DIEGO NOTES 1 "La Structure et la Forme. 1968]. Images of Power (London. 16 See my Prison-House of Language (Princeton. 1971). p. Frank Kermode." Literature as System (Princeton. 13 A. and Claudio Guillen. The Betrothed. pp. pp. Robert M. 24). 17 Claudio Guillen. 1 (1970). 1972). 1972). Ch. Morphology of the Folktale (Austin. 7 I Promessi Sposi. Mich. pp. 2 Anatomy of Criticism (Princeton. 131-40. Archibald Colquhoun [New York.-P. Anatomy. 8: "Thoughts of ambition and advantage had quite withered that delicate plant we call happiness. and Michael Riffaterre. 15 Roland Barthes. 176. Andreas. 3 (1972). 25). 13-19. 375-400. Sartre. Mary Hottinger and Tania and James Stern (New York. p. "Par ofu commencer?" Poetique. 2 (or. Ch. Sein und Zeit (Tiibingen. 20 Marxism and Form (Princeton. 6 Martin Heidegger. O. but in terms of ecriture. pp. 5 (1974). pp." Homenaje a Casalduero (Madrid. Book I. . Greimas." New Literary History. 14 Boris Eichenbaum. 1 (1970). UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA. the various transformations and strategic operations whereby the latter is linked to or differentiated from the former: it is necessary in other words to define the transition from one state of equilibrium to another. models of genre study may be found in Hans Robert Jauss. and for a Marxist approach." Poetique. 11 Heidegger.. No. 79-101. 1957). 193. "Satira y Poetica en Garcilaso. then explore the various paths. Sein und Zeit. p. Beyond Genre (Ithaca. 19 Marx and Engels. for an analogous reading of the novel. The German Ideology (New York. my italics. 3 Ibid. 12 Vladimir Propp. 1972)." Cahiers de l'Institut de Science Economique Appliquee. in Erziihlungen (Tiibingen. Adams [New York.
for the complete correspondence (including Lasalle's replies). 23 "The difficulty lies not in understanding that the Greek arts and epic are bound up with certain forms of social development. p. a handsomely illustrated quarterly journal in the humanities Editor: David V. Contribution to a Critique of Political Economy (New York. 1974). 1953).MAGICAL NARRATIVES: ROMANCE AS GENRE I63 21 Two suggestive and very different constructions of such a model may be found in Charles Mauron. 106-12. 1970). ed. Karl Marx. pp.oo 79 I . 129-67. 1964) and Tzvetan Todorov.50 101 Fifth Avenue ? New York. 1857 Introduction. Ober Kunst und Literatur (Berlin. Stefan Morawski and Lee Baxandall (New York. On Literature and Art. The difficulty is that they still afford us artistic pleasure and that in a certain respect they count as a norm and as an unattainable model. Introduction a la litterature fantastique (Paris. pp. Erdman to Address requests subscription READEX BOOKS I I $7. 22 See Marx and Engels. 1970). Psychocritique du genre comique (Paris. I BULLETIN I OF Public TheNew York Library entering its 8oth year of continuous publication." etc. or. NY 10003 Now available: VOLUME (1974-75) 78 In preparation: VOLUME (1975-76) $12. 143-44. Marx and Engels. 217.