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Reflexivity and Reading Author(s): Lucien Dällenbach and Annette Tomarken Reviewed work(s): Source: New Literary History

, Vol. 11, No. 3, On Narrative and Narratives: II (Spring, 1980), pp. 435-449 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/468937 . Accessed: 02/11/2011 08:56
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Reflexivity and Reading
Lucien Dallenbach
MOST OBVIOUSeffect of the breaking open of the structuralist closure has been to renew discussion of those problems of reception and reading which could not be taken into account by the Saussurian notion of the text, modeled on the dichotomy of langue and parole. Inspired by this new direction in research, particularly by the contributions of the Constance school, the present study will investigate, from the point of view of the addressee, reflexive texts which contain mise(s) en abyme (i.e., texts containing one or more doublings which function as mirrors or microcosms of the text). By viewing mise en abymeas a factor in the readability of the text and evaluating its impact on the process of reception, I hope to contribute to current work on the "rhetoric of reading."1 At least three reasons can be suggested for relating mise en abyme and reception. The first, which I shall try to justify below, is that mise en abymeappears as a privileged object for the constitution of a theory of reading, involving, as will be seen, the various aspects of such a theory. Conversely, the theory of reading may clarify mise en abyme better than previous approaches, which have centered on one or a combination of the following elements: the writer and the written, the text alone, the text and its textualization.2 The second reason concerns the possibility of broadening and internationalizing research, since the articulation of miseen abymeand of the problematics of reception may bring to bear upon one another two literary traditions which are complementary despite being relatively ignorant of each other. The first of these, the German and Anglo-Saxon tradition, constricted by its search for realism, delegates a minor role to reflexivity and self-representation, leaving reception and communication to dominate the idea of the literary text favored by these critics.3 The second, or French tradition, conceives of reflexivity in the wake of Mallarme, Proust, and the Nouveau Roman but, in part for that very reason, has remained longer than its counterparts over the Rhine, the Channel, and the Atlantic enslaved by substantialist and autonomist notions of the text. The third and last reason, a personal one, is that an examination of mise en abymebased on and taking account of reading [lecture]seems to me the best way of continuing my book on Le Recit speculaire in a

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Copyright© 1980 by New LiteraryHistory, The University of Virginia

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direction suggested and constantly outlined there but, I believe, in a different manner and with insufficient stress. Far from being a complacent and unpleasant case of a narcissistic author returning to his product in order to adjust it to the taste of the day, the present reflections must be understood as positive self-criticism, an effort to move beyond positions once held, to reconsider the aspect of the problem which now seems to me most important: the function(s) of mise en abyme in the reader's actualization of the text and, more particularly, the type(s) of readability(ies) and reception(s) entailed in mise en abyme. For the sake of convenience and in order to get to the main point more swiftly, I shall take for granted general agreement on a definition of mise en abymewhich in fact only reiterates and generalizes the canonical, Gidean definition of the procedure. Whereas Gide understands by the term the repetition within a work of "the subject of the work" "on the level of the characters,"4 my own use of the expression covers any sign having as its referent a pertinent continuous aspect of the narrative (fiction, text or narrative code, enunciation [enonciation]) which it represents on the diegetic level. The degree of analogy between sign and referent can give rise to various types of reduplication. My second assumption will be that the reader is familiar with the works on reception that I will make use of. I shall merely refer to them when necessary, and point out immediately that what most interests me is not the response of a given explicit reader, impossible to generalize about, but that of the reader-subject exposed to the supraindividual pressures of an episteme, ideology, or unconscious desire, and, even more, the response by the impliedreader understood as the reading role inscribed in the text.5 Consequently, I shall consider the function of mise en abymeprimarily in relation to how a text conditions readings by its use of signals, instructions, or orders for decoding, and by the greater or smaller margin or freedom of movement permitted to the reader. Finally, I would like to avoid misunderstandings by explaining the significance of my references to Robbe-Grillet's Le Voyeur. Insofar as the present study is intended as part of a general theory, not as a reading-which would, in any case, presuppose acceptance of the frame of reference I am seeking to set up-Robbe-Grillet's novel will function in my discussion solely as a particularly helpful example. Having taken these precautions, let me turn to the issue which concerns us. The first question I encounter in my attempt at considering mise en abyme and reception is a general and seemingly peripheral one: what, in a given text, authorizes and calls for the reader's creative activity? I shall reply to the question in an absolutely

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classical manner by invoking (1) the indeterminate aspect of every literary text, and (2) the text's Leerstellen(a term translatable here as empty places, free places, or, more succinctly, as gaps, blanks, or ellipses)-gaps which clearly derive from while contributing to the overall indeterminacy of the text. The first to recognize the Leerstellenas elements forming part of the text, Roman Ingarden proved that the fundamental importance of indeterminacy (Unbestimmtheit)arises from the fact that a work of fiction is an intentional object, always indeterminate to some extent because of its very determinacies. In fact, no matter how numerous they may be, these determinacies can but determine in a partial and schematic manner, the unsaid [non-dit] being dependent on and generated gradually by what is specified in the text.6 If we try, for example, to provide predicates for the word man, we shall only preserve, not solve the mystery. What is important is that the fated non-dit must be assimilated to a rhetoric of the understood [sous-entendu],which imposes an equally unavoidable extrapolation on the reader, forced by the text to complete and imaginatively concretize what is being narrated. Repeated and refined in various respects by Wolfgang Iser,7 Ingarden's analyses, influenced by Husserl, are linked to what literary semioticians, discussing indeterminacy, hold to be the major effect of written communication, which, because it must be read, is deferred: Insofar as [the literary text] is deferred communication (without feedback, automatic adjustments of self-regulation), it constitutes a differentform of communicationfrom oral, everyday, personalizedcommunication.Irreversible, decontextualized, hermetic, and ambiguous, it can be defined as a crossand misunderstandings italics] (the absence, for the reroadsof absences [my ceiver, of the sender and his context and, for the sender, of the receiver and the context of reception). Moreover, as a text fixed by philology and reproducible within the limits allowed by the law, it cannot be readjusted(unlike a myth) and reaches a sometimes scattered, heterogeneous, and not entirely predictablepublic.8 But in addition to the indeterminacy due to what Austin and Searle call "depragmatization," the literary text contains a variable number of "gaps" or "blanks," which appear when semantic correlations between sentences present problems, when the text resorts to negations or fails to make explicit the connections between different sequences.9 Among formal elements producing such gaps in the text and breaking the homogeneity and continuity of meaning, Iser singles out every disturbance of phrasal and sequential relationships; the various techniques of decoupage,montage, and segmentation; conflicts in narrative

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perspective; and narrator's comments that result in differing points of view or value judgments not found directly in the story and which may be inconsistent with one another.10 Everything therefore seems to lead us to agree with Hamon that, because of the depragmatization of factors which aid ordinary communication and because of the gaps created on occasions when the literary text cannot relay information, the text, doubly indeterminate, can be defined as a "crossroads of absences and misunderstandings." Upon reflection, all that prevents such a definition is the pejorative and perhaps inappropriate nature of the formulation. The inappropriateness is twofold: firstly, because "misunderstandings" refers to the doubtful model of oral communication (of a speech act) which, ideally, would precede the text, and secondly, because to postulate the existence of a "correct understanding" brings us surreptitiously back to a substantialist conception of the text. The definition is pejorative because the "absences" undoubtedly threaten the readability of the text (in Hamon's sense of the univocality of meaning)11 while remaining the only means whereby readability (here in Iser's sense of active participation by the reader)12 is made possible. Indeed, we should stress that these absences and possibly plural understandings, in forming a welcoming structure which invites participation, represent the reader's only creative opportunity, according to the principle that the reader's activity (and pleasure, no doubt)13 are in inverse proportion to the text's readability (in Hamon's sense of univocality). In other words, far from being an inconvenience, these "blanks" are reading stimuli, in no way perceived as gaps, for the simple reason that the reader fills them in automatically,unaware that he, not the text, is bringing about the smooth forward progression of his reading.14 Naturally, the filling in of these gaps presupposes a process of selecting among possible meanings offered by the text. Regularly revising the progressive concretization, we take into account what has been set up and remembered at a given moment of the reading and adjust these data to the general movement of the text. According to Karlheinz Stierle, the most elementary form of reception, the act of assigning a signified to a signifier, creates problems for the literary text because a single signifier can have several possible signifieds, between which we can decide only by establishing the context.15 Context is established by passing to a higher unit, the sentence, and from there up the hierarchy to the sequence of sentences, and so on. At each stage there will be both a confirmation or refutation of the horizon of expectation set up by the word, the sentence, or the preceding sequence and a degree of anticipation about the remainder of the reading. This anticipation will in turn be constantly modified by what is read next and by how that is interpreted.

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Although the text is not itself temporal in nature, its consecutive quality combines with indeterminacy and "blanks" to make of reading an eminently temporal process, which is the third facet I wish to stress. His memory finite, the reader cannot comprehend the text at a single glance. A fragment from a letter written by Flaubert describing the composition of MadameBovary provides a pertinent example here: "I am in the midst of recopying, correcting, and erasing the entire first part of Bovary. My eyes are smarting. I would like to be able at a single glance to read these 158 pages, grasping every detail in one thought."16 This inability to grasp and synthesize the text "in a single thought," to subsume it somehow in a stable and definitive unity, forces the reader to structure and restructure the text, the previous horizons of expectation creating both anticipation of what is to come and a retroactive reinterpretation of what has been read. This movement [bouge]of the reading is accompanied by the creation of a virtual dimension of the text, one which will disappear only when the concretization has been completed-on the last page of the book. Every literary text tends to restrict, to a greater or lesser extent, its indeterminacy, its "empty places," and its successiveness by "signals" which appear as constraints and limitations upon the reader's freedom of invention.17 A structure providing a challenge and inviting participation, the text is also a guide: permitting action and movement, it nonetheless imposes action and movement in one direction rather than another. As Philippe Hamon formulates it, in the passage I began quoting above: These two factors, therefore (the heterogeneous public and deferred communication) [which I shall discuss as three factors-overall indeterminacy, semantic gaps, and consecutiveness], undoubtedly impose on the written text, more than on others, the necessity of ensuring a "minimum of readability" (even if readability is not the sole or predominant goal of the sender). This minimum of readability is achieved by lessening the basic ambiguity of the text by way of a compensatory metalinguistic apparatus [surcodage] which incorporates into the message a set of signals, equational and relational structures, a variety of procedures and operators for removing ambiguity; these, by constructing together text, context, and metatext, combine the selfgloss (the autonymousmode) with the gloss on the language code (the metalinguistic mode). We can perhaps hypothesize that the literary text ... containing its own paraphrasing system, its own internal metalanguage, could almost be defined as a statement incorporating a metalanguage.18

In stressing this fourth and final mark of the literary text, I have set up the framework within which mise en abyme will be found to be linked to reception. Throughout this introduction I have attempted

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to proceed openly enough for my thesis-at least the first formulation of my thesis, for it may have to be modified-to be perceived and expressed immediately. An autonymous structure par excellence, in defining itself from the outset as an equivalent of the narrative, miseen abyme, the most powerful textual signal and aid to readability, can (1) use artifice to repragmatize the text, (2) seal directly or indirectly the text's vanishing points, (3) condense the text in order to provide a surview, and (4) render the text more intelligible by making use of redundancy and an integrated metalanguage. Before reviewing and commenting briefly on each of these points, I would like to note that we can now understand better the insistence with which certain works signal the signal by indicating, through unmistakable connectors, the linking procedure whereby equivalencies are set up: if the mise en abyme was never perceived by the reader, would it not lose its illocutionary force? Left to his own devices, the reader might comprehend in his own manner or, perhaps, not at all. He must therefore be supported and, on occasion, provided with a mise en abyme in the enunciation as an artificial remedy for the deferred nature of written communication. Using this subterfuge to reestablish a dialogue situation, the text presents the reader with a producer and a receiver, even, in a sleight of hand at which Cervantes, Jean Paul Richter, and Gide excelled, with the producer and receiver of the very text he is reading. Robbe-Grillet's latest novels, as is well known, have made extensive use of tricks and aporia of this kind. Although not yet evidencing such a fondness for illusion, Le Voyeur nonetheless provides, in Mathias, a half-ironic, half-serious double of the novelist.'9 The parallel goes beyond the incomplete drawing of a sea gull made by the character and the gap-filled work composed by the author to touch on their linguistic activity, since both use persuasive rhetoric to capture the imagination of the listener/reader by manufacturing a memory for him, giving him the illusion of recognition (see p. 32). In an even more fundamental manner, the commercial traveler's patter metaphorizes novelistic activity, which functions here to hide a gap or metaphysical absence before the abyss [abime] reopens to engulf the fiction. On occasion, Mathias also figures the reader's hesitations (see, particularly, pp. 40, 49, 60, 125, 146 ff., 152). But, Le Voyeur notwithstanding, we know that mise en abyme is not limited to repairing principal gaps in written discourse by recreating the conditions of a direct fictive communication: when mise en abyme places the text in a state of self-equivalency by reflecting upon textual statements or laying bare codes, the narrative can repeat itself or comment upon itself internally. As a result, the text acquires not

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terms), but also dimerely a "strong" structure (in Gestaltpsychologie minishes, by redundancy or a metalinguistic gloss, its level of indeterminacy and its Leerstellen. When an elliptical narrative contains a central scene which has been deliberately effaced, mise en abyme seems peculiarly useful as a compensatory and restorative device. It is therefore not surprising that certain readers of Le Voyeur have unhesitatingly seen here the function of mise en abyme in fiction. Jean Ricardou, for example, declares that because a mirror-scene "reveals what is absent from the context," it accuses a character or a narrative of seeking a "cover-up" for themselves.20 Although incorrect in that fictional misesen abymein Le Voyeur appear to me calculated precisely in order not to fill the central gap, this stabilizing reading is welcome because it validates the rule followed by most novelists, who use doubling to remove the ambiguity of their message. Notice that, in resorting to miseen abyme,texts manifest their fears about their own readability, either because the need for readability so obsesses them that they forbid the reader to fill in the gaps as he wishes, automatically and according to the rhythm of his reading, or because, readability being truly in danger, the reader might risk being unable to fill in the gaps. In the latter case, the miseen abyme,depending on whether it concerns the statement, the enunciation, or the code, will indicate the level at which the gaps must be filled and, in so doing, will suggest where readability has been most compromised. In this respect, Le Voyeur is especially interesting, because its many metatextual misesen abymeare symptomatic of the resistance of a public whose horizon of expectation is being questioned. As proof of its own novelty, Le Voyeurasserts that "a new literature is not addressed to an already existing public. The public for a freshly published Nouveau Roman is nil. Only gradually, by way of the book itself, is a public formed."21 In order, then, to form its reader and to help him recognize clearly what is at issue, Le Voyeur had to bring its metatextual mises en abyme to bear on platonic or metaphysical mimesis (the connection between text and model) and, in particular, on realism (see p. 37), on the univocality of meaning, on meaning as such (for example, pp. 40 and 60), and, thereby, on readability which, as several comments in the work indicate, remains uncertain (pp. 49, 125, 152, 168, 186). Anyone interested in the changes in the novel from Balzac to the present day would find it most instructive to undertake a brief diachronic investigation of miseen abyme.A few preliminary findings permit us to state with confidence that historically mises en abyme supersede the "authorial intervention"-hence their unrecognized impor-

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tance for the naturalist novel.22 They multiplied and grew more complex because of the increasing number and ever more involved subtlety of the semantic gaps. The number of misesen abymeof the code continues to increase, signaling the ever-widening separation between art and a public whose horizon of expectations is regularly thwarted. Finally, in the new Nouveau Roman of recent years, certain mises en abymehave undergone an internal modification necessary to maintain their utility. This latter metamorphosis of our structure will not detain us here, because, having stressed the creation of a pseudodialogue, the filling in of semantic gaps and the resulting redundancy, we must consider as soon as possible the way in which the syntax of the text is realized by this same mise en abyme, ensuring the hesitant progression of the reading in an all-encompassing, almost instantaneous moment of understanding. This grasp of the whole is comparable to that made possible by a "model" [maquette]which, on the level of the signifier and sometimes of the signified, simplifies the original, converts time into space, successiveness into simultaneousness, the latter enabling us to "take in" [com-prendre] and thereby master and "phrase" the text. Armed with this replica, which is generally and for good reason placed in the center of the narrative,23 the reader will be able to identify and elucidate obscure elements, notice certain details as relevant, dismiss others as marginal; in short, use mise en abyme as a criterion for selecting and structuring. This guide will facilitate the progression from first to second readings, a fact which brings us to consider the problem of reception in a new light: does mise en abyme not work toward two conflicting ends, its way of avoiding the danger of unreadability being that of a dangerous medicine? I assert in reply that everything depends on what we expect from miseen abyme.If one resorts to the device in the hope that it will reestablish the conditions of a quasi-pragmatic reception, that is, mute the effect of illusion which removes the reality of the text and replaces it with a phantasmic identification, one runs the grave risk of making a false calculation, using one ill to drive out another.24 For it is precisely this second reading, replaced and rendered superfluous by mise en abyme, which, according to Karlheinz Stierle, permits the development of a reception neither quasi-pragmatic nor projective, but respectful of the fictionality of fiction.25 Moreover, mises en abyme such as Magritte's "picture within a picture," which turns trompel'oeil against itself, denounce pictural illusion and betray the "ideology of the window" which has dominated Western painting since the Renaissance.26 Although presenting itself as a "representation of a representation," this mise en abyme, as second-

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degree mimesis, still subverts mimesis, revealing it for what it is. Indeed, such a manner of ensnaring representation in its own trap entails certain failures [rates] which alert the reader, undermining his referential illusion, snatching him away from his transference to arouse a critical point of view. The question concerning the world is henceforth linked with that concerning reception, the production of the spectacle and the spectacle itself.27 The question obviously comes down to knowing whether the effect of affect and that of illusion are as closely connected as Aristotelian and Freudian aesthetics have claimed, and whether, if representation is destroyed, there can be a pleasure of the text other than the purely intellectual one of the deciphering of enigmas. An even more radical inquiry would consider whether self-reflexive reception permits enough play to the reader to prevent his being so overcome with boredom as to close a book which would, as Mallarme hoped, exist alone, independent of the reader. Would self-reflexive reading not be a contradiction in terms; would self-interpretation and selfelucidation not produce self-reading instead and in place of reading? By abusing mise en abyme, will certain texts not pay dearly for their increased readability and risk being neglected in favor of texts calling for a primarily identificatory and instinctive type of reception, as characterized by Artaud? The fate of a certain Nouveau Roman or of some borderline texts seems to provide an obvious reply to such questions. However, we should take a second look at the matter before trying to comfort theory by the sanction of facts, for the latter, as it happens, remain ambiguous: as an alternative to the example of little-read texts we can offer Mallarme's Sonnet en X,28 designated by its author as "allegorical of itself." If the principle of autonymy necessarily has a demobilizing effect on the reader's energies, how can we explain the fact that no one feels excluded upon reading this poem which, in being entirely constructed on the principle of self-reflexivity, is the perfect illustration of the following declaration from Variationssur un sujet, referred to above: "The volume, impersonalized as one separates oneself from it as an author, does not require the approach of the reader. As such, among human accessories, it takes place alone: made, existing."29 Now if the Sonnet en X does not take place all alone, but fascinates and delights numbers of readers, this success is not because its generic properties are somehow better suited to selfreflexivity than those of the novel, or because the total reflection it plays on differs in some way from mise en abymein our strict sense of the term. Rather, it is due, Mallarme tells us, to the "somewhat cabalistic sensation" aroused and to the "dose of poetry contained" in

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the piece.30 For surely certain texts fall from our hands because their author wanted to remove the voids himself, and because such texts so often err in providing too much pedagogy rather than an overdose of poetry. On these occasions mise en abyme is utilized to determine instead of merely to orient reception. Clearly, the text only remains pleasurable if it resides somewhere between the thresholds of unreadability and readability.31 Are we thereby admitting that the prescribed path for narrative is a middle road, and that mise en abymemust be used only in moderation, like an antidote? In fact, the lesson of the Sonnet en X seems to me to be quite the contrary. The fact that the sonnet evokes what Mallarme calls a cabalistic sensation, paralleling our feeling that the poem is completely devoid of meaning, can surely be ascribed first and foremost to the autonym upon which the poem is programmed. Consequently, to admit that "language reflecting itself" can suspend meaning and approach unreadability (in Hamon's sense) is also to admit that "narrative reflecting itself" can use self-reflection not only to remove its own ambiguity, that is, fill in the gaps, but also to create the gaps and problematize its reading, which becomes active becauseof, not in spite of mise en abyme. Following the hypothesis adopted throughout this article, that the degree of indeterminacy and the Leerstellenmobilize the reader's activity, we can conclude that mise en. abyme can diffuse the void and permit us to read by exercising negativity. Once again, Le Voyeur perfectly illustrates the disturbing effect of certain reflections on a reading that seeks univocality. But since such an analysis would take us too far astray, I shall limit myself to reconsidering from this point of view two matters touched on above, in order to offer a few general suggestions. If, in Le Voyeur,mise en abymeof fiction can be seen as reparative in the sense of suggesting what might be absent from the narrative, it would be a great mistake to claim that the device reveals both the existence of a flaw and the possibility of disguising the flaw in order to ensure the passage of a plausible meaning, as if mise en abymewere a mere gap-filler or, worse yet, a cork. Far from blocking the gap once and for all in a definitive manner, mise en abyme permits the gap to exist as such by its very varied, insistent, equivocal and always conjectural manner of inviting the reader to fill in the void. Indeed, once the initial narrative does not fill in the central gap, as Kleist's Marquisevon O ... does in extremis,where a mirrored dream [reveen abyme]allowed a prior glimpse of what the narrative repressed and set up the famous aposiopesis, the reader cannot but formulate hypotheses about what is not given him, basing his speculation on the specifics of the secondary

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narratives, i.e., the mises en abyme.32In or, rather, behind every apparently "objective" description, we glimpse a half-hidden, halfrevealed erotic spectacle.33 The sexualization of narrative, a reading which fantasizes by way of signs on the page, is chiefly due, I main34 tain, to mise en abyme. For this reason, most misesen abyme-and they are numerous-appear in the first part of a novel. Early appearance is necessary if the reader is to enliven what is said by supplying the unsaid, reading what is said as a kind of euphemistic double meaning-an insinuation. Orchestrated by mise en abyme, this register leads the reader to begin the process of autosuggestion and be the first to turn himself into a voyeur. My second brief remark concerns sight more than voyeurism. Hamon's readability presupposes conformity of the text and the cultural extratext to what is alreadysaid.35But Le Voyeur,in a striking manner, constructs its readability by deconstructing it: whatever the question concerns-literary genre (p. 167), style (p. 50), reading code (p. 144), or interpretation (p. 40)-the narrative always replies by way of nonresponse, since literary genre, style, reading code, and interpretation all arise in Le Voyeur from the undescribed and therefore (still?) unformulable. Robbe-Grillet is surely blocking holes with emptiness, repragmatizing fiction in order to depragmatize even more radically,3 puncturing flat parts of the text until the work resembles a sieve (see pp. 54 ff.)-i.e., an instrumentwith holes.37 The moral of the tale is that only a perforated text lends itself to reading. The amended version of my thesis is that the ambiguous tool, mise en abyme, permits us to fill in "blanks" when abundant, form them when scarce, or hollow them out by filling them. The latter procedure occurs in Le Voyeur,where mise en abymeunites the threads and interstices, the readability and the unreadability of the text-lace, constantly seeking to ensure for the reading a kind of self-regulation. At this point, a general law or at least a working hypothesis can perhaps be deduced from our analysis: rebalancing is achieved by inverting the reception programmed into the initial narrative. If the latter calls for a quasi-pragmatic reception, miseen abymeclears the way for self-reflexive reception and permits us to take account of the text in its materiality. If, on the other hand, self-reflexive reception predominates, mise en abymereestablishes quasi-pragmatic reception and the powers of the imaginary.38 In other words, mise en abymesuddenly appears as the opposite of the dominant reception and as such is unsurpassed as a means of bringing contradiction into the heart of reading activity.
UNIVERSITY OF GENEVA

(Translated by Annette Tomarken)

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1 Michel Charles's fine book-Rhitorique de la lecture(Paris, 1977)-is not the only sign of the change of direction in theory currently taking place. Other converging signs of this "change of paradigm" are the numerous colloquia and journal issues devoted to reading; the availability in France, thanks to the translation of H. R. Jauss's "prode grammatic" writings, of the research of the Constance school (see Pour une esthetique la reception, pref. Jean Starobinski [Paris, 1978]); and the spectacular conversion of Jakobsonian poetics of significance into pragmatics, the problems of enunciation and "transtextuality" (Gerard Genette). 2 Recognizable here are the conceptions of mise en abymeformulated by Andre Gide, B. Morrissette, Jean Ricardou, and myself, respectively. For a discussion of these conceptions, see my Recit speculaire (Paris, 1977). 3 It must not be forgotten that the theory of reflexivity is one of the claims to glory and, no doubt, chief battlehorses of the early German Romantics. See my Recit speculaire, Appendix 2, and the texts of Friedrich Schlegel and Novalis commented on by P. Lacoue-Labarthe and J.-L. Nancy in L'Absolulitteraire (Paris, 1978). 4 Gide, Journal 1889-1939 (Paris, 1948), p. 41. 5 We must attend carefully to this "pleasure of the text"-established as an important issue by Roland Barthes and H. R. Jauss, Kleine Apologieder dsthetischen Erfahrung (ConHermeneutik stance, 1972), and further developed in Asthetische Erfahrung und literarische I (Munich, 1977)-and show under what conditions mise en abyme contributes to or detracts from the pleasure of the text. 6 Cf. Roman Ingarden, Vom Erkennen des literarischen Kunstwerkes (Tubingen, 1968)-in English, The Cognition of the Literary Work of Art, tr. Ruth Ann Crowley and Kenneth R. Olson (Evanston, Ill., 1973)-and Wolfgang Iser, Der Akt des Lesens (Munich, 1976)-in English, The Act of Reading (Baltimore, 1978). For an analytical conception of this reciprocal involvement of the said and the unsaid, see the new book by Vincent Descombes, L'Inconscient malgre lui (Paris, 1977), which deals with the logic of the secret. 7 Iser, Der Akt des Lesens, pp. 280 ff. 8 Philippe Hamon, "Texte litteraire et metalangage," Poetique, 31 (1977), 264. 9 Contrary to Searle, for whom, as is well known, the fictional statement is a fundamentally "empty" and "parasitic" language, Rainer Warning demonstrates that the fictional text not only contains an actual pragmatic relation, but is inconceivable theoretically without such a relation. See Warning, "Rezeptionsasthetik als literaturwissenschaftliche Pragmatik," in Rezeptionsisthetik,ed. Warning (Munich, 1975), pp. 10-39; and Warning, "La Relation pragmatique du discours litteraire," Poetique, 39 (1979), 321-37. For a radical critique of Searle's arguments, see Jacques Derrida, "Signature evenement contexte," in Marges de la philosophie(Paris, 1972), pp. 365-93; and Derrida, LimitedInc., supplement to Glyph 2 (Baltimore and London, 1977). 10 See Iser, Der Akt des Lesens, pp. 284 ff. 11 Hamon, "Un Discours contraint," Poetique, 16 (1973), 422 ff.; and "Note sur les notions de norme et de lisibilite en stylistique," Litterature, 14 (1974), 118 ff. 12 See Iser, Die Appelstrukturder Texte (Constance, 1970), and Der Akt des Lesens, in which Henry James's "The Figure in the Carpet" functions as an apologue for reading. 13 In Le Plaisir du texte (Paris, 1973), Barthes refers to "the space between two edges, the interstice of bliss [jouissance]" 23). He goes on: "Surely the most erotic part of the (p. body is the place at which the garmentfalls open? In perversion (the area of textual pleasure) there are no 'erogenous zones' (a tedious expression, in any case): as psychoanalysis claims, it is intermittence that is erotic-the glimpse of bare skin between

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two articles of clothing (trousers and sweater), between two edges (open-necked shirt, the glove and sleeve). This gleam of flesh is what seduces, or rather, the staging of an appearance-disappearance" (p. 19). [This translation is mine, not that of Richard Miller (London, 1975). I have, however, adopted Miller's term "bliss" for jouissance. Tr.] 14 Except in very modern texts, which work with and thematize the blanks. 15 Karlheinz Stierle, "Was heisst Rezeption bei fiktionalen Texten?" Poetica (1975), p. 348. 16 A letter of 22 July 1852, in OeuvresCompletes GustaveFlaubert, XIII (Paris, 1974), de 222-24. Cf. Ingarden, VomErkennen, pp. 146 ff. 17 These "signals" (Harald Weinrich) have been reviewed and analyzed by Hamon in "Texte litt6raire et m6talangage." 18 Hamon, "Texte litt6raire et m6talangage," pp. 264 ff. 19 See Alain Robbe-Grillet, Le Voyeur(Paris, 1955), pp. 19 ff. and 22, hereafter cited in text, and Pour un nouveau roman (Paris, 1963), pp. 175 ff. (the "drawing" of the sea gull). We know that Robbe-Grillet, in his books as in his films, deliberately confuses us about the author's stages of narration and representation. On this perturbation of the reading and on the doubling of the novelist, see my study, "Faux portraits de personne," in Robbe-Grillet(Paris, 1976), I, 108-30. 20 J. Ricardou, "L'Histoire dans l'histoire," in Problemes du nouveau roman (Paris, 1967), p. 183. 21 Robbe-Grillet, Nouveau roman: hier, aujourd'hui (Paris, 1972), I, 143. 22 See my study, "'L'Oeuvre dans l'oeuvre' chez Zola," in Le Naturalisme (Paris, 1978), pp. 125-39. 23 Given what we know about reading, we recognize here the strategic point at which we need to balance the prospective horizons of expectation and the recapitulating resum6s, or, better yet, to base the former on the latter. 24 The Zola novel is exemplary here (see n. 22). Haunted by the desire to achieve a strictly communicative language act, Zola finds in miseen abymethe most effective means of removing ambiguity from his message and of attaining transparency. But the cost of the operation is high: the more his novel eliminates ambiguity by mirror-doublings, the more it closes in upon itself, destroying its connection with the world. So much for the naturalist objective "screen" or "window"! 25 Stierle, "Was heisst Rezeption?" pp. 367 ff. 26 See S. Gablick, Magritte, 3rd ed. (London, 1972), pp. 75-101: "The 'paintingwithin-a-painting' theme is a stunning contraposition to the Renaissance concept of painting as a 'window on reality"' (p. 96). On this breaking of the illusion, see also E. H. Gombrich's classic work, L'Art et l'illusion, tr. G. Durand (Paris, 1971), p. 261-in English, Art and Illusion (London and New York, 1960). 27 Quasi-pragmatic reception, represented by the hero of Don Quixote, supports this view: would the illusion and identification of the novel reader be tenable if romans de chevalerie were self-reflecting after the manner of Don Quixote? 28 Stephane Mallarm6, Poems, tr. Roger Fry (New York, 1937), pp. 186-89: SES purs ongles tres haut d6diant leur onyx L'Angoisse, ce minuit, soutient, lampadophore, Maint reve vesp6ral bruil par le Ph6nix Que ne recueille pas de cin6raire amphore Sur les credences, au salon vide: nul ptyx, Aboli bibelot d'inanit6 sonore (Car le Maitre est alle puiser des pleurs au Styx Avec ce seul objet dont le N6ant s'honore.)

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Mais proche la croisee au nord vacante, un or Agonise selon peut-etre le decor Des licornes ruant du feu contre une nixe, Elle, d6funte nue en le miroir, encor Que, dans l'oubli ferme par le cadre, se fixe De scintillations sitot le septuor.
HER pure nails very high dedicating their onyx, Anguish, this midnight, upholds, the lampbearer, Many vesperal dreams by the Phenix burnt That are not gathered up in the funeral urn On the credences, in the empty room: no ptyx, Abolished bibelot of sounding inanity (For the Master is gone to draw tears from the Styx With this sole object which Nothingness honours.) But near the window void Northwards, a gold Dies down composing perhaps a decor Of unicorns kicking sparks at a nixey, She, nude and defunct in the mirror, while yet, In the oblivion closed by the frame there appears Of scintillations at once the septet.

29 Mallarme, "Quant au livre," in Oeuvres completes(Paris, 1965), p. 372. 30 Mallarm6, Oeuvres completes,p. 1489. 31 In this regard it is significant that, in order to palliate the obscurity of texts offering too great a resistance, the reader introduces, as he sees fit, misesen abyme,and that, conversely, certain new Nouveaux Romans abandon or renew the procedure once it becomes codified or threatens to become exaggeratedly metalinguistic. 32 See Robbe-Grillet's statements in Robbe-Grillet, II, 194 ff., and 0. Bernal's interpretation, Alain Robbe-Grillet:le roman de l'absence(Paris, 1964). 33 For example, compare the description of a given object in Instantanes to that of the gas lamp, in which repetition and interplay of signifiers (collerette,decoupe, anneau) reinforce the obsessional reading set up by the mises en abyme. 34 Here the structural linking activity of reading can only fantasize to the extent allowed by the textual strategy, which invariably signals by a warning and/or a repetition the elements to be selected and linked together in the course of constructing the meaning. The first appearance of the sign of the figure 8 (Le Voyeur, p. 16) and its thematic modulation throughout the novel provide a particularly clear example of this technique. 35 See n. 11. 36 The reader will notice that Le Voyeuritself thematizes the fundamental ambiguity of its reading by simultaneously valorizing and disqualifying a quasi-pragmatic reception which toys with the imaginary and a structural reception which focuses only on literality. Ostentatiously empty or contradictory, the indications which would permit us to determine the pragmatic status of the text are here set up in such a way as to challenge the reader to reconstruct a univocal enunciation situation. He is thereby thrust defenseless into a double bind, caught between two readings calling for and contesting one another. The resulting confusion is, moreover, reflected in the narrative on several occasions: "he could hardly abandon his hosts so abruptly, without even knowing if the meal was over. The complete lack of form at the meal once again

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prevented the traveler from knowing how to handle his own situation. There again he found himself in the position of being powerless to act according to any rule which he could remember afterwards and use to make his behavior necessary or, if need be, defensible" (p. 144). 37 Another metaphor for the text corroborating the above is the newspaper article burnt through by Mathias's cigarette (pp. 236 ff.). 38 In other words, it seems to me possible to extend to the process of reception the law, formulated by Jean Ricardou, according to which "every mise en abymecontradicts the overall functioning of the text containing it" (LeNouveau roman [Paris, 1973], p. 73).