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Reviews155 practice. She lets her clients show her the way (methodos) as critical theorists more often should their students. Hiroshima UniversityC. S. Schreiner Narrative as Theme: Studies in French Fiction, by Gerald Prince; ? & 161 pp. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992, $25.00. Gerald Prince, probably the foremost American narratologist, presents here a series of studies of considerable scope, with theoretical and practical aspects. Three introductory chapters deal with general issues. One of these concerns the definition of "theme" and what it means to elicit a theme from a text ("to theme" in Prince's terms); another makes a case for considering the theme of narrative itself a privileged theme or at least one that is often mentioned, and a third (perhaps less integrated into the volume as a whole than the other chapters) sets up the narratological category of "disnarration." Disnarration, distinguished sharply from the nonnarrated and the nonnarratable, is the negative or hypothetical narration ofevents, as opposed to events which are claimed to happen, in whatever sense events "happen" in fiction. The disnarrated has a special connection to the theme of narrative through its foregrounding of alternated narrative paths which are abandoned (the example of unfulfilled dreams in Madame Bovary seems especially compelling). In seven subsequent chapters Prince describes seven French novels that in some major way are about narrative. These novels are presented in chronological order over exacdy three hundred years from Lafayette's La Princesse de Clèves (1678) to Patrick Modiano's Rue des boutiques obscures (1978). Despite the chronological presentation, Narrative as Theme does not argue for an evolution of ideas about narrative, and this refusal to make a tidy reductive synthesis is a strength of Prince's work. Instead of evolution, Prince allows us to see the way narrative has repeatedly been a problem for the very writers whose novels have formed what could be called the canon. Lafayette's novel not only makes the use and transmission of narratives within the world of the story a cause of puzzlement and even death (the heroine's husband dies because of an incomplete narrative for which the procedures of receptive completion turn out to be inapplicable in this case), but the text as a whole, La Princesse de Clèves, is presented as of doubtful didactic utility because of its singular, inimitablequality . Therefore, the paradigm ofthe "modern" French novel already contains the contestation that is so evident in the three most recent narratives 156Philosophy and Literature Prince discusses, by Sartre (La Nausée), Simon (La Route des Flandres), and Modiano . A surprising aspect of Prince's work is the degree to which thematic study hinges on brilliant observation of minute grammatical features. In his chapter on Voltaire's Candide, the critic shows the interplay between competing narratives that are constructed out of the same events. The philosopher Pangloss, the naïve Candide, and the primary narrator (Dr. Ralph or the "translator"?) are all engaged in explaining what happens. Prince analyzes in detail the explanatory clauses and the conjunctions that introduce them to show differences in the principles and scope of the explanatory systems. Similarly, for Simon's novel, Prince shows that among the "repair terms" with which the narrator adjusts and corrects what has been told, c'est-à-dire ("that is to say") is privileged as marker of an indeterminate voice, formulator of a "ruptured discourse" in which the possibilities of historical narration are severely limited and criticized. Although about half of the studies collected here have appeared in some other form, Narrative as tteme is a unified, readable work in which the juxtaposition of narratives over three centuries leads to intriguing comparative possibilities . Prince's simple, pragmatic, and convincing definition of the "theme" (as opposed to topic and plot) is useful and his applications of this concept are exemplary. University of VirginiaJohn D. Lyons Conditions Handsome and Unhandsome: The Constitution of Emersonian Perfectionism, by Stanley Cavell; xxxix & 151 pp. Chicago: UniversityofChicago Press, 1990, $10.95. Stanley Cavell says early on what he means by perfectionism, an uncommon word in philosophical discussions ofethics these days, even though many words are being said by people who are still in the prewithdrawal stage of their ethics habit. "Perfectionism...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 155-156
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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