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Introduction S CATTERED THROUGHOUT the literary canon, and with in­ creasing frequency in contemporary texts, imaginary libraries have once more begun to arouse the strong interest of literary historians and theorists. Already in the nineteenth century, the historian and bib­ liognost Paul Lacroix, better known as “ le bibliophile Jacob,” published a study of Rabelais’ catalogue of “ La bibliothèque de St Victor” (Paris: Techener, 1862)—surely the most well-known example of an imaginary collection—in which he painstakingly traced the source materials Rabelais exploited for his satirical portrayal of erudition. Of equal inter­ est in the same volume is the lengthy appended essay in which Gustave Brunet enumerates instances of this curious fictional phenomenon. One of the most arresting and revealing examples Brunet reproduces is the catalogue of the holdings of the Comte de Fortsas, an aristocrat who allowed into his library only those books of which a single copy—his own —was known to exist. If he chanced to learn of the existence of another copy of a book he possessed, he immediately banished the work from his shelves, often by destroying it. Upon his death, the news that his books, though few in number, were to be sold at auction sent excited waves throughout the Parisian book world. A catalogue was issued. Speculative fever ran high. On the day of the sale it was discovered that the Comte de Fortsas had never existed, and that his library was nothing more—or less —than what, in his celebrated bibliographical reference work, Quérard designated a “ supercherie littéraire.” Today again the book as object and the library as storehouse of learn­ ing raise important thematic and theoretical questions for the study of fiction. Brunet’s recounting of l’affaire Fortsas, beyond its anecdotal interest, points to the imaginary library as the supremely emblematic and enigmatic locus of questions of textual origins, strategies and authority. “ La bibliothèque imaginaire ne peut être décrite,” notes Michel Charles in an important article entitled “ Bibliothèques” (Poétique, 33, fév. 1978), “ on l’entrevoit à travers les propos du lecteur, de l’écrivain, du théoricien, mais cela reste une perception confuse” (27). Perhaps a jum ­ bled perception is an inevitable, even desirable feature of this topos-, in any case, it is not our intent here to clarify by description or definition what an Imaginary Library might be, though we do suggest where one might go to find several examples. Vo l. XXVIII, N o . 1 5 L ’E s pr it C réa te u r We begin, tradition oblige, with Rabelais and Montaigne. Fred Nichôls delves into the analogies between the imaginary books and the untold tales of the Rabelaisian corpus, and evolves a theory of the generation/obliteration of texts. Tom Conley, recalling the source of autobiography in the subject writing in his library, examines the per­ mutations and surprises, toutes sorties d ’une boîte, in “ De trois com­ merces” (Essais, III, iii). Lisa Gasbarrone discerns in Rousseau’s botanical specimen books an inscription of the problematics of the text of nature, and of the nature of texts. By chance rather than design, though not inappropriately, the nineteenth century figures prominently in this issue. Michele Hannoosh examines the structure of Baudelaire’s La Fanfarlo, finding a key to its articulation in Samuel Cramer’s life lived by the book. Sarah Webster Goodwin, invoking Flaubert’s unstable binary oppositions, uses books and reading to explore the problem of Kitsch and gender in Madame Bovary. Julia Przybos revisits the library of Des Esseintes in Huysmans’ A Rebours and discovers there a bakhtinian ehronotope. She uses the inversion of time and space in the livre-bibliothèque to reassess decadent poetics. For Arthur Evans, the library is the inevitable companion of the Vernian voyage extraordinaire. His essay examines the ideological and narratological implications of the library as vademecum. The relationship of books to power in the form of secret knowledge has always implied for the library an occult dimension. The final two essays in this volume turn to the illuminist and occultist traditions, in Villiers de l’lsle-Adam and in fhe québécois novelist Yves Beauchemin...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 5-6
Launched on MUSE
2017-07-05
Open Access
No
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