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Moving through the Looking-Glass: Deleuzian Reflections on the Series in Mallarmé Dan Edelstein IN THE "IMAGINARY UNIVERSE" OF MALLARMÉ, mirrors occupy a position of choice. Their "speculative" powers, in both the mental and visual sense, enable one of the best-known Mallarméan effects, self-reflection , and also contribute to the feeling of stillness often discerned in his poems. Like the swan stuck by its feathers to a frozen lake, Mallarmé's personal topoi (or thèmes, as J.-P. Richard would say) all seem to be either inanimate—gems, trophies, tombstones, and gold (and gold, gold, gold...)—or stuck in a Sisyphus -like eternal return—boats that sink, dice that tumble, hair that flares up but always in the same way. Tliere is a natural inclination on the part of critics to set the signifying values of these recurrent motifs once and for all: "Le rouge sanglant se lie souvent chez Mallarmé à une violente affirmation chamelle, ce qui donne à toutes les fleurs rouges si fréquentes chez lui, roses, glaïeuls, lotus, une valeur quasi signalétique."' Seldom is the iterative quality of these apparitions questioned. At best, it is considered to denote a mythological mindset; at worst, childish fantasies endlessly repeated.2 Indeed, themes are recognized, but not their variations "sur un sujet," which is always the same, i.e., the Void, the Tomb, the Book... But in this seemingly motionless hall of mirrors are all reflections truly identical? Is nothing made different when one moves through the looking-glass? Carroll's story would have us believe otherwise, as would Deleuze's discussion of the former's work, in The Logic of Sense. Elaborating in tum on this book's key notion, the "series," I will argue that Mallarmé's imagination is in fact far from static. On the contrary, it progresses in a serial fashion, changing the signification of objects as it evolves. Mallarmé's mirrors are most commonly associated with two texts, the "sonnet en -yx" and Igitur. The thematic resemblance' of these two pieces is obvious; on close reading, both seem to act out the same "scene." Along the lines of Mallarmé's argument οι Igitur, I will take these two texts as one, and offer their combined plot summary: a) It is midnight; a memory of evening is evoked in me sonnet ("Maint rêve vespéral"). b) The prevailing feeling is despair, "Angoisse" in the sonnet, "ennui" in Igitur (III, 440).4 If in both texts the setting or context is almost identical, the same holds true for the action: 50 Fall 2000 Edelstein c) Objects vanish into the night ("Aboli bibelot..."//"l'ameublement [...] se tassera en ténèbres comme les tentures," I, 436). d) The subject also disappears (the absent Master of the sonnet//"je vais [...] me dissoudre en moi," II, 439). e) Something is shown at the last moment to remain, or appears (the mirror's frame, the constellation //"le Néant parti, reste le château de la pureté," V, 443). The disclosure of a common drama shared by these texts does not constitute a great discovery, and at first sight would even contradict my initial claim that variety exists in Mallarmé's processes of imagining. An additional criticism would be that such a "common drama" ignores the many differences between these texts: while no clock is featured in the sonnet, it has a central role in Igitur; similarly, if mirrors are present in both cases, they do not reflect the same objects (the "nixe," then the stars/V'Theure," then Igitur himself ["quand je rouvrais les yeux au fond du miroir," II, 441]); finally, Igitur's throw of the dice is missing from the sonnet. This second point could potentially answer the first: if there are differences, then does that not amount to variety? I would argue on the contrary that in the case of Igitur and the "sonnet en -yx," we are nevertheless in the presence of the same theater of imagination. For to Igitur's twelve strokes of midnight correspond the twelve feet of the alexandrin, itself divisible into two times six, the number on each die.5 The subject's reflection in Igitur ("la puret...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 50-60
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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