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  • Le Concept de littérarité: critique de la métalittérature
  • Patrick Crowley
Le Concept de littérarité: critique de la métalittérature. By Mircea Marghescou. Revised edition. Paris: Éditions Kimé, 2009. 180 pp. Pb €20.00.

This is a new edition of a book originally published in 1974 and largely neglected ever since. In his preface Jean-Louis Dufays is keen to say why: Marghescou's emphasis on the reader's construction of meaning did not chime with the structuralist fashions of the time. There might be more to it than that. Certainly, Marghescou's concept of littérarité is diametrically opposed to that of Roman Jakobson, but his emphasis on the reader has little in common with the almost contemporaneous works of Hans Robert Jauss and Wolfgang Iser. In fact Marghescou's reader appears as a conduit of ideas beyond literature that Marghescou, in his limpid prose, communicates. The primary thesis is that meaning is fragile and is constructed according to the 'régime du texte', the interpretative strategy, if you like, employed by the reader. For example, a text can be read referentially, but its literary value resides in a movement away from the referential and into the symbolic. The symbolic 'régime du texte' serves as a guiding channel for the reader's interpretation, which, whether the subject of enquiry within the text is character, time, space, objects, action, or experience, has the potential to awaken human consciousness to itself. This synchronic conception of literature as a medium of meaning beyond itself is then extended into the past, where it involves two approaches. The first, Marghescou contends, can be called a semantic archaeology (after Foucault), and its object is to understand a literary text in terms of when it was first produced and read. The second is a history of semantics, which attempts to understand artistic objects as they move from one dominant 'régime du texte' to another. Marghescou's argument appears to advocate a form of hermeneutics akin to that proposed by Hans-Georg Gadamer, namely the need to understand the text within its historical moment of enunciation. Not so. Marghescou identifies three regimes that determined meaning over time: the mythical, the realistic, and the aesthetic. The primary text used to illustrate the argument is the Bible, and Christ is presented as the hero that represents the West. Where the mythical regime privileged symbolic modes of reading that led to self-awareness, it gave way to the realistic regime when Luther replaced 'la lecture symbolique du récit évangélique par la lecture immédiate, réaliste et historique' (p. 156). The aesthetic regime is synonymous with modernism and privileges art for art's sake. It is the dominant regime today and, argues Marghescou, 'ne peut plus conduire à une prise de possession de soi et reste aujourd'hui aussi enthousiasmante que décevante' (p. 163). Marghescou's world is sincerely presented. It is a Christian version of Plato's cave, where the reader should [End Page 521] heed as much as read the signs that appear. This is a world of transhistorical objects that give uncertain expression to a human desire to create and to the reader's need to understand the self through something beyond it. It is a book that isn't quite at home within conventional literary studies.

Patrick Crowley
University College Cork


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pp. 521-522
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