- Le texte littéraire: Pour une approche interdisciplinaire
This coauthored book reflects the fruitful collaboration of the linguist Jean-Michel Adam and the comparatist Ute Heidmann at the University of [End Page 383] Lausanne in Switzerland. Compact and lucidly written, it presents and exemplifies the method of differential comparative analysis that the authors have elaborated over the years. In particular, it provides a useful introduction to their recent study of seventeenth-century French fairy tales, Textualité et intertextualité des contes: Perrault, Apulée, La Fontaine, Lhéritier . . . (2010). Inspired by Bakhtinian dialogism and the discursive turn in the human sciences, Adam and Heidmann's study aims to bridge the divide between linguistics and literary studies. Based on a series of articles published separately, it highlights the fact that each text is produced through complex discursive practices and proposes a dynamic model of literary and cultural history involving constant reinventions, adaptations, and reconfigurations.
In 1971 already, Roland Barthes observed in "From Work to Text" that the prime heuristic value attributed to interdisciplinarity in the human sciences must meet certain demands in order to be truly effective. According to Barthes, interdisciplinary study is not achieved "by simple confrontations between various specialized branches of knowledge," but consists of creating "a new object and a new language" that begins only when the old disciplinary "solidarities" break down.
In keeping with Barthes's injunction, the programmatic introduction synthesizes the authors' joint efforts to challenge the dominant paradigm of their respective disciplines and clarifies the theoretical and methodological principles adopted in the study. The authors explain their choice of reintroducing the sociohistorical context, editorial history, and material conditions of textual production evacuated by linguistic studies and engages with issues of textuality and narrative that are often neglected by cultural and comparative studies.
The six chapters are organ ized around these key methodological principles and conceptual tools. A series of comparative analyses demonstrates the uniqueness of each literary text in the dialogic unfolding of European literary history, from Jean-Pierre Camus, Perrault, the Grimms, and Andersen to Kleist, Baudelaire, and Kafka, who are made to illustrate various aspects of the generic dialogue out of which new writing emerges. The creative process is seen as resulting from a complex interaction with other texts and genres, past and present, but also from the composition and actual making of the book itself, including its editorial history, circulation, and reception in different contexts and cultures, notably in translation. For example, a close comparative reading of Andersen's and the Grimms' versions of "The Princess on the Pea" (or "The Blue Light" in another chapter) elucidates how each text reconfigures the story through linguistic, stylistic, and discursive strategies that change and renew its meaning in subtle but significant ways. This in turn invites the reader to distinguish between the Danish Eventyr and the German Hausmärchen (and, by analogy, the French conte, the Italian fiaba, the En glish fairy tale, etc.) as belonging [End Page 384] to related but distinct cultural, aesthetic, and social contexts. Differential comparison thus allows for a text-based examination of works and genres from a multilingual and cross-cultural perspective and points to the limitations of single disciplinary models and national approaches to literary history.
The most notable contribution of the proposed approach lies in its cutting across traditional aca demic/institutional frontiers in such a way as to question critical commonplaces and challenge the unspoken assumptions that often underlie fairy-tale criticism and folkloristic studies. By privileging difference over similarity and by rigorously documenting linguistic, textual, and generic variations, the authors shed new light on the history of the fairy tale instead of looking for a lost urtext or mythical "tale type." This radically challenges the notion of a universal invariant to which individual tales are conventionally reduced or compared and eschews the hierarchical or normative model that underpins it.
Adam and Heidmann share an interest in genre (or, as they rename it, genericity); draw on Genette's...