In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Book Reviews (demonstrating an alternative to current practices) are the several suggestions the authors make regarding topics for future research. Whatever the interest might be of the two sam­ ple readings offered here (Brunette on Truffaut’s [“ true//awr” ] The Bride Wore Black, and Wills on Lynch’s Blue Velvet), the implication is that deconstruction in film studies will not repeat the formalist close reading manifested in “ Yale School” literary criticism. Rather, it will operate at the level of institutions, beginning with the “ institutions that determine and restrict” the reading of film. Whether or not this new area of research makes good on its promise of radicality will depend on its ability to translate into practice the insight that deconstruction is a written reading, a double science. G regory L. U lmer University o f Florida Warren Motte. O ulipo : A P rimer of P otential L iterature. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1986. Pp. 209. In many respects the literary production of much of the twentieth century, from Surrealism to Tel Quel, can be seen as an attempt to free literature from the burden of the heritage of Romanticism with its glorification of inspiration, its quest for forms free from constraint and a language capable of expressing the writer’s innermost being. And yet, in the final analysis, many of these movements—surrealism being perhaps the most blatant example—reformulated several of the basic tenets of the history with which they are trying to break, and reinscribed romanticism into the twentieth century. From its inception in 1960, the authors and thinkers of the Ouvoir de littérature poten­ tielle have displayed not only a strong desire to escape from the romantic “ trap” of inspira­ tion, but also an acute awareness of its disguises and the ruses of redefinition. They have espoused formal constraint as a means for attaining literary freedom, and, rather than breaking with history, they have made every effort to underscore their ties with a literary tradition which stretches back to the Grands Rhétoriqueurs of the late fifteenth century and beyond. Over the last few years, the writings of the Oulipo group have become more familiar to the American public. Works by Queneau, Perec, and Calvino have been translated and much appreciated by the general, literate public, and an American member of the group, Henry Mathews, recently published a novel in English entitled Cigarettes. This broad acceptance makes Warren Motte’s fine translations of a selection of theoretical treatises and articles all the more significant. His “ primer” includes a concise and helpful introduc­ tion, a set of well-chosen texts describing the history, the fundamental goals and orienta­ tions of the Oulipo group, a sampling of some of the Oulipian techniques of composition, and a bibliography of works published by members of Oulipo. Both the introduction and the texts emphasize the intentional, voluntary nature of con­ straint, the use of combinatorics to free literary production from what the Oulipians con­ sider to be the double trap of enslavement to pure chance and the workings of the uncon­ scious. As one reads through this collection of essays, it becomes apparent that the prob­ lematics of borders and limits constitute a central question in Oulipian poetics. In almost all cases the lines of delimitation and demarcation established in the nineteenth century and continued in the twentieth are blurred in the name of renewed poetic creation. Thus, as we have already seen, the opposition between freedom and constraint is overthrown in a way that makes constraint a condition of freedom. The same can be said for the opposition between tradition and innovation which is cast aside with a smile as the Oulipians go back VOL. XXX, NO. 2 113 L ’E sprit C réateur in time to discover “ plagiarists by anticipation.” The rules and forms of game-playing lead to a breakdown of the value-laden distinctions between the serious and the non-serious. But the most fundamental questioning does not just attack the boundaries between text and non-text, it displaces the traditional meaning of literary creation to emphasize the artificial, formalistic nature of creating rather than the product created. Whence the impor­ tance of...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 113-114
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.