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GER 494/598; ENG 494/549; HUM 494
Spring 2003, Daniel Gilfillan

Discussion Threads: Alain Robbe-Grillet

  1. Djinn is a shocking departure from any novel I've read. I am intrigued by the idea of writerly text. According to Barthes, “The writerly text is ourselves writing, before the infinite play of the world (the world as function) is traversed, intersected, stopped, plasticized by some singular system (Ideology, Genus, Criticism) which reduces the plurality of entrances, the opening of networks, the infinity of languages.”

    The writerly text says a reader approaches a text that is free from the bonds of any one idea or ideology and puts his/her own meanings on the text. But this is my frustration:

    1. If we, the readers of writerly texts are actually the authors of the novel, don’t we, in our own authorship, project on the text our personal systems, our own ideologies and own worldview?
    2. If this is the case, what do we gain from transferring the writing of a novel from the author to the reader?

  2. I don't think that it matters if a novel is based in established myth or is part of the genre of "the new novel," we, as readers, will inevitably evaluate the text based on our own notions of how the world works. I believe that it is ludicrous to think that any text can exist without bias. Human nature all but forces us to bring our experiences to the table...rather we are writer or reader.

  3. I don't want to sound absurd, but isn't it this sense of "human nature", a prescribed (undoubtedly by science among other disciplines) view of how we evolve(ed). Do you think that maybe this is the point Robbe-Grillet is making, that we are so entwined within this (archaic? historical?) framework that to break out of it, as he states, we need to redefine the concept of language? In the sense of a rhizomatic structure, what are “our” experiences? I totally understand what you are saying, but the shift it seems these authors and essayists are aiming at it much more deep rooted (as discussed in class) than any concept of literarity as such pre-defined. How do we discuss a text that flies in the face of a defined literary discussion?

  4. Since the method of experiencing text/narrative is through the same means we have experienced all other happenings in our lives, it is impossible not to filter the information into a coherent form we are able to comprehend. However, I think this is limiting to us as readers; this notion of predetermined understanding psychologically limits us. I think it is possible to break out of the shell of previous understanding step by step if only we open ourselves up to the possibility. For instance, Robbe-Grillet certainly made me think about the story/meaning/world is a unique way that will probably influence future reading.

    The key, to me, is that the work made me look at what I already "know" differently. Realities are memories and can be changed by time, by mood, by method of delivery, etc.. Robbe-Grillet succeeded in creating a new reality for me by involving many senses. When Simon/Boris was blind I could feel his sense of touch heighten. I could smell the puddle of red muddy water and the coffee at the cafe. Though he could never achieve ultimate detatchment from known reality, Robbe-Grillet certainly made time stop and pushed my own reality up a notch.

    I thought this was telling of how differently I understood the text than how it was presented to the class on Tuesday. It was so interesting to hear this interpretation because, while mine was similar on many levels, it was also drastically different. For instance, I didn't feel the episodes were versions of the same story, but after the presentation it made me think of that and realities and the different ways to experience those realities.

    While reading it, I thought the episodes were linked into a time-freezing cycle that started on an almost clean slate. Simon/Boris hinted at the familiarity of the situation on many occations. This led me to conclude that realities are simply a replay of the events in history relived through a filter of contemporary understanding. Experiences/outlooks can dramatically alter the occurences - the players are in control.

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