1991. Nice - Towards an Integrated Theory of Fictional Devices.

By  C.  George  SANDULESCU, Monaco.

[This is the Abstract of a paper submitted to, and then read at,  the World Congress of Narratology, which took place in June 1991 at the University of Nice.]


1.     The Centrality of DEVICE.  For a coherent theory of fiction the concept of Device is as important as the whole range of 'physical' devices resorted to in the recent Gulf War, or the IRA ones in Ireland.

2.     The Non-Devices. Further, the concept of device, properly developed, presupposes a whole range of non-devices to go with it in the formation of a theory; from among them mention should be made of Language (as instrument), of Voice (as recently defined in Monaco by D. Donoghue), and of the Pragmatic Component of Ch. Morris's Theory of Signs; possibly also W. Labov's Narrative Universals.

3.     Text Constitution. The main task of a device-based theory of fiction is that of describing a fictional text in much the same way a linguist -- say generativist, for meticulosity -- describes a given language, or a language subset.

                a.     Text Constitution in James Joyce, esp. within a FW approach, can be contemplated and examined within the boundaries of discourse of the monoglot of his Tetralogy, the common denominators of which are numerous at all levels of organization, though very highly unobtrusive.

                b.     Text Constitution in Samuel Beckett is totally different: it lies in the close correlation between the English version and the French version, whatever the order may be. It is the sum total of devices which are common; to which one should necessarily add the devices that are different. Having a casual look at the typical Beckettian device of the M/W graphematic relationship, it becomes evident upon extensive examination of literary data (within the frame of reference of the super-device of Titling) that the lack of correspondence becomes a form of correspondence.

                            Not only that Beckett writes literary pieces which evince two originals -- this in itself being an author-specific device --, but also these two texts ultimately become one, precisely on account of the very disparities between them at absolutely all levels, ranging from language-specific to genre-specific.

                            Some of Beckett's characteristic devices are being generated by an inter-text -- French-cum-English -- (e. g. How It Is    /    Comment c'est),  rather than by the somewhat simplistic intra-text Joyce-type of 'punning'.  To put it bluntly, in order to KNOW -- in the Beckett sense -- a Beckett text it is not at all sufficient to be familiar with either the French version or the English version: let us call this the entweder oder approach.

                            I hereby advance that one major Beckett device is that it is imperative for the specialist to KNOW, in that special sense (very close to my definition of a FW-type of scrutiny), BOTH the French version AND the English version of the same text in order to obtain the total artistic image that Beckett the Craftsman aimed at (Sans is complementary to Lessness: the latter is in no way a translational replacement).

                        c.     Text Constitution in William Blake -- another Irishman ! -- is very different again, particularly if we choose for scrutiny and reader intake that part of a piece of fiction called The Proverbs of Hell. There, PROVERB becomes a Blake-specific device (anonymous, God-given, God-like . . . ), with Proverb Sequentialization  turning into another Blake-specific device (with opening and closing gambits, and recurrent climaxes);  sequentiality violation leads to text disintegration,  and becomes irrefutable proof of the centrality of Text Constitution for a reasonable fiction-theory.

4.     Conclusion.    A device-focused scrutiny of text constitution from an intake angle, rather than from a genetic one, becomes essential in the elaborate and delicate process of consistently describing fictional phenomena.