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'La litterature de martial': plagiarism as figure in Sade, Lautreamont, Ouologuem, and Sony Labou Tansi.

Le mal rongeur s'etend sur toute la figure ... (1)

Plagiarism is an intertextual literary practice with an abundance of intertexts to its name, not all of them literary. It has a history in legal discourse and its etymologies reveal a violent origin in the real: "PLAGIAT, Delit du plagiaire. Chez les Romains, on appelait plagiaire celui qui etait condamne au fouet (ad plagas) pour avoir vendu comme esclaves des hommes libres.--Dans notre langue, cette qualification s'applique a l'auteur qui s'approprie les pensees d'autrui." (2)

Within literary discourse, scenes of real, Oedipal violence have been figured by plagiarism: "Plagiarism is kidnapping. A false fatherhood. The OED points to the Latin plagiarus, 'one who abducts the child or slave of another'"; "Ainsi, pour l'homme, le plagiat est perversion: il equivaut a une relation incestueuse avec la mere." (3)

The figural power of plagiarism is a power to name something other than itself. In this article that other thing is writing, restrictively figured as violent, gendered, and historicized by my taking "Sadian" writers as exemplars. My first suggestion is that plagiarism is an appropriate figure of intertextual relations that are characterized by violence.

The figurality of plagiarism originates in an elaborate mise-en-scene of the legal question by the Latin poet Martiah4 "Ie te recommande nos Livres, Quinctianus, si toutesfois ie puis dire nostres ceux que ton Poete recite. Si une servitude trop pesante leur donne sujet de se plaindre, vien procurer leur liberte, (5) & ne leur denie point le secours suffisant: Et quand il voudra s'en rendre le maistre, repons qu'ils m'appartiennent, & et que ie les ay affranchis. Que si tu maintiens cela fortement trois & quatre fois, tu feras recevoir au Plagiaire (6) une grande confusion."

Martial is representing the court of law where his books, as manumitted slaves illicitly re-enslaved, would have to claim their freedom by the agency of a third party (here, the friend to whom the poem is addressed) since they would not, if shown to be slaves, have had the right to speak for themselves. Though the book-as-slave figure had a certain currency in first-century poetry, Martial's book-stealer as slave-stealer is unique in classical Latin. (7) The originating scene complicates plagiarism as literary figure since the plagiarist's crime is not simply to have alienated the property of another, but specifically to have alienated the freedom of the text. Furthermore, as an abducted ex-slave, victim of an original abduction by the first master (Martial), the text is implicated in a founding (or confounding (8)) history of appropriation and reappropriation. Thus the story of the first text to be figured by plagiarism is already a story of recurring violence.

If the association of literary plagiarism with literal abduction seems remote, Suzanne Guerlac, writing of Victor Hugo's L'Homme qui rit (where "a child is kidnapped and disfigured by a band of gypsies who have cut his mouth from ear to ear"), has shown how the child-stealer's crime can derive mythic power from the speaking of its proper and resonantly literary name: the mutilation of the child Gwynplaine by Harquenonne is called a work of art, and Harquenonne is hanged for it "as a plagiarist". (9)

The OED's alternative specifications of the plagiarist's crime--child or slave stealer--are actualized in these scenes from Martial and Hugo, though Martial's slave is not actually but only figuratively stolen, and shame is the only punishment imposed. With the arch-plagiarist Isidore Ducasse, Comte de Lautreamont, we are still speaking in figures: the "mutilation" of Hugo's poem "Tristesse d'Olympio", abducted by Ducasse and put to work in his Poesies, if it rivals Harquenonne for "artistry", is not actually violent, and if it is deemed that the crime nonetheless deserves punishment, this too need only be figurative. (10)

Actually punitive measures are, on occasion, imposed for literary crimes, for instance when Yambo Ouologuem's Le devoir de violence was withdrawn from circulation on the discovery of his plagiarisms. Such a crime and such a punishment make this text exemplary for my case here. Its very first sentence clearly illuminates a discussion of intertextuality and violence:
   Nos yeux boivent l'eclat du soleil, et, vaincus, s'etonnent de
   pleurer.


These words have a pretext in Andre Schwarz-Bart's holocaust-fiction, Le Dernier des Justes:
   Nos yeux recoivent la lumiere d'etoiles mortes. (11)


Though Ouologuem is a notorious plagiarist, and Schwarz-Bart is, notoriously, his willing victim, (12) the violence done here by one text to another is not the "delit du plagiaire" defined in Bouillet's dictionary, so deserving of violence in its turn. Ouologuem is using the proximity of his text to the other in order to construct a difference between the situations of the communities represented in each. The exclusively communal first-person subject--we who receive this light, not you the reader--in Schwarz-Bart's opening sentence figures a temporal community, formed through succession. The uninterrupted passage of light through time is influence idealized as tradition. It is a tradition of suffering and death, but influence is, as Harold Bloom insists, "Influenza-an astral disease". (13) In his own chronicle of holocaust, on the other hand, Ouologuem's appropriative opening sentence can figure neither time-honoured tradition nora community able to receive its influence. The sun's splendour is immediate and atemporal; Ouologuem's Africans cannot be as "receptive" as Schwarz-Bart's Jews, they have to metaphorize light into water and transfigure it (astonishedly) into tears. The vanquished communality of the first-person plural here gives way immediately to a babel of intertexts, the poly-vocality (14) of a "community" constructed out of writing (from Schwarz-Bart, the Quran, C. H. Kane, and Cesaire, among others). (15)

There is the familiar prospect here of opposing influence and intertextuality, and if I begin to repeat that exercise, it is to situate the violence of plagiarism within that opposition, even if plagiarism turns out to be no more than a more or less appropriate figure of one or the other notion. Bloom theorizes influence as a relation between texts, but enough of his own figurations derive from "agonistic" relations between subjects for a figure of inter-subjective violence such as plagiarism to serve. Intertextuality, in Julia Kristeva's construction of it, displaces such intersubjectivity: "Tout texte se construit comme un mosaique de citations, tout texte est absorption et transformation d'un autre texte. A la place de la notion d'intersubjectivite s'installe celle d'intertextualite ..." (16) There are violent and non-violent figurations here. The "absorption" and "transformation" of texts is a violence done to them, and there is metatextual violence in "installing" intertextuality in the place of intersubjectivity; plagiarism belongs among such ratios. On the other hand, mosaic-making and interweaving (tesselation and intertexting) are non-linear and benign constructions promising a future of peaceful relations between texts; (17) in such a future, it would seem, there is no place for plagiarism.

These future things are not yet fulfilled, however, and realizing a non-violent intertextual utopia may mean foregoing more than the pleasure of figurations through plagiarism. For example, Kristeva's common recourse to a language of appropriation would have to go. (18) Furthermore, quite acceptable ways of abandoning the literary past--revising the history and reforming the canons--can demand of their practitioners a figuratively violent disposition, especially when the history to be rewritten is a history of violence. On the understanding that the pleasures of the texts to be represented are relative and momentary, this attempt to situate plagiarism as figure uses one such history to present a particularly violent intertext.

Literary history need not be as punctual as, for instance, Denis Hollier's representation of it suggests, (19) but I shall take three points from the literary history of France to stand here for the whole. They represent, at the very least, the continuity of a certain tradition within French letters. These points are marked by texts, the first from 1768:
   [Il] luy a dit de se deshabiller qu'elle luy demanda pourquoy, il
   luy repondit que c'etoit pour s'amuser, que luy aiant represente
   que ce n'etoit pas pour cela qu'il l'avoit fait venir, il lui dit
   que si elle ne se deshabilloit pas, il la tueroit et l'enterreroit
   luy meme, qu'etant ressorti et l'aiant laissee seule, elle s'est
   deshabillee, elle ne l'etoit pas encore entierement lors qu'il est
   revenu et luy aiant encor trouve sa chemise, il luy dit qu'il
   falloit aussy l'oter, a quoy aiant repondu qu'elle mourreroit
   plutot, il a luy meme arrache ladite chemise en la faisant sortir
   pardessus la tete de la deposante, apres quoy il ra conduit dans
   une autre chambre aupres de celle la dans le milieu de la quelle il
   y avoit un lit de repos d'Indienne rouge a tache blanche, l'a
   jettee sur ledit lit sur le ventre, l'a lie par les quatre members
   et par le milieu du corps avec des cordes de chanvre, luy a mis un
   traversin sur le col, ... Qu'etant attache sur le lit il a pris une
   poignee de verges avec la quelle il l'a fouettee luy a fait
   differentes incisions avec un petit couteau ou canif, a coulle de
   la cire rouge et de la cire blanche en plus grande quantite sur ces
   playes apres quoy il a recommence a la fouetter, faire des
   incisions et couller de la cire, tous lesquels mauvais traitements
   il a reitere jusqu'a sept a huit fois. Que la deposante aiant crie
   lors de ces mauvais traitements il luy a montre un couteau, et l'a
   menace, si elle crioit de la tuer et de l'enterrer luy meme comme
   elle nous l'a deja dit, qu'alors elle a cesse de crier. Ajoutte
   qu'a chaque reprise qu'il lui donnoit des coups de verges, il luy
   donnoit aussi des coups de baton. Qu'au milieu de ses tourments la
   deposante luy avoit fait differentes representations, et l'avoit
   prie de ne pas la faire mourir parcequ'elle n'avoit pas fait ses
   paques, a quoy il avoit repondu qu'il la confesseroit luy meme ...;
   que luy aiant fait en cor d'autres representations, il s'est mis a
   jetter des cris tres hauts et tres effraiants ... (20)


The second is from 1868:
   Maldoror passait avec son bouledogue; il voit une jeune fille qui
   dort a l'ombre d'un platane, et il la prit d'abord pour une rose.
   On ne peut dire qui s'eleva le plus tot dans son esprit, ou la vue
   de cette enfant, ou la resolution qui en fut la suite. Il se
   deshabille rapidement, comme un homme qui sait ce qu'il va faire.
   Nu comme une pierre, il s'est jete sur le corps de la jeune fille,
   et lui a leve la robe pour lui commettre un attentat a la pudeur
   ... a la clarte du soleil! Il ne se genera pas, allez!...
   N'insistons pas sur cette action impure. L'esprit mecontent, il se
   rhabille avec precipitation, jette un regard de prudence sur la
   route poudreuse, ou personne ne chemine, et ordonne au bouledogue
   d'etrangler avec le mouvement de ses machoires, la jeune fille
   ensanglantee. Il indique au chien de la montagne la place ou
   respire et hurle la victime souffrante, et se retire a l'ecart,
   pour ne pas etre temoin de la rentree des dents pointues dans les
   veines roses. L'accomplissement de cet ordre put paraitre severe au
   bouledogue. Il crut qu'on lui demanda ce qui avait ete deja fait,
   et se contenta, ce loup, au muffle monstrueux, de violer a son tour
   la virginite de cette enfant delicate. De son ventre dechire, le
   sang coule de nouveau le long de ses jambes, a travers la prairie.
   Ses gemissements se joignent aux pleurs de l'animal. La jeune fille
   lui presente la croix d'or qui ornait son cou, afin qu'il l'epargne;
   elle n'avait pas ose la presenter aux yeux farouches de celui qui,
   d'abord, avait eu la pensee de profiter de la faiblesse de son age.
   Mais le chien n'ignorait pas que, s'il desobeissait a son maitre,
   un couteau lance de dessous une manche, ouvrirait brusquement ses
   entrailles, sans crier gare. Maldoror (comme ce nom repugne a
   prononcer!) entendait les agonies de la douleur, et s'etonnait que
   la victime eut la vie si dure, pour ne pas etre encore morte. Il
   s'approche de l'autel sacrificatoire, et voit la conduite de son
   bouledogue, livre a de bas penchants, et qui elevait sa tete
   audessus de la jeune fille, comme un naufrage eleve la sienne,
   audessus des vagues en courroux. Il lui donne un coup de pied et
   lui rend un oeil. Le bouledogue, en colere, s'enfuit dans la
   campagne, entrainant apres lui, pendant un espace de route qui est
   toujours trop long, pour si court qu'il fut, le corps de la jeune
   fille suspendue, qui n'a ete degage que grace aux mouvements
   saccades de la fuite; mais, il craint d'attaquer son maitre, qui
   ne le reverra plus. Celui-ci tire de sa poche un canif americain,
   compose de dix a douze lames qui servent a divers usages. Il ouvre
   les pattes anguleuses de cet hydre d'acier; et, muni d'un pareil
   scalpel, voyant que le gazon n'avait pas encore disparu sous la
   couleur de tant de sang verse, s'apprete; sans palir, a fouiller
   courageusement le vagin de la malheureuse enfant. (21)


The third is from 1968:
   "C'est pas mal chez vous, susurra effrontement Awa. Ce que vous
   en avez, des livres!"

      "Ce sont ceux que j'ai ecrits", mentit l'administrateur.

      "Ce doit etre merveilleux d'ecrire."...

      "Ma chambre a coucher", dit-il, s'eclipsant devant une porte
   rose, et promenant une lampe.

      Awa eut le souffle coupe par le plaisir que provoquerent en elle
   les tentures roses, le lit en demi-cercle, la courtepointe en soie,
   que l'on eut jure jonchee de petales de roses....

      Caressant la croupe creuse du ventre de la femme, il baisa les
   longues ailes noires de sa nuque et sortit--revint avec deux
   setters, chiens beaux et robustes, et une camisole.
      Les betes dardaient sur eux leurs prunelles avides. Leur maitre
   siffla et Medor s'elanca sur Awa, gueule humide et fremissante.

      "Medor! jappa-t-il, vas-y! Quartier libre!"

      Avant que la femme put realiser quoi que ce fut, elle sentit le
   muffle du setter et ses crocs mettre en pieces ses vetements,
   dechirant son pagne et sa camisole, la denudant a coups de griffes
   et de pattes, sans erafler la peau. Il devait avoir une habitude
   peu commune de ce genre de travail, Medor.

      Paralysee par une emotion a la fois terriflee et consentante,
   Awa se vit depouillee de ses habits en moins d'une seconde.
   Lorsqu'elle fut nue, Chevalier se courba vers elle, l'installant
   au milieu de fourrures recouvertes d'un chale de soie rose.

      Il la coucha dessus, promenant sa langue legere sur ses levres
   rouges comme le cuivre, ses cheveux, bleu or comme le fer, ses yeux
   noirs comme l'argent, ses seins, tiedes et doux comme deux beaux
   corps de colombes de laine vivante--et soudain ce fut un
   gemissement, qui s'enfla, quitta les levres de la femme, monta,
   brusquement etouffe par la main de Chevalier.

      Les doigts sous ses aisselles, redressee sur ses reins, elle
   criait, percevant contre ses levres la rapeuse acrete de la gueule
   de Dick, tandis que Chevalier ralentissait en grimacant les
   caresses sur son bas ventre, et qu'elle sentait toujours, la langue
   dure et tendue tel un gourdin gluant, Medor fouiller sa vulve.

      Elle s'affola sous la fievre etirante de ces morsures, et finit
   par lecher la langue parfumee de Chevalier, poussant des cris et se
   debattant. Ordonnant au chiens de se retirer, l'homme laboura la
   femme comme une terre en friche, comme un ocean frappe par la
   proue d'une nef ... (22)


Beyond the spurious punctuality of dates, several things establish this intertext. There is, for one, a Sadian tradition, a succession of names. (23) in which the two later authors can be inscribed. However difficult itis to demonstrate that Sade was read by Ducasse, the link between their names has been insisted upon, not least by Blanchot in his Lautreamont et Sade (1949). With Ouologuem, the title of his "pornographic" novel, Les mille et une bibles du sexe (1969) joins that of the 120 journees de Sodome (1785) and the Cbants de Maldoror within a larger tradition of episodic narratives that includes the Decameron and Les Mille et une nuits, and his proud assumption of the title "the Black Sade" marks a more specific affiliation to "Sadology". (24)

Even without this extrinsic literary history, there are sufficient features within each text to make of the ensemble a viable intertext. Although the descriptions of sexual violence in the three texts would not alone set them apart, intrinsic correspondences suggest an almost poetic cohesion between them. Sade's "petit couteau ou canif" and Maldoror's "canif americain", or the rape of the child by Maldoror's dog and the two dogs set on Awa by Chevalier make appropriate connections; "connectives", in a Riffaterrean sense, (25) may be read into echoes of the name of the "Rose", Rose Keller, who was Sade's victim in the first scene: Maldoror "voit une jeune fille qui dort a l'ombre d'un platane, et il la prit d'abord pour une rose"; and Chevalier's victim is seduced by the pervasive atmosphere of the association: "Awa eut le souffle coupe par le plaisir que provoquerent en elle les tentures roses, le lit en demi-cercle, la courtepointe en soie, que l'on eut jure jonchee de petales de roses."

To return to the premise of this article, plagiarism is a useful figure in covering both intrinsic and extrinsic constants of the intertext. Going beyond the bounds of one literary history into another, all three authors are linked intertextually as plagiarists, not of each other (necessarily), but as eminent practitioners of a literary genre that conceals its borrowings from others. (26) Furthermore, each text is associated with narratives of abduction that make them in the most literal sense plagiaristic. The Sadian text is a straightforward account of a kidnapping, if not of a slave, of a servant at least; in the Chants de Maldoror, the plagiarism of young boys or adolescents is Maldoror's most characteristic act; and Le Devoir de violence tells the history of black Africa as a history of successive appropriations and re-appropriations of "la negraille". Men and women, children, entire peoples, are abducted, sold and re-sold. Plagiarism is a powerful figure of such violence in texts.

Owen Heathcote has analysed the "remarkable complicity between the representation of sexuality, violence and literature", arguing from a diversity of examples that violence in literature is radically engendered: "violence is shown to be engendered both in the sense that it is inseparable from particular representations of sexuality, and in the sense that it is only parodically or strategically other than male". (27) The literary elaborations of the violence perpetrated on women within my own, less diversified intertext would bear out this contention. Moreover, the occasions for violence within it have not been exhaustively itemized. The particular power each instance has to disturb, shock, or offend is a violence done to the reader, a violence that is engendered by the opportunities offered for readerly identifications. Eileen Julien, reading Ouologuem against another male author, Sony Labou Tansi, has argued that the violence in Ouologuem is radically offensive because it replicates gendered power relations in its attempts to critique political structures, identifying the subject-position of women with victimhood. (28)

Sony Labou Tansi represents rapes no less violently than Sade, Ducasse, or Ouologuem. Having earlier been forced to witness the murder of her father and then eat his remains, the heroine of La Vie et demie is raped, in a room daubed with inscriptions, by that same father, who has stubbornly refused to die:
   Martial entra dans une telle colere qu'il battit sa fille comme une
   bete et coucha avec elle, sans doute pour lui donner une gifle
   interieure. A la fin de l'acte, Martial battit de nouveau sa fille
   qu'il laissa pour morte. Il cracha sur elle avant de partir et tous
   les ecrits disparurent de la chambre, restaient ceux que Chaidana
   avait sur les paumes. Elle revint a elle deux jours et deux nuits
   apres la gifle interieure, elle avait le sexe et le ventre amers,
   le coeur lourd, sa chair avait franchi une autre etape sur les
   vides humains. (29)


Despite this, according to Julien, Sony Labou Tansi's heroine resists victimization. The difference is Sony Labou Tansi's attribution to her of an agency that does not have its source in an essentialized femininity. Julien locates two other sources, the first in the power of a woman's writing:
   ... Elle composa des chansons, des cris, des histoires, des dates,
   des nombres, un veritable univers ou le centre de gravite etait la
   solitude de l'etre. Le vieux Layisho les lisait a l'insu de
   Chaidana qui ne le permettait qu'a Amedandio. Il avait tellement
   Aime l'espece de poeme intitule "Bouts de viande, troncs de sang"
   qu'il l'avait recopie et propose a l'editeur nord-americain Jim
   Panama qui s'etait empresse de lui en demander au moins une dizaine
   ve cette dimension-la pour en faire un recueil....

      Amedandio s'employait a distribuer les ecrits de Chaidana parmi
   les Gens de Martial. Ainsi naquit la "litterature de Martial" qu'on
   appelait aussi litterature de passe ou evangile de Martial. Les
   manuscrits circulaient clandestinement de main en main.

      ... Les plus grands ecrivains katamalanasiens essayaient
   d'appliquer la methode et la vision chaidaniennes de l'ecriture;
   Les Mots font pitie, le dernier livre de Chaiadana etait publie par
   Victorio Lampourta qui se vit incarcerer et interdire toutes ses
   oeuvres; Sabratana Mouanke fut arrete pour avoir essaye de
   diffuser Mon pere s'appelait Martial. (30)


"Few of her works, of course, will survive censorship", comments Julien. "They will be burned. Thus language and writing in this context are the site of a constant struggle for power. When Chaidana writes, writing becomes especially subversive because writing is male." (31)

The second source located by Julien is women's power to intervene in political struggle from the critical position of the marginalized: "If Chaidana's rage is in part the rage of a female object of exchange between two rival men ..., then her acts of vengeance are not only a bid to wrest power from the villainous dictators, but are also an attempt to inveigh against the system of domination that also reduces women to signs between men.... It is that from their position of marginality they perceive the nakedness of power. And it is that perception that enables them to envision, to challenge." (32)

Necessarily, the second saving grace is as far removed from the Ducasse and Sade texts as it is from Ouologuem. In all three, however, language and writing are engendered as the site of a struggle for power. Awa is first seduced by the book-lined room and the power it evinces: "Ce doit etre merveilleux d'ecrire". As the agent of the local ruler (Saif) in his struggle with the colonial administrator Chevalier, Awa herself is unlikely to accede to writing; her role is confined to being a conduit of information between men, having made her maie agressor speak despite himself: "Une semaine plus tard, Awa lui deliait la langue, et faisait communiquer a Saif la confirmation d'un attentat." The girl's rape and murder in the Chants de Maldoror is presented via a feminine "ecriture", narrated by "la folle qui passe en dansant", the girl's mother: "Elle laisse echapper des lambeaux de phrases dans lesquels, en les recousant, tres-peu trouveraient une signification claire.... Elle a laisse tomber de son sein un rouleau de papier. Un inconnu le ramasse, s'enferme chez lui toute la nuit, et lit le manuscrit...." There follows the narrative of the rape, mediated by the "inconnu", Maldoror, in the role of the reader. "A la fin de cette lecture, l'inconnu ne peut plus garder ses forces, et s'evanouit. Il reprend ses sens, et brule le manuscrit." (33)

The Sadian text is, at first sight, the revenge of feminine discourse, a woman speaking out against male agression--all the more impressively in that Rose Keller, like Awa, did not have writing at her disposal. Her legal deposition concludes: "... qui est tout ce qu'elle a dit scavoir, lecture faitte de sa deposition la temoin de ce interpellee a dit iceUe contenir verite y a persite a requis taxe et a declare ne scavoir ecrire ny signer de ce interpellee suivant l'ordonnance. Approuve six mots rayes. Chavane. Lebreton" (my emphasis). Unsurprisingly, perhaps, given the several masculine mediations of her text, Rose Keller's speaking out does nct triumph, since the conclusion of the case is that she is persuaded to withdraw her accusation, for a price, and Sade is not prosecuted.

A defence of plagiarism as figure is not favoured by association with an intertext premised on the silencing of women or on the suppression of their texts, whether or not Sony Labou Tansi's La Vie et demie provides, as Julien suggests, a genuine critique of gendered violence. It may even be that plagiarism, as the stealing of words, is a proper name for the act of a speaking in a woman's place. Sony Labou Tansi notes that Chaidana's poem "Bouts de viande, troncs de sang" was plagiarized by Layisho and offered to the American publisher Jim Panama. In Le Devoir de violence, Awa's admiration for writing provokes Chevalier into plagiarism as he appropriates the books of others: " 'Ce ce sont ceux que j'ai ecrits', mentit l'administrateur." (34) The madwoman's manuscript in the Chants is appropriated by Maldoror and incorporated wholesale in Ducasse's text. In the rape of Rose Keller, Sade first imposes silence on her--"l'a menace, si elle crioit de la tuer ... alors elle a cesse de crier"--then answers her "representations" with his own terrible utterance: "il s'est mis a jetter des cris tres hauts et tres effraiants". If they were not, in the overriding first instance, horrific tortures, Sade's "mauvais traitements" might be read as if he were writing on her flesh, inscribing with his penknife and sealing his letter with wax, leaving wounds as traces to be read, later, in evidence against him. (35) Rose Keller suffers the further textual indignity of having her deposition signed for her by two men, Chavane and Lebreton. Finally, being noted in the records variously as Rose Keller, Rose Kailair, Roze Kailair, Roze Kelair, Roze Kelair, etc., she is refused even the security of a stable proper name.

I do not despair entirely of plagiarism as figure, despite its deep association with violence towards women. There remain other bodies of evidence to call on, with the promise of quite other constructions. Many women writers have embraced plagiarism. Marilyn Randall elaborates a case for feminist writing as "une poetique du plagiat" through reference to works by Denise Boucher, Madeleine Gagnon, and Louky Bersianik, to conclude with a discussion of Irigaray's plagiaristic practice as critique of phallogocentrism. I do not want to represent Randall's case here without reading more closely the intertexts she cites, (36) but it can at least be suggested that even a violent plagiarism is not absolutely inimical to an ecriture feminine. Duras seems to renounce the practice, but her appeal to violence may yet accommodate it in reconstructed form:
   ... we have to turn away from plagiarism. There are many women
   who write as they think they should write--to imitate men and
   make a place for themselves in literature. Colette wrote like a
   little girl, a turbulent and terrible and delightful little girl.
   So she wrote "feminine literature" as men wanted it. That's not
   feminine literature in reality. It's feminine literature seen by
   men and recognized as such. It's the men who enjoy themselves when
   they read it. I think feminine literature is a violent, direct
   literature. (37)


In my conclusion, with no guarantee of deflecting the phallogocentric violence of the figure, I want to return to the intertexts first cited in this article, returning thereby to plagiarism's primal, etymological scene.

"Celui qui etait condamne au fouet (ad plagas)". The etymology given by Bouillet of the Latin plagiarius places plagiarism firmly at the scene of Sade whipping Rose Keller with his "poignee de verges", but it must also be present when the gender-roles are reversed. It is present, for example, when Ducasse figures--parodically and proleptically--the direct violence of a feminine "ecriture": a man refuses to have sex with his mother, so mother and wife together punish him by covering him with tar and whipping him with "deux fouets au cordes de plomb": "J'admirais ... avec quelle exactitude energique les lames de metal, au lieu de glisser a la surface,... s'appliquaient, grace au goudron, jusqu'a l'interieur des chairs, marquees par des sillons aussi creux que l'empechement des os pouvait raisonnablement le permettre." (38)

This is a line that leads from the originating primal scene, via a detour through Sade and Ducasse, to Duras and Irigaray. But there is more than one line to be traced, not least because such origins are plural. Different dictionaries evoke different etymological scenes. Chambers's Twentieth Century, for example, derives plagiarius from plaga, the "net" with which the kidnapper snares the child or slave. The Oxford Latin Dictionary gives the variant reading "a spider's web", such as might be woven by the "araignee de la grande espece" in the scene of Maldoror's torment. (39) Following this thread we arrive at the "benign" figure of intertextuality or weaving latent in Kristeva.

Other etymologies leave still more and different traces. Lewis and Short's Latin dictionary shows Bouillet's "fouets" to be a deceptive metonymy, since plagas are not the instruments but the wounds they inflict. This plaga is connected, then, to the French for wound, returning us to the scene of Rose Keller's suffering and the wax poured onto her "playes", and evoking the "vaste plaie immonde" from Maldoror's struggle with the angel.
   ... Il se penche, et porte la langue, imbibee de salive, sur cette
   joue angelique, qui jette des regards suppliants. Il promene
   quelque temps sa langue sur cette joue. Oh!... voyez!... voyez
   donc!... la joue rose et blanche est devenue noire, comme un
   charbon! Elle exhale des miasmes putrides. C'est la gangrene; il
   n'est plus permis d'en douter. Le mal rongeur s'etend sur toute la
   figure, et de la, exerce ses furies sur les parties basses;
   bientot, tout le corps n'est qu'une vaste plaie immonde. (40)


The all-embracing, all-accommodating figure of these etymological intertexts must be the "open expanse (of land, sea, or sky)" that, in the Oxford dictionary, is another sense of plaga, a sense that expands, metonymically, into the plage that marks the limits of such an expanse of sea. This sea may as well be "la mer maldororienne", that age-old intertextual figure, or Sollers's Ocean, "ce milieu de resistance a toute science lineaire".

The lines can be extended further, of course, (41) but the proliferation of intertexts is less of a help than a hindrance to plagiarism's claims as figure. Plagiarism has lost the necessary economy of the figure; by trailing its intertexts in its wake it has, in effect, transformed itself from a possible aid to interpreting texts into a (one-word) text, itself in need of interpretation. This article concludes by reading plagiarism only as text. As figure, the "future things" plagiarism promises remain to be fulfilled. (42)

University College London

(1.) Isidore Ducasse, Comte de Lautreamont, Les Chants de Maldoror, Poesies, Lettres, ed. Patrick Besnier (Paris: Le Livre de Poche, 1992), II.11, 93.

(2.) M.-N. Bouillet, Dictionnaire universel des sciences, des lettres et des arts (Paris: Hachette, 1862).

(3.) Christopher Miller in his book Blank Darkness: Africanist Discourse in French (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985), writing of Yambo Ouologuem's Le Devoir de violence; and Marilyn Randall, "L'Ecriture Feministe: Une Poetique du Plagiat?", Queen's Quarterly, 96.2 (1989), 275. Randall is summarizing, without necessarily subscribing to, the lesson of Michel Schneider's Voleurs de Mots, Essai sur le plagiat, la psychanalyse et la pensee (Paris: Gallimard, 1985).

(4.) "Commendo tibi, Quinctiane, nostros, (Nostros dicere si tamen libellos Possim, quos recitat tuus Poeta.) Si de servitio gravi queruntur, Assertor venias, satisque proestes; Et, cum se dominum vocabit ille, Dicas esse meos, manuque missos. Hoc si terque quaterque clamitaris; Impones plagiario pudorem." Epigram I.52, from Toutes les Epigrammes de Martial en latin et en francois, Avec de petittes nottes, En deux parties, translated by "M. de M." [l'abbe Michel de Marolles] (Paris: "chez Guillaume de Luyne", 1655), vol. I, 76 and 77. I have used this version of Martial to represent this founding text's currency in French literature beyond learned circles. Though substantial, this edition was intended to make Martial available to a wider readership, hence the foregrounding of the vernacular version and the use of the vernacular for the critical materials. At the same time, however, it sought to narrow its readership at strategic points by leaving untranslated the epigrams on sexual topics, "indigne d'estre expliquee". Enjoyment of these was confined to those (presumably male) readers with extra-vernacular competence.

(5.) "Cecy est une metaphore des Esclaves qu'on affranchissoit." Editor's note in Toutes les Epigrammes de Martial, 76.

(6.) "A celuy qui prend le labeur d'autruy pour s'en glorifier." Editor's note, ibid., 76.

(7.) In simplified form, it found its way into contemporary usage through Lorenzo Valla in the fifteenth century (Preface to Book II of his Elegantiarum Latinae Linguae Libri VI, cited in Peter Howell, A Commentary on Book One of the Epigrams of Martial (London: The Athlone Press, 1980), 230). Howell cites Horace's Epistle I.20 as the source for the idea of book as slave.

(8.) To (mis)appropriate George Lang's distinction between "founding texts (examples of which are the Bible and the Koran, as well as the myriad traditional cosmologies recorded and unrecorded throughout Africa) and those which are confounding, which resist the assimilation of text to history, secular or sacred, and tend toward the disruption of textual identity itself". See "Text, Identity, and Difference: Yambo Ouologuem's Le Devoir de violence and Ayi Kwei Armah's Two Thousand Seasons", Comparative Literature Studies, 24.4 (1987), 387-402 (388, 401).

(9.) See Suzanne Guerlac, Tbe Impersonal Sublime: Hugo, Baudelaire, Lautreamont (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990), 35 & 58.

(10.) Poesies II.69, in Cbants de Maldoror (1992), 260-61. See my "Intertextuality or influence: Kristeva, Bloom and the Poesies of Isidore Ducasse", in Worton and Still (eds), Intertextuality: theories and practices (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1990), 132-38. The possibility that Ducasse specifically plagiarized L'Homme qui rit in the Chants de Maldoror is commonly discounted, despite the strong coincidences of theme and expression in the accounts of mutilated mouths, since the first Chant de Maldoror appeared in August 1868 and L'Homme qui rit did not begin to appear, in serialized form, until January 1869. However, there is the suggestion that L'Homme qui rit was available in some form several months before the first Chant was published, since Des Essarts, in aletter to Mallarme, claims to have read some of it in May 1868. See Mallarme, Correspondance 1862-1871 (Paris: Gallimard, 1959), 274. Alternatively, it is conceivable that Hugo plagiarized the Chants de Maldoror, since we know he received from Ducasse a copy of the first Chant around September 1868, and that he read parts of it.

(11.) See Le Devoir de violence (Paris: Seuil, 1968), 9, and Le Dernier des Justes (Paris: Seuil, 1959), 11. The difference between these two openings is discussed at length by Kwame Anthony Appiah in In My Fatber's House (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992).

(12.) "I am especially touched, even overwhelmed, to think that a Black writer should have relied on Le Dernier des Justes in creating a book like Le Devoir de violence. Thus Mr Ouologuem is not indebted to me, but rather I to him." Letter from Schwarz-Bart, cited in E. Sellin, "The Unknown Voice of Yambo Ouologuem", Yale French Studies, 53 (1976), 144.

(13.) Harold Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981 [1973]), 95. In Le Devoir de violence influence is better called contagion, contracted through the too-close proximity of texts that some call plagiarism.

(14.) In "Colonialism, Polyvocality, and Islam in L'aventure ambigue and Le devoir de violence" (MLN, 107 (1992), 1000-27), Donald R. Wehrs has analysed the noncommunality figured in the opening: "The interplay of multiple perspectives ... leads to a dispossession of voice that is, in part, a radicalization of Romantic irony" (1012).

(15.) Traced intertexts or sources to Le Devoir de violence as a whole include Graham Greene, Guy de Maupassant, and Camara Laye. Untraced intertexts suggested by Ouologuem himself include Kipling, Portuguese explorer Lope di Pigafeta, detective novelist John MacDonald, and archival documents of the French colonial adminstration. Those suggested by (generally hostile) critics include Saint-Exupery, Kateb Yacine, Sartre, Gatti, Godard, Pascal, and Suret-Canale. For a thorough if patronizing account of the "Ouologuem affair", see Sellin, "The Unknown Voice of Yambo Ouologuem", 137-62. In his 'Lettre aux pisse-copie Negres d'ecrivains celebres', Ouologuem explicitly illustrates his plagiaristic methods. See Lettre a la France negre (Paris: Edmond Nalis, 1968), 163-72.

(16.) "Bakhtine, le mot, le dialogue et le roman", Critique, 23.239 (1967), 438-65 (440-41).

(17.) A somewhat less benign, but still non-linear, figure of intertextuality was proposed by Philippe Sollers in a subsequent issue of Critique, writing of Ducasse's "strophe de l'ocean": "Ce milieu de resistance a toute science lineaire a un 'nom' (parmi d'autres): l'ocean. Mais entendons tout de suite texte ..." (Critique, 24.245 (1967), 802). A gendered opposition is latent in the distinction between figures of benign weaving or waving and malign linearity, if only because of Freud's memorable association of weaving with femme sexuality and the invention of writing, remembered by Sollers thus (in a footnote): "Suggestion de Freud: l'ecriture inventee par des femmes a travers le tissage et le tressage des poils du pubis. Et, par consequent: investissement maximum a la place du penis manquant, masturbation deleguee tracant la pensee, seuil 'magique'. L'homme, lui, s'ecrirait d'autant plus qu'en pouvant ce manque" (Tel Quel, 64 (1976), 30). Then again, this suggests a malignity in weaving that leaves the original opposition wanting.

(18.) See, for example, her reading of Ducasse's Poesies, from La Revolution du langage poetique (Paris: Seuil, 1974), 347: "L'appropriation du presuppose se fait en entrant d'abord dans ses contraintes, puis en les quittant, pour ne donner, par la suite, comme opposition, que son propre lieu d'enonciation." Appropriation is, of course, according to Bouillet's dictionary, the act of a plagiarist, "qui s'approprie les pensees d'autrui".

(19.) Denis Hollier (ed.), New History of French Literature (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1989).

(20.) "Deposition de Rose Keller", in Gilbert Lely, Vie du Marquis de Sade (Paris: Gallimard, 1952), 222-23.

(21.) Isidore Ducasse, Comte de Lautreamont, Les Chants de Maldoror, Poesies, Lettres (1992), 120-22.

(22.) Ouologuem, Le Devoir de violence, 68-70. It is in this passage, precisely, that Ouologuem plagiarizes Graham Greene. See It's a Battlefield (London: Heinemann, 1970 [1934]), 55-57. As in his use of Schwarz-Bart, the difference Ouologuem makes between the two texts points self-referentially to his plagiaristic practice; for example, the character into whose place the administrator Chevalier comes is called in Greene's text "Mr Surrogate".

(23.) Which, in one acceptation, can be called a theory: "THEORIE: ... une longue suite de personnes qui s'avancent en rangs", Petit Larousse (Paris: Larousse, 1959). The word is employed in this sense by Ouologuem in Le Devoir de violence and taken from there by Christopher Miller in Tbeories of Africans: Francophone Literature and Antbropology in Africa (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990).

(24.) See Carolyn J. Dean's article "Sadology" in Hollier (ed.), A New History of Frencb Literature, 892-94.

(25.) See "Compulsory Reader Response: the Intertextual Drive", in Worton and Still (eds), Intertextuality: theories and practices, 56-78 (58): "... indices [that] direct readers towards the specific and relevant intertexts, and indeed compel them to look for these intertexts even when cultural changes have made their recovery less likely".

(26.) "La repetition plus ou moins integrale d'un discours anterieur sans indication de sa provenance" is Marilyn Randall's definition of plagiarism ("L'Ecriture Feministe: Une Poetique du Plagiat?", 274). For Ouloguem's plagiarisms, see Sellin, "The Unknown Voice of Yambo Ouologuem", passim; for Ducasse see Peter Nesselroth, "Lautreamont's plagiarisms, or the poetization of prose texts', in Robert L. Mitchell (ed.), Pre-Text, Text, Context (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1980); for Sade, see Michel Delon, "La copie sadienne", Litterature, 69 (1988), 87-99.

(27.) Owen Heathcote, "The Representation of Violence and the Violence of Representation', New Comparison, 14 (1992), 202-09 (208, 209).

(28.) "Rape, Repression, and Narrative Form in Le Devoir de violence and La Vie et demie", in Rape and Representation, ed. Lynn A. Higgins and Brenda R. Silver (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991), 160-81.

(29.) Sony Labou Tansi, La Vie et demie (Paris: Seuil, 1979), 69.

(30.) La Vie et demie, 76-77. It is tempting to make more of the coincidence of Chaidana's father's name with that of the founding father in my own scenario of textual violence, especially as, in Sony Labou Tansi's text, textuality is a power that passes from men to women. I suggest that plagiarism has effected a similar passage.

(31.) "Rape, Repression, and Narrative Form in Le Devoir de violence and La Vie et demie", 177.

(32.) ibid., 178, 179.

(33.) Chants de Maldoror, III.2 (1992), 118-19, 122. In fainting, Maldoror enacts parodically the response of the sensitive reader agressed by the violence of the text. In burning the manuscript, he deals with it as Chaidana's enemies dealt with her manuscripts.

(34.) Ouologuem, Le Devoir de violence, 68. This appropriated phrase self-referentially marks its difference from the source in Graham Greene by translating "said" as "mentit", inviting us to see the lie in Ouologuem's own claim to ownership: " 'What a lot of books you have.' 'Those are my own,' Mr Surrogate said" (It's a Battlefield, 56).

(35.) See the "Rapport du chirurgien Le Comte sur l'etat de Rose Keller": "... une femme qui venoit d'estre maltraite que j'ai appris se nommer Rose Kailair. que j'ai trouve soufrante de plusieurs partie de son corps, que j'ai examine et reconnus toute l'estendu des fesses et une parti des lombes vergete et excorie avec coupure et contusion forte et longue sur l'epine du dos. et en outre une contusion echimose et dechirure sur le dessus de la main gauche, que le tout ma paru estre fait par quelque instrument contundant et tranchant, ay aussi remarque de la cire fondu sur quelqu'une des playes." In Lely, Vie du Marquis de Sade, 205.

(36.) For instance: Denise Boucher, Cyprine: Essai collage pour etre une femme (Montreal: L'Aurore, 1978); Madeleine Gagnon, Autographie. I. Fictions (Montreal: VLB, 1982); Louky Bersianik, UEuguelionne (Montreal: La Presse, 1976) and Le Piquenique sur l'Acropole'. Cahiers d'Ancyl (Montreal: VLB, 1979). I shall cite Randall's conclusion (277): "Qu'elle soit sous forme de citation, de parodie ou, finalement, de plagiat avoue, l'imitation remplit d'abord une fonction de contestation par rapport a la notion meme d'originalite dont la valeur depend du phallogocentrisme patriarcal qui constitue la cible de l'ecriture feministe. Or, pratiquer le tabou va encore plus loin que le desir de transgression: il revient a annoncer un refus absolu de s'inscrire dans l'economie qui legitimise la loi."

(37.) "Marguerite Duras", in New French Feminisms, eds Elaine Marks and L de Courtivron (New York: Schocken Books, 1980), 174 (no French source is given). Cited by Marilyn Randall, "L'Ecriture Feministe: Une Poetique du Plagiat?", 266. Duras's separation of plagiarism and violence rests, as Randall suggests, on a confusion between plagiarism and imitation. See also Duras's remark in Duras and Michelle Porte, Les Lieux de Marguerite Duras (Paris: Minuit, 1977), 102: "On n'ecrit pas du tout au meme endroit que les hommes. Et quand les femmes n'ecrivent pas dans le lieu du desir, elles n'ecrivent pas, elles sont dans le plagiat."

(38.) Chants de Maldoror IV.3 (1992), 147.

(39.) ibid., 192-99.

(40.) Chants de Maldoror II.11 (1992), 92-93. This account of malefic proximity is a mise-en-scene of the all-effacing embrace described by Ducasse in lais famous maxim on plagiarism (Poesies II.59): "Le plagiat est necessaire. Le progres l'implique. Il serre de pres la phrase d'un auteur, se sert de ses expressions, efface une idee fausse, la remplace par l'idee juste" (Les Chants de Maldoror, Poesies, Lettres (1992), 259). This Latin plaga is also at the root of the plague that is so recurrent a topic in the Cbants de Maldoror. A fuller discussion of plagiarism and intertexuality in Ducasse can be found in my forthcoming Poetics of the Pretext: Reading Lautreamont (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1996).

(41.) Eg., into Greek: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (oblique) allows Suzanne Guerlac, for instance, to speak convincingly of plagiarism as "the 'oblique' evasion of representation" (The Impersonal Sublime, 155 & 215, n.15). The verb connected with this root can mean, appropriately, to turn sideways, to lead astray, to pervert, or to use tortuous methods.

(42.) See Augustine, Contra Faustinum, 4.2: "in illis temporalibus figuras fuisse futurorum quae implerentur in nobis" (in these temporal figures there was the promise of future things, which were to be fulfilled in us). Cited by Erich Auerbach, "Figura", in Scenes from tbe Drama of European Literature (New York: Meridian Books, 1959), p. 41. I am currently researching an anthology of plagiarisms, ancient and modern.
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Author:Lack, Roland-Francois
Publication:The Romanic Review
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Nov 1, 1995
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