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Cornille, Jean-Louis. Plagiat et creativite (treize enquetes sur l'auteur et son autre).

Cornille, Jean-Louis. Plagiat et creativite (treize enquetes sur l'auteur e t son autre).

Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2008. Faux Titre. Pp. 217. ISBN: 978-90-420-2455-7

Isolating a practice he considers to be particularly French, that of writing based upon what one has read (rather than the allegedly "anglo-saxon" manner of writing based upon life), Jean-Louis Cornille states that his aim in this book is to unearth the ghostly subterranean dialogue, the chain of authors, hidden behind each of the texts he will discuss. Leaving aside his unsubstantiated claim about the difference between "anglo-saxon" and French writing, the links he identifies are often nothing more than "pure hypothese ou geniale intuition," and his admission at one point that "il se peut meme que rien de tel ne se soit produit, et que ce rapprochement se soit fait dans notre tete de chercheur, seulement" holds true for most of his analyses (62).

Despite the title, very little of the book is devoted to plagiarism. Instead, Cornille focuses on intertextual concepts related to but distinct from plagiarism, such as "pastiche," "echo," and "hommage," which lend themselves better to the tenuous connections he uncovers. Nonetheless, he does put forth a concept of plagiarism or "imitation" in which Marx appears to be one of the ghostly presences within Cornille's own text. In his Introduction, he writes: "Le mor 'imitation' est un tres mauvais concept, choisi par commodite: disons plutot qu'il y a capture de code et production de plus-value. Proust, lorsqu'il capte un bout de code flaubertien, y ajoute aussitot quelque chose, une valeur, une valence qui n'appartient qu'a lui; il 'proustifie'" (11, my emphasis). By discarding the term "imitation" in favor of the "production de plus-value," involving an addition of "valeur" that belongs only to the one who appropriates the writing, Cornille presents a theory of plagiarism that bears a striking resemblance to Karl Marx's famous general formula for capital, which describes "the transformation of money into commodities, and the re-conversion of commodities into money." The end-product, the value of which includes a surplus-value, belongs to the capitalist, not to the worker, just as, in Cornille's theory of imitation, the end-product and "plus-value" belong not to Gustave Flaubert but to Marcel Proust.

Thus Cornille's idea of value-creation and owner-transfer and his use of the term "plus-value" are altogether Marxist. If this is more than simply "pure hypothese ou geniale intuition" on my part, then Cornille, by fusing his theory of plagiarism to Marxism, opens up an interesting line of inquiry into the alienation and exploitation inherent in plagiarism and suggests the possibility that capitalism is a form of economic plagiarism or plagiarism is a form of literary capitalism.

The book has four parts, Realismes, Surrealismes, Populismes, and Post-modernismes, each of which includes two to four of the book's thirteen enquetes. Additionally, there is a short passage that functions as a preface, followed by the Introduction, "Proust a l'heure du pastiche," in which Cornille discusses borrowings from Honore de Balzac and from Flaubert to argue that pastiche is central to Proust's writing, accounting, for example, for the particular musicality of A la recherche du temps perdu.

Realismes begins with an enquete, "Le Manuel d'Emma," that connects the first scene of Flaubert's Madame Bovary to an obscure textbook released in numerous editions during Flaubert's childhood and then to more recent works by Louis-Ferdinand Celine and by Patrick Chamoiseau. The second enquete, "Decharge Flaubert (la Bible en argot)," focuses on Flaubert's Herodias, the final tale in the Trois Contes about the beheading of John the Baptist, to discuss Flaubert's attempt to eliminate from his writing any trace of literary inheritance, such as the "purulences stylistiques" of other authors (46). Functioning as the obverse of the second enquete, the third, "L'Hospitalite du texte (Flaubert et Stendhal)," illustrates some of Flaubert's literary borrowings in another tale in the Trois Contes; after reflecting briefly upon Flaubert's reaction to the suggestion of his mother that he had copied a scene from Balzac, Cornille makes a case for the indebtedness of Flaubert's La Legende de Saint Julien l'Hospitalier (and the decapitation in Herodias) to Stendhal's Le Rouge et le Noir. The first part of the book finishes with the enquete "Minutes apocryphes (Maupassant et Flaubert)," which takes the form of an account of a conversation between Paul Leautaud and Marcel Schwob on the topic of the many "echos" of Flaubert in Guy de Maupassant's texts, vividly captured in a line by Schwob in this imagined dialogue: "La veritable statue de Flaubert, ce n'est pas a Rouen qu'on la trouve, mais dans l'oeuvre de Maupassant" (71).

In Surrealismes, Cornille analyzes the writings of Michel Leiris as "hommages" to Rene Descartes and to Raymond Roussel in an enquete titled "Le Soi disant (Leiris entre Descartes et Roussel)." The next two enquetes, "Bethune! Bethune! (Breton et Rimbaud)" and "Le Rimbaldo-lautreamontisme," are on the resonances among these three authors (Andre Breton, Arthur Rimbaud, and Comte de Lautreamont), including the repetition and inversion of Rimbaud's lines in Breton's Manifestes du surrealisme and the "etrange familiarite" many readers have identified between the works of Rimbaud and Lautreamont (120).

Populismes starts with "Les Soirees de Meudon (Celine et Zola)," where Cornille questions whether Celine was a literary heir of Emile Zola, concluding with a discussion of Gilles Deleuze's "heredite du Meme" and "heredite de l'Autre" (143). The second and final enquete, "Serie noire (Celine et le polar)," posits the repetition in Celine's works as the "reecriture de soi," demonstrates that his Guignol's band was written in the vein of "anglo-saxon" detective novels, and examines the dialogue between Guignol's band and one of Celine's earlier novels, Mott a credit (145).

"Extension du domaine litteraire (Houellebecq et Camus)," the first enquete in Post-modernismes, reflects upon the mimeticism of Michel Houellebecq's works, illuminating some of his manipulations of the texts of other authors, such as Lautreamont, Franz Kafka, and Albert Camus. The connections between Edouard Glissant's writings and the Essai sur l'exotisme, une esthetique du divers by Victor Segalen are investigated in the second enquete, "La memoire courte des poetes immemoriaux (Glissant et Segalen)." "La Mort de l'editeur (Echenoz et Lindon)," on the author Jean Echenoz and the editor Jerome Lindon, is an enquete in which Cornille identifies several echoes of other texts within Echenoz's and develops the idea that the editor, somewhat like the reader, is implicitly present when an author writes, in a dialogue in the interior space of the text. The last enquete of this part and of the book as a whole (there is no conclusion), titled "Vestiges et Vertiges (Perec sous Sebald)," proposes that "a l'origine" of W. G. Sebald's work is that of Georges Perec (210).

Although Cornille's arguments are, at times, unconvincing, his ideas are oren undeveloped, and the book as a whole lacks coherence, he nonetheless makes some novel and thought-provoking observations. I would be reluctant, however, to recommend this book to anyone with too much or too little knowledge of the authors surveyed, as the analysis is quite superficial, yet written for an insider-audience.

Ryan Max Riley, Yale University
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Author:Riley, Ryan Max
Publication:Nineteenth-Century French Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2012
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