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Lateral Reflexivity: Levels, Versions, and the Logic of Paraphrase [1].

Narratology was born along with the rise of self-reflexivity in modernist and postmodernist fiction. Thus, when he sought to justify the application of Saussurean language theory to narrative discourse in his "Introduction to the Structural Analysis of Narratives," published in 1966, Roland Barthes argued that "literature, particularly today, make[s] a language of the very conditions for language." "Language never ceases to accompany [literary] discourse," wrote Barthes, "holding up to it the mirror of its own structure" (85). For the Russian Formalists a hallmark of literariness, reflexivity in literary discourse became, in turn, a structuralist desideratum. By deautomatizing the experience of stories--by exposing the conventions that prompt readers to interpret certain modes of discourse as narrative--contemporary writing enables the analyst to map narrative structures more explicitly and exhaustively than ever before (cf. Lodge 24). Narratology and narrative experimentation go, in this sense, hand-in-hand. Both work to displace the myth that certain stories are simply-unanalyzably--good or bad; both promote, instead, reasoned analysis of storytelling as the strategic manipulation of symbols arranged in time. In what Barthes described as a broadly structuralist activity that spanned poets as well as poeticians, both analysts and artists focused attention on the basic units, combinatorial mechanisms, and communicative functions of narratives. As a result, stories could be viewed as the product of core cognitive principles--fundamental dispositions and capabilities--at work in all our speech, thought, and behavior.

So far, so good. Yet to these methodological assumptions Barthes added another, much more difficult to justify and deleterious, I would argue, in its consequences. The additional assumption is that today's literature is not merely reflexive but metalinguistic, in the technical sense of that term. Thus, in "Literature and Metalanguage," included in his Critical Essays of 1964, Barthes drew on modern logic's distinction between metalanguages and object-languages to contextualize (post)modernist reflexivity and--by extension--the new science of narrative that it had made possible. Echoing arguments that were published the same year in his book Elements of Semiology (89-94), Barthes noted that

The [object-language] is the very matter subject to logical investigation; metalanguage is the necessarily artificial language in which we conduct this investigation. Thus [...] I can express in a symbolic language (metalanguage) the relations, the structure of a real language [i.e., object-language]. (97)

By the same token, says Barthes, although at one time "literature never reflected upon itself" and "never divided itself into an object at once scrutinizing and scrutinized," more recently, through the efforts of stylistic innovators such as Flaubert, Mallarme, Proust, and Robbe-Grillet, literary discourse has by degrees assumed an essentially metalinguistic function (97). It has itself begun to ask the question: "What is literature?" (98). Barthes's argumentation here travels down a slippery slope. On the basis of the claim that artists have started to write literature that is in some sense reflexively about literature, Barthes then makes the further claim that today's literary language is in fact a language about language--a metalanguage in terms of which other, older literary discourse is describable as an object-language (98). Given the conditions that have to be met for a language to qualify as a metalanguage, however, this second claim is much stronger than the first. It is not, I submit, a defensible c laim. And, as part of the genealogy of the meta- metaphor in recent critico-theoretical discourse, Barthes's running together of the reflexive with the metalinguistic helped create a whole way of seeing that now needs to be reexamined and recontextualized.

This way of seeing produced in its turn a way of talking about texts in terms of layers and levels, the higher and the lower, the embedding and the embedded, the frame and the slot within the frame. [1] In a fascinating study of narrative self-reflexivity, Jeffrey J. Williams, offering a broad critique of this "levels model" of classical narratology, argues that the model obscures modes of reflexivity in which the act of telling intertwines itself inextricably with what is being told. Here, I do not go so far as to argue for a complete jettisoning of the levels model; after all, the lexicon of levels helps specify what makes a variety of innovative storytelling techniques palpable and salient. At issue are techniques that cue readers to blend characters, situations, and events that in other, less ontologically adventurous texts readers would be encouraged to demarcate and keep distinct (Herman, "Narrative Metalepsis"). Inversely, many stories (e.g., stories told during conversational interaction) are most ap tly described as having (1) an embedding narrative that prompts readers to make a "deictic shift" to reach (2) the embedded storyworlds they contain. In telling you a story about my current job, for example, referring to my experiences at a previous place of employment, I might use a suitable phrase or utterance to mark a shift in the spatiotemporal coordinates of the events I am now beginning to recount. [2]

Accordingly, my contention is that workers in the field of narrative analysis need not to abandon but rather to enrich the levels model on which they regularly and still quite productively draw. In particular, researchers need to complement the model of story-levels with a model based on story-versions. [3] With the versions model comes a different way of seeing; stories can be analyzed into characters, situations, and events that replicate themselves across the storyworlds built over the course of a given narrative--storyworlds that readers, listeners, or viewers work to reconstruct during the process of narrative comprehension. [4] The remainder of my essay identifies two main advantages to enriching levels with versions, going on to describe them in greater detail. The first benefit is general and methodological, the second particularized in the sense of being related to the description and analysis of a specific class of narrative texts.

In the first instance, note that in using the vocabulary of levels, analysts commit themselves to thinking about discourses and texts in much the same way that syntacticians think about sentence-level structures. Notwithstanding Barthes's claim in his "Introduction to the Structural Analysis of Narratives" (83), however, a text is not a long sentence. As opposed to what the structuralists initially thought, a text or a discourse is less a string of hierarchically-related elements than a sequentially emergent whole, one given structure and coherence by broad pragmatic principles supporting language-understanding. Texts are not exactly or only collocations of sentences; they display features and properties (illocutionary forces, anaphoric relationships, act sequences, participation frameworks) that are irreducible to sentence-level features and properties (Herman, "Sciences"). Hence, incorporating the notion of story-versions can help theorists of (literary) narratives "catch up" with what has turned out to be a veritable Copernican revolution in textual analysis--a revolution informed by developments in linguistic pragmatics, cognitive science, and discourse analysis over the past couple of decades. Story analysts can focus not only on taxonomizing levels of storyworld components, but also on showing how the ability to configure those components into narrative sequences hinges on more general principles of version-making. The versions model can thereby help narrative theorists work toward describing fiction not only immanently, as a network of dependency relations between formal units, but also integratively, as a cluster of cues anchoring the text in the cultural, interactional, linguistic, and cognitive skills that make up narrative competence.

Second, a particular variety of the levels model--or, as it might also be put, a particular usage of the meta- metaphor--has structured critical and theoretical debate surrounding the reflexive fictions commonly labelled metafictions. These complex fictions comprise a narrative subgenre that has come to stand as a synecdoche for postmodernism itself. For Linda Hutcheon, for example, "metafiction" is that type of fictional discourse in which the reader becomes "explicitly and purposively conscious of the fictiveness of the text's referents" (96). Metafiction, on this view, demonstrates that "[i]n literature, the language creates its object; it does not have to describe an object outside itself" (93). But as I argue below, reflexivity in narrative can operate laterally as well as vertically, cuing the reader to engage in ongoing acts of version-making, a generalized habitus of paraphrase. In turn, this logic of paraphrase connects the story-versions contained in the text with the broader enterprise of exchangin g and modifying versions of stories in the world(s) in which the narrative is read. Such reflexivity might be baptized "extroverted reflexivity," in contrast to the "introverted reflexivity" Hutcheon sees as endemic to the complex fictions she studies. [5]

Taking Patrick Modiano's 1968 novel La Place de l'Etoile as my tutor text, I draw on a versions model to argue that the metalanguage/metafiction analogy has obscured crucial differences between reflexive fictions and languages used to account for (the structure and functioning) of other languages. Modiano's text resists being schematized in vertical or hierarchical terms, as a fiction embedding other fictional scenarios. Instead, even as the text multiplies story-versions it impedes efforts to rank those versions as higher and lower, to stratify them into a diegesis and a hypodiegesis. In other words, the novel recounts states, events, and actions in a way that resists the logic of container and contained, encoding a richly palimpsestic structure of alternative accounts. Thus the text--and other texts formally affiliated with it--confirms the need to enrich the narratological repertoire with the concept of story-versions. The outcome of paraphrasing operations performed by the reader and triggered by various aspects of narrative structure, story-versions proliferate in La Place de l'Etoile in a manner that "lateralizes" the text. The multiplicitous versions of the story that it keeps trying to tell embed the novel in a wider world of thought, action, and interaction--a world people attempt to understand by using narrative to build and exchange ever more versions of it. Thus, far from folding reality into a baroque prison-house of language, Modiano's novel extends the limits of what readers can take to be the case. The real becomes, not a kernel of factuality to which all world-versions can and should be reduced, but rather a zone of potentiality refusing reduction to any single account of the way things are.

My central claim, then, is that when redescribed as modes of version-making, reflexive fictions like Modiano's take on the profile of narratives whose form overtly displays their own paraphrasability and revisability. To be sure, the number of versions in which a story can be told is potentially--perhaps even definitionally (Smith)-inexhaustible. But by encoding fictional events as paraphrasable, complex fictions anchor those events in the interactional world where stories do social work by being told and retold. Further, by presenting multiple versions of the events, repeatedly revising what the story is or seems to be all about, such reflexive fictions anchor the storytelling process in other skills associated with narrative competence: namely, the cognitive skills required to fashion and refine models for understanding reality.

Fiction about Fiction vs. Language about Language

In order to begin indicating the general or methodological benefits of complementing story-levels with story-versions, I need to dwell for a moment on some distinctions between fictions about fiction and languages about language. In part because of differences in historical provenance, reflexive fictions and metalanguages orient themselves around very different purposes. These purposes do not lend themselves equally well to use of the meta- metaphor. A noncontroversial definition of metalanguage is the one offered by John Lyons: i.e., a code that can be used to identify the elements of the object-language and to specify "the relations between these elements, how they may be combined to form phrases and sentences, and so on" (10-1l). [6] Yet it is important to note that the idea (or ideal) of a formalized metalanguage first arose around the turn of the century, in connection with crises in the foundations of mathematics (Rey-Debove 6-7; 13-17). Significantly, early metamathematical research focused on problem s of auto-referentiality; this focus led to a broader attempt to dispel antinomies resulting from the occurrence within a given language--whether formalized or natural, idealized or ordinary--of autonymic or reflexive expressions. For example, "This essay is abstruse" is not an autonymic expression; by contrast, the expression "'This essay is abstruse' is a true statement," which refers to (part of) that very expression, and whose self-referential status is conventionally indicated with quotation marks, does function autonymically. As Rudolf Carnap said about such expressions in his 1934 book The Logical Syntax of Language,

the expression is used in some places as the designation of itself and in others as the designation of something else. In order to obviate this ambiguity of all expressions which also occur autonomously, a rule must be laid down to determine under what conditions the first, and under what the second, interpretation is to be taken. (sec. 42, p.156)

Historically, then, metalinguistic rules were designed to obviate ambiguous expressions in an object-language; they are diagnostic tools, meant to help us avoid the paradoxes and antinomies into which people's everyday utterances sometimes slide. Thus a sentence like "Every sentence that I utter is a lie" could not occur, as such, in a properly designed metalanguage. There would be no place in it for undecidably heteronymic and autonymic expressions of this sort. A metalanguage helps language-users detect and steer clear of expressions whose semantic polyfunctionality yields, among other pernicious paradoxes, the antinomy of the liar. It helps police usage, enforcing the dictates of logical or linguistic analysis.

Such considerations undermine Barthes's claim that reflexive texts and metalanguages are isomorphic, if not identical. Metalanguages have as their purpose the identification, and regimentation, of first-order expressions that in some contexts misleadingly name themselves. Reflexive fictions, by contrast, exploit precisely those conflations of level or type that metalanguages are designed to circumvent. Such works describe embedded fictional scenarios that pertain more or less closely to the fictional world that embeds them. At the limit, in metaleptic narratives like Flann O'Brien's At Swim-Two-Birds, the described scenarios collapse back into, and overrun, the fictional world from the perspective of which the scenarios are only apparently being described. Such recursive or nested propositional structures produce, too, what is one of the hallmarks of fictional reflexivity--the mise en abyme, so thoroughly investigated by Lucien Dallenbach. The very pervasiveness of the mise en abyme in complex fictions, its status as a generic or quasi-generic marker, reinforces the distinction between fiction about fiction and language about language. Complex fictions do not (purport to) function diagnostically vis-a-vis the fictional scenarios they reflect and comment on; they are not and do not claim to be rich enough to account for the functioning of their constituent subfictions; rather, and as I shall discuss in greater detail in connection with Modiano's novel, these works replicate, redescribe-paraphrase--interlinked fictional situations that prove to be versions of one another. Thus, to say that reflexive works violate distinctions between type and token, the container and the contained, is to speak in a critical idiom that goes only so far in capturing the quality of the self-replicating story worlds characteristic of complex fictions.

Indeed, by moving from the idiom of levels to the idiom of versions, it may be possible to disentangle what may be two different illocutionary forces of the preposition about in talk of fiction about fiction versus talk of language about language. Hilary Putnam's "Formalization of the Concept 'About'" provides some helpful indications in this connection. Putnam's discussion reveals a basic tension in the relation of aboutness. On the one hand, what a statement is about has to be paraphrasable, by definition, into other statements about that. But on the other hand, what a statement is about must not be paraphrasable into indefinitely many other statements, lest the relation of aboutness become so overextended in scope that virtually every statement is about virtually every other statement and the term about cease to have any meaning whatsoever. A research hypothesis guiding my own discussion is that whereas metalinguistic aboutness may be subject to both of Putnam's requirements, fiction about fiction marks a n increase in the scope of aboutness, or alternatively a weakening of the conceptual requirements for the relation of being about. Specifically, reflexive fictions take issue with the second, negative requirement for aboutness. To put the same point another way, fictions about fiction foreground the possibilities instead of the limits of paraphrase.

In consequence, as a brief illustrative analysis of La Place de l'Etoile will suggest, narrative theorists should redefine complex fictions as something more than auto-representations which comment primarily or even exclusively on the code according to which they are constructed. They should look at texts like Modiano's as stories about characters and events that prima facie seem distinct, but that then turn out to be analogues of one another, morphed, integrated, retransformed, and reintegrated through techniques of paraphrase and revision. In this way, in addition to throwing light on key interactional and cognitive components of storytelling, complex fictions yield what might be termed an ethics of representation. They suggest that human beings should try to represent a thing not by isolating and defining it once and for all, but rather by contextualizing it through any number of possible analogues, by establishing precedents for future paraphrases, additional versions, of what they are trying to represen t.

From Metafication to Version-Making

Commentators such as Brian Fitch and Dma Sherzer have described a "progressive problematization of reference in twentieth-century French fiction over the past fifty-odd years" (Fitch 5). Sherzer argues that this fiction, by featuring a variety of "serial constructs," "multimedia montages," and "reflexivities," "propose[s] a multiplicity of idiosyncratic ways of ordering experience and patterns of sense-making," thus suggesting that "the only true reality is that of the text itself" (1-2). La Place de l'Etoile, like the complex fictions Fitch and Sherzer discuss, also features a "narcissistic, solipsistic, self-deprecating" narrator--namely, Raphael Schlemilovitch--as well as "textual strategies that valorize discredit, limitation, difficulty, and incompleteness" (Sherzer 79). Nonetheless, I would dispute the further inference that in Modiano's discourse we witness what Sherzer describes as a wholesale dissolution of "continuity, orientation toward a goal, and causal or logical connections" (167). Rather, as a sustained, oftentimes disturbing meditation on the historical and cultural legacy of the Nazi Occupation in France, La Place de I'Etoile suggests how fictions about fiction can engage problems not addressed by more official histories, for example. Indeed, Modiano's novel is particularly noteworthy because of the unsettling tensions between the urgency of the author's subject-matter--fascism, collaboration, political terror, torture, antisemitism--and the baroque interinvolvements of the discourse used to explore these issues. [7] Modiano himself, in an interview in 1976, distanced himself from mere exercises in style, remarking that "Je ne m'interesse aucune ecole experimentale etje reproche notamment au Nouveau Roman de n'avoir ni ton ni vie [. . .]. J'ecris pour savoir qui je suis, pour me trouver une identite" 'I am not interested in any experimental school and I blame the Noveau Roman, notably, for having neither tone nor life Ii. . .]. I write in order to know who I am, to find an identity for myself (Morris, "Patrick Modiano" 196). [8] For Modiano, then, experimentin g with fictional technique is not so much a game of invention as it is an instrument of (self-) discovery.

Yet how can Modiano's explicit statements about style be reconciled with the formal profile of a novel like La Place de l Etoile? After all, the novel is marked by a relentless, even vertiginous, reflexivity. Its protagonist-narrator uses the fictions of minor and forgotten writers, and also the Michelin guidebook (40), as paradigms for thought and conduct (70, 73). He also engages in heated polemics with a character who migrates into the narrative from another fiction--namely, Celine's infamous slum doctor, Bardamu, the crazed anti-hero of Voyage au Bout de la Nuit. Indeed, Schlemilovitch is a doubly and triply homodiegetic narrator who constructs, within the fiction, fictitious accounts of his own and others' circumstances, such as the spurious "Confession de Jacob X," which in turn provokes a fictitious response from Sartre entitled "Saint Jacob X comedien et martyr" (17-18). It is Schlemilovitch, too, who authors a self-incriminating study, Psychanalyse de Dreyfus, "ou j'affirmais noir surblanc la culpabi lite du capitaine" 'where I affirmed in black and white the culpability of the captain' (11). He also incorporates into his quasi-autobiographical account citations of his own analyses of assorted French collaborationists, including Drieu la Rochelle, Maurice Sachs, and the ill-fated Robert Brasillach. This too is someone who hopes, by making sporadic entries in his journal, "pour me debarrasser d'une jeunesse orageuse" 'to disencumber myself of a tempestuous youth' (83)--a personal history with which, however, the narrator encumbers himself more and more as he proceeds.

Schlemilovitch also merits (and invites) numerous comparisons--some invidious, some mocking--with Marcel Proust (36, 40, 94, 125). The Recherche itself figures as a sort of encyclopedia, an internovelistic data-base, for the world represented in the Modiano's text. For instance, when Schlemilovitch is a child and the old Baron Truffaldine recounts those "histoires interminables" 'interminable histories' of Proust's major and minor characters (13), Proust's novel furnishes what become the personages and events of history itself. A little later on Schlemilovitch's friend and authorial collaborator, Jean-Francois Des Essarts, whose surname recalls Huysmans' protagonist in A Rebours, "comparait notre amitie a celle qui unisait Robert de Saint-Loup et le narrateur d' A la Recherche du Temps Perdu" 'compared our friendship to that which united Robert de Saint-Loup and the narrator of In Search of Lost Time' (14). Similarly, the vicount Charles Levy-Vendomes disavows any pederastic tendencies by urging that "le bar on de Charlus n'est pas mon cousin" 'the Baron de Charlus is not my cousin' (66); and later Levy-Vendomes sarcastically asks Schlemilovitch, "Vous prendriez-vous pour Charles Swann par hasard?" 'Do you perchance take yourself to be Charles Swann?' (99).

Indeed, as these references to Proust indicate, Modiano's discourse is reflexive in more ways than one. It does not just call attention to its own fictional intertexts, but also suggests the permeability of the border between fiction and history. In one of Modiano's more striking conflations of fictional with historical contexts, Schlemilovitch, having made a hallucinatory temporal projection back into the period of the Occupation, describes himself as "le juif officiel du IIIe Reich" 'the official Jew of the Third Reich' (107), by virtue of his having become the lover of Hitler's confidante, Eva Braun. Then, too, in a mock-psychoanalytic encounter that evokes Italo Svevo's La Conscienza di Zeno (Confessions of Zeno), the novel ends with Freud sitting at Schlemilovitch's bedside in the Potzleindorf clinic in Vienna. Schlemilovitch rubs Freud's bald head in attempts to determine whether he is real or only a hallucination; meanwhile, Freud weeps as he pleads with Schlemilovitch to recognize that "Vous n'etes p as juif, vous etes un homme parmi d' autres hommes" 'You are not Jewish, you are a man among other men' (150). [9] In general, Modiano's narrator dons new costumes, assumes new roles, and even assembles new memories with astonishing, not to say schizophrenic, regularity and adroitness. The text flattens out differences between these costumes, roles, and memories, including differences related to their origins in history as opposed to fiction; these are all versions, more or less oblique, more or less diffuse, of the story of Schlemilovitch's search for self. Finding (and encouraging the reader to find) versions of his own story everywhere he looks, this protagonist narrator distends the contours of what possible-worlds theorists would call his transworld identity. [10] The proliferation, within the text, of possible-world counterparts suggests not an enduring self with counterfactual versions, but rather the counterfactualization of identity into an array of merely possible selves, none of which emerges as de finitively real. The task of multiplying and comparing versions of the self takes priority, here, over the selection of any one self as primary or exemplary. Narrative, insofar as it can always be retold and revised, is thus the chief means of identity-formation.

Granted, a number of Modiano' s characters-including, ironically, Schiemilovitch himself-search for purity, for essence. Theirs is a representational ethic premised on enduring identities and acontextual attributes; as a result, they isolate, quantify, and establish gradations between features whose basic relatedness, however, Modiano's fiction persistently demonstrates. Hence, Schlemilovitch begins his account by quoting an invective issued by Dr. Bardamu, who calls Schlemilovitch an "avorton infiniment negroide" 'infinitely negroid abortion' (9). Schlemilovitch, in turn, had provoked Bardamu's quantified racial slur by suggesting, in his book (Bardamu Unmasked) that "La phrase du docteur Bardamu est encore plus 'juive' que Ia phrase tarabiscotee de Marcel Proust: une musique tendre, larmoyante, un peu raccrocheuse, un tantinet cabotine" 'The phrasing of Dr. Bardamu is even more "Jewish" than the overelaborate phrasing of Marcel Proust: a music tender, lachrymose, a little clingy, a bit affected' (11). Mean while, Schlemilovitch finds himself "bien emu" 'very moved' when, in the mountain village where Schlemilovitch takes on his first job as recruiter for the white slave trade, old Colonel Aravis stridently asserts that "Nous en avons assez de voir Ia race francaise degeneree. Nous voulons de la purete" 'We have seen enough of the degenerate French race. We want purity' (75).

Yet La Place de l'Etoile ironizes the nostalgia of Schlemilovitch and the other characters for essences, their yearning for uncompromised identities. In particular, Modiano's multiplication of characters and events that are in some sense analogues for one another, and more or less improbable analogues, forces readers to place those characters and events in extended relational networks, rather than trying to identify criteria for separating them into discrete classes or for hierarchicalizing them into levels." Hence Modiano's use of familial metaphors to suggest the relatedness of various personages, fictional and historical. Schlemilovitch characterizes Albert Schweitzer, for example, as Sartre's grand uncle (74), and on various occasions describes himself as the grandson of the racist Colonel Aravis, the grand nephew of the ex-Collaborationist schoolmaster, Adrien Debigorre (75), the son of the slave-trading vicount Levy-Vendomes (85), the cousin of"le peintre juif Modigliani 'the Jewish painter Modigliani, ' and the twin of Groucho Marx (113). Hence, too, the appearance in the narrative of a series of female characters whose experiences and attributes are kaleidoscopically various, but whom the reader, like Schlemilovitch, begins to see as forming a sort of composite female identity, as multitudinous and far-flung as Schlemilovitch's own. There is Tania Arcisewska, the Polish Jew who "me montre le numero matricule indelebile qu'elle porte l'epaule" 'showed me the indelible registration number [from the concentration camp] that she wore on her shoulder' (31) and who slits her wrists with the shiny, Gilette extra-blue razor blades given to her by Schlemilovitch himself (32). There is the pious Catholic Loitia Perrache, whom Schlemilovitch at first idealizes and later imagines getting habituated to the Brazilian bordello to which he has consigned her as a slave; the Marquise who changes costumes so that Schlemilovitch can pretend to violate, in succession, figures as diverse of Jeanne d'Arc and General Boulanger ( 95); Hilda Murzzuchlag, the Viennese prostitute and daughter of an officer in the S.S.; and Rebecca, lieutenant in the Israeli army and would-be rescuer of Schlemilovitch during his (hallucinated) voyage to Tel Aviv and subsequent imprisonment, torture, and murder. Recall as well that Schlemilovitch himself is by turns student, author, wealthy legatee, victim of tuberculosis, bodyguard, white slave trader, fake alpine hunter, professor of history, delerious hallucinator, political prisoner, mock S.S. officer, and psychoanalytic patient. This proliferation of identity versions defeats, even negates, attempts to fix the status and location of the self within an architecture of levels-diegetic, hypodiegetic, or hypohypodiegetic, as the case might be. It defines the self not just as indefinitely revisable but also as never ceasing to place itself under revision.

Hence a specific paradigm for aboutness, one extending the limits of the notion "paraphrase," informs Modiano's reflexive fiction. By displaying how characters and events can relate to many other characters and events in many different ways, the novel undermines the logic of purity, the attempt to work down to the one true version of things, that governs fascistic discourse. Enacting a series of miscegenations, cultural, ethnic, geographical, and historical, the novel confers on its protagonist-narrator a portmanteau identity, a shifting location in spatiotemporal, sociocultural, and fictional space. But the reflexivity of the novel is in no way tantamount to hermetic self-enclosure, to a bottomless stratification of the text into fictional levels. Rather, the reflexivity operates laterally. Openly displaying its status as an assemblage of story-versions, the novel anchors itself in the ongoing process of telling and retelling stories--a process that is not only the result of social interaction but also one of the preeminent strategies for interacting. This, then, is a reflexivity without introversion: based on multiple self-paraphrases, the form of Modiano's text nevertheless inserts the narrative into the social circulation of stories, while also illuminating how that circulation works. Specifically, it suggests that stories change precisely by being exchanged. Events more than things, never told exactly the same way twice, stories are socially elaborated models for understanding the world, and narrative communication a powerful theory-building activity in its own right.

David Herman ( teaches in the department of English at North Carolina State University. He is the author of Universal Grammar and Narrative Form (Duke UP, 1995) and the editor of Narratologies: New Perspectives on Narrative Analysis (Ohio State UP, 1999). He is also chief editor of a new book series, Frontiers of Narrative, at the University of Nebraska Press, which will publish the book he is currently finishing, Story Logic: Problems and Possibilities of Narrative.


(1.) I am grateful to Marie-Laure Ryan and Brian Richardson for helpful comments on an earlier version of this essay.

(2.) For a thorough and illuminating survey of narratological approaches to the problem of embedded stories in narrative, see William Nelles's "Stories within Stories."

(3.) For more on the role of deictic shifts in narrative discourse, see the essays assembled in Judith F. Duchan's, Gail A. Bruder's, and Lynne E. Hewitt's volume on Deixis in Narrative.

(4.) See Barbara Herrnstein Smith's "Narrative Versions, Narrative Theories" for an early articulation of a versions model for narrative analysis. Smith's scheme, however, is designed not to enrich the levels model of classical narratology but rather to expose what Smith takes to be deep conceptual flaws within the whole enterprise of narratology--in particular, its distinction between an underlying story (or fabula) that remains identical across all versions and the discourse (or sjuzhet) that varies with each such version. By contrast, in arguing for an enrichment of classical narratology by way of story-versions, I am assuming the continued relevance and usefulness of structuralist (e.g., levels-based) frameworks. At the same time, though, my essay argues that such frameworks are of themselves insufficient to describe and explain what I shall go on to characterize as "lateral" versus "vertical" reflexivity in narrative.

(5.) My forthcoming study, Story Logic, provides an extended account of narrative comprehension as a process of storyworld (re)construction.

(6.) Historically, the emphasis on self-contained auto-representation in discussions of "metafiction" derives in large part from Jean Ricardou's pathbreaking studies of the Nouveau Roman. See Hutcheon (21-22) for a synoptic account, as well as parallel models found in works like Robert Scholes's "Metafiction," Margaret A. Rose's Parody//Meta-Fiction, and Patricia Waugh's Metafiction. By contrast, see Williams's Theory and the Novel (8,28) for a critique of the very rubric metafiction.

(7.) A slightly more nuanced definition runs thus: "[a] language rich enough for talking about some language (which may or may not be itself, or part of itself, and may or may not be an object language) is a metalanguage for the language which can be talked about" (Lacey 143).

(8.) For a study of how tensions of this sort manifest themselves in Modiano's ouevre as a whole, see Alan Morris's Patrick Modiano. For his part, Cohn Nettelbeck notes that Modiano "researched the period preceding his birth with single-minded zeal, years before the publication of the books that allow the curious reader to verify the accuracy of his material" (103). In this way, Modiano's first novel is "paradigmatic of the whole post-1968 war narrative phenomenon," focusing on "the areas of the Occupation that had been glossed over by official History"--e.g., "the Black Market-Collaboration-Gestapo nexus, and [the resulting] problems of French identity and Jewish survival" (102-03).

In addition, Morris's "Attacks on the Gaullist 'Myth'" shows that Modiano was only one of a number of French novelists and filmmakers (among them JeanLouis Curtis, Alphonse Boudard, Brigitte Friang, Marcel Orphuls, and Louis Malle) who disputed the Gaullist myth that idealized the French Resistance and that minimized the extent of French collaboration. See also, in this connection, Alice Yeager Kaplan's Reproductions of Banality.

(9.) Unless otherwise noted, all translations from the French are, as in the present instance, my own.

(10.) Freud's blatantly bald head makes him, in turn, a version or analogue of both Maurice Sachs (19) and Charles Levy-Vendomes (65).

(11.) On the concept of transworld identity, see Lubomir Dolezel's Heterocosmica (17-18), Saul A. Kripke's Naming and Necessity, and Thomas G. Pavel's Fictional Worlds (36).

(11.) Pertinent, here, is a remark from Alain Robbe-Grillet's "Order and Disorder in Fiction and Film," in which Robbe-Grillet contrasts La Jalousie with more traditional novels: "Instead of having to deal with a series of scenes which are connected by causal links, one has the impression that the same scene is constantly repeating itself, but with variations; that is, scene A is not followed by scene B but by A', a possible variation of scene A" (5). I am indebted to Brian Richardson for this quotation.

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Date:Jun 22, 2000
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