Academic journal article Mosaic (Winnipeg)

Self and Narrative in le Ravissement De Lol V. Stein

Academic journal article Mosaic (Winnipeg)

Self and Narrative in le Ravissement De Lol V. Stein

Article excerpt

This essay adopts an interdisciplinary approach to Duras's Le Ravissement de Lol V. Stein, examining the intersection between psychoanalysis and literary criticism. Temporal continuity and spatial cohesion are considered shared characteristics of both the self and narrative in this examination of how identity fragmentation is reflected in the structure of a text.

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In his homage to Le Ravissement de Lol V. Stein, Jacques Lacan famously declared that Marguerite Duras "s'avere savoir sans moi ce que j'enseigne" (9), his remarks providing the impetus for a host of psychoanalytic interpretations of the novel. Kimberly Philpot van Noort, in a highly critical analysis of the "Hommage" suggests that Lacan commits the interpretive error of "the elision of the narration" (197) and that he "seems peculiarly blind to the intricate relation of the narration and the narrated in this novel, and how each, indeed, determines the other" (198). Similarly, Leslie Hill suggests that Lacan oversimplifies the text "by largely ignoring the process of narration and constituting Jacques as a psychoanalytic subject" (71). Susan Suleiman, however, offers a more sympathetic view of this interaction between psychoanalysis and textual analysis, concluding that in reading "Lacan with Duras, we see emerging the possibility of a psychoanalytic discourse that would be not a discourse of mastery but a discourse of mutual entanglement" (117-18). This potential for a fruitful intersection between psychoanalytic and narratological approaches to literature inspires the present analysis of Duras's novel. However, rather than taking as its starting point Lacanian psychoanalytic theories, my study of Le Ravissement is premised on the notion of temporal continuity and spatial cohesion as shared characteristics of both the self and of narrative. A breakdown in the psychological temporo-spatial framework signals a fragmenting sense of self, a psychological pathology. In narrative, the breakdown of temporal and spatial continuity signals the narrator's unreliability and opens the text to multiple readings. Temporal continuity and spatial cohesion thus characterize the predictable functioning of the construct in question, be it self or narrative. Lol's oft-discussed, truncated first name (her full name is Lola) signals her absence and disengagement from her surroundings: "il manquait deja quelque chose a Lol pour etre ... la." (Duras 12). Always "loin de vous et de l'instant," Lol is never quite all "there," present in the here and now (13). As his recounting of the story advances, the narrator, Jacques Hold, becomes increasingly disengaged from reality and begins to display a similarly uneasy relationship with time and space, signs of which are in turn embedded in the novel's narrative structure: chronology breaks down mad descriptions of the fictional universe are both tediously repetitive and frustratingly vague, resulting in the creation of a strangely ambiguous textual space and a novel that resists reader appropriation.

The first section of this study considers the reciprocal relationship between psychoanalysis and literature, examining the appeal of psychoanalytic approaches to literary texts and recent theories of the self premised on the idea of narrative as the primary structuring device of identity. Subsequent sections examine signs of a weak self-identity already present in descriptions of a young Lol, and consider the link between Lol's mental state and her relationship to time and space. In particular, using both Freud's and Julia Kristeva's definitions of melancholia, I examine Lol's fragmented sense of self as manifested in her obsessive need to create strict temporal routines and manically arranged domestic spaces. I then turn to the narrator's relationship to time and space, examining how Hold's own fragmenting sense of self is reflected in the construction of the narrative.

In his passionate defence of psychoanalytic approaches to literature, Peter Brooks argues that "the structure of literature is in some sense the structure of the mind," or rather, of what Freud calls "'the mental apparatus" which is more accurately the dynamic organization of the psyche, a process of structuration" ("Idea" 337). …

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