Narratology: An Introduction

By Susana Onega; Jose Angel Garcia Landa | Go to book overview

eyes of the cartoon figure who is baffled, unconscious, or dead: XX. In all these uses, the 'ex' means out of, beside itself, displaced. The real and visible rises, exhales, from the unreal, or does the unreal always appear as the intervening veil or substitute for the absent real, as, in stanza 18 of Wallace Stevens 'Man with the Blue Guitar,' daylight comes 'Like light in a mirroring of cliffs,/Rising upward from a sea of ex.' 3

Daylight, the visible and nameable, is always doubly derived, secondary. It rises from the sea and then is further displaced by its mirroring from the cliffs in a wandering like that of all those terms I have been examining. This movement makes the source itself unreal, a sea of ex. Stevens speaks, in section 13 of 'An Ordinary Evening in New Haven,' of the approach of night, from which the light comes and to which it returns, as 'the big X of the returning primitive.' 4 The real and the unreal, the metaphorical and the literal, the figure and the ground, constantly change places, in oscillating chiasmus, for 'ex'ample in Stevens's contradictory explanation of 'sea of ex' in his letters. To Renato Poggioli he wrote: 'A sea of ex means a purely negative sea. The realm of has-been without interest or provocativeness.' To Hy Simons: 'Sea of Ex. The imagination takes us out of (Ex) reality into a pure irreality. One has this sense of irreality often in the presence of morning light on cliffs which then rise from a sea that has ceased to be real and is therefore a sea of Ex.' 5 Which is unreal, which real, the sea or the light? It cannot be decided. Whatever one sees is unreal and creates as its ground a phantasmal real, which becomes unreal in its turn when one turns to it.

[ . . . ]


Notes
1.
See PAUL RIŒUR, Temps et éecit, vol. 1 ( Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1983), pp. 19-84; RICŒUR, Time and Narrative, vol. 1, trans. Kathleen McLaughlin and David Pellauer ( Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), pp. 5-51.
2.
I investigate this region of narrative criticism in a book entitled Illustration ( Cambridge University Press, 1992).
3.
WALLACE STEVENS, "'The Man with the Blue Guitar,'" in The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens ( New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1954), p. 175.
4.
STEVENS, "'An Ordinary Evening in New Haven,'" in Collected Poems, p. 274.
5.
The Letters of Wallace Stevens, ed. Holly Stevens ( New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1966), pp. 783, 360.

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