Maupassant: the Semiotics of Text

Practical Exercises

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Translated by Paul Perron Maupassant's short story, “Two Friends”, is examined in order to test methodological tools and to hone them for their application in the analysis of narrative discourse, starting from the oral tale (Propp) and ending with the written tale instituted as literary genre. Complex procedures of textual production are identified: among which entire sequences as well as the “evenemential” level of narrative fade away in favor of its cognitive dimension. This semiotic investigation is accompanied by a challenge to certain conventions of literary criticism: dialogue, the locus of Realist stereotypes, appears laden with paradoxical truths; the description of nature, inherited from the Romantics, bristles with narrative intent, and entire sections of a valorized figurative universe unfold before us. Thematic readings are linked up with semantic analysis: the figure of Water exerts its profound fascination. A Christian symbolics is uncovered which traverses the text and invites us to read it as a new Gospel Parable. New readings complement older ones and remain as so many suspended possibilities. The tale appears somewhat as a sonnet, that is to say as a “fixed-form” genre, where the closure of the text would be a necessary condition for transcending it.
[Semiotic Crossroads, 1]  1988.  xxxiv, 258 pp.
Publishing status: Available
Table of Contents
Introduction
xv
Foreword
xxiii
Two Friends (unabridged text)
xxix
Sequence I: Paris
I. Textual organization
1
1. Spatial and Temporal Disjunctions
1
2. Actorial Disjunction
3
II. The First Sentence
4
1. Thematic Roles
4
2. Aspectual Structures
6
3. A Logic of Approximations
7
III. The Second Sentence
9
1. The Discoursive Isotopy
9
2. Spatial Representation
13
3. Semantic Explicitation
14
4. Axiological Investments
14
IV. The Third Sentence
16
1. The Spatial Figure of Paris
16
2. Toward the Abolition of Meaning
17
V. Final Remarks
18
Sequence II: Friendship
I. The Sequence and its Context
22
1. Intercalation
22
2. The Linearity of Discourse
24
II. The Internal Organization of the Sequence
27
1. Paradigmatic Organization
27
2. Syntagmatic Organization
29
III. Euphoric Doing
34
1. The Discoursive Program
34
2. The Valorization of the Program
35
3. The Installation of the Dual Actant
36
IV. The Figurative Universe of Values
36
1. The Identification of Values
36
2. The Transfigurations of the Sun
37
3. Aquatic Mist
39
4. Celestial Mist
39
5. Solar Blood
40
6. The Seeming of the Sky
41
7. The Semiotic Square
43
V. Actantial Distribution
44
Sequence III: The Promenade
I. The Status and the Organization of the Sequence
48
1. The Spatio-temporal Frame
48
2. The Promenade
48
3. Walking and Halting
50
II. The Advent of the Event
51
1. Temporalization and Aspectualization
51
2. The Focalization of the Actor-Subject
54
3. Triggering of Narration
56
III. Reconstituting the Actant
56
1. Recognition
56
2. The Reunion
58
3. The Virtualization and the Actualization of Contents
59
4. The Institution of Illusion
60
IV. The Competence of the Subject
64
1. The Actualization of Wanting-to-do
64
2. An Illusory Being-able-to-do
66
3. The Tricksters
67
4. The Two Figures of the Trickster
68
5. The Non-Sender
70
6. The Act
72
Sequence IV: The Quest
I. Provisional Segmentation
76
II. Familiar Space
77
1. The Pass
77
2. The Spatial Organization of the Narrative
79
III. Topical Space
83
1. New Segmentation
83
2. The Interpretive Halt
85
3. Persuasive Displacement
97
Sequence V: Peace
I. Problems of Segmentation
101
II. The Construction of Cognitive Space
102
1. The Quest for Solitude
103
2. The Absence of the Anti-subject
105
III. The Performance of the Hero
107
1. Textual and Narrative Analysis
107
2. Semantic Analysis
109
Sequence VI: War
I. Textual Organization
118
II. Mount Valerian
120
1. Sound and Silence
120
2. The Anthropomorphic Figure
121
3. The Sociolectal Universe and the Ideolectal Universe
122
4. Deadly Doing
127
III. Death and Liberty
130
1. Segmentation
130
2. “That's even worse than animals”
131
3. Nature and Culture
133
4. The Social Proto-sender
135
5. “One would never be free”
136
6. The Narrative Pivot
137
7. The Presence of Death
139
Sequence VII: The Capture
I. Textual Organization
143
1. The Frame of the Sequence
143
2. Internal Articulation
144
II. The Pragmatic Dimension
145
1. The Anti-subject's Narrative Program
145
2. Objects of Value: O2
147
3. Objects of Value: O1
148
4. The Subject of Doing and the Subject of Being
150
5. The Structure of the Anti-subject
151
III. The Cognitive Dimension
154
1. “Point of View”
154
2. Dual Recognition
155
3. Speaking
156
Sequence VIII: Reinterpretation
I. Textual Organization
159
1. The Frame of the Sequence
159
2. Internal Articulation
160
II. The Establishment of Discourse
160
1. Rhetorical Procedures
160
2. Setting up the Enunciation
161
III. Second Degree Discourse
162
1. A Counter-reading
162
2. The Reading of S1's NP
163
3. Interpretation and the Canon
163
4. Return to Interpretation
165
5. Thematic Roles and Trajectories
165
6. The Revelation of the Secret
166
7. The Transfer of Responsibilities
168
8. The Ideology of Domination
169
9. The Informative Utterance
171
Sequence IX: The Refusal
I. Textual Organization
173
1. The Frame of the Sequence
173
2. Internal Articulation
174
II. The Anti-subject's Narrative Program
174
1. Narrative Competence
174
2. Narrative Performance
179
III. The Subject's Narrative Program
185
1. Interpretation of the Values Offered
185
2. The Interpretation of the Requested Counter-value
188
3. The Narrative Program of Liberation
190
Sequence X: Death
I. Textual Organization
200
1. The Frame of the Sequence
200
2. Internal Articulation
200
II. The Economy of the Sequence
201
1. The Patriotic Isotopy
201
2. The Performance
202
III. The Last Attempt
203
1. The Warning
203
2. The Unsuccessful Separation
204
IV. Farewell
207
1. The Paradigmatic Network
207
2. The Comparison of Values
208
3. The Reconstitution of the Dual Actant
214
V. Martyrdom
217
1. The Last Confrontation
217
2. The Vacuity of the Sky
219
3. The Christian Parable
220
Sequence XI: The Funeral
I. Textual Organization
223
1. The Frame of the Sequence
223
2. Internal Articulation
224
II. The Transfiguration
225
1. The Procedure of Overshadowing
225
2. The Immersion
225
III. Recognition
228
1. The Manifestations of Water
228
2. “A little blood floated”
229
IV. The Funeral Oration
231
1. The Axiology of the Anti-subject
231
2. The Ideology of Power
232
3. The Redistribution of Knowledge
233
Sequence XII: The Closure of The Narrative
I. Textual Organization
235
1. The Frame of the Sequence
235
2. Internal Articulation
236
II. The Consumption of the Fish
237
1. A “Delicious” Experience
237
2. Cognitive Doing
237
3. Pragmatic Doing
238
4. The Resumption of the Christian Isotopy
241
III. The Consummation of the Event
243
Final Remarks
245
Index Rerum
251
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Subjects

Literature & Literary Studies

Semiotics
Romance literature & literary studies
BIC Subject: DSB – Literary studies: general
BISAC Subject: LIT000000 – LITERARY CRITICISM / General
U.S. Library of Congress Control Number:  88009542