New Media: The Novel as Literary Precedent and Predigitized Analog Analogue
from M. M. Bakhtin, “Epic and Novel,” The Dialogic Imagination, ed. Michael Holquist, trans. Caryl Emerson and Holquist (1981).
The field available for representing the world changes from genre to genre and from era to era as literature develops. It is organized in different ways and limited in space and time by different means. But this field is always specific.
The novel comes into contact with the spontaneity of the inconclusive present; this is what keeps the genre from congealing. The novelist is drawn toward everything that is not yet completed. He may turn up on the field of representation in any authorial pose, he may depict real moments in his own life or make allusions to them, he may interfere in the conversations of his heroes, he may openly polemicize with his literary enemies and so forth. This is not merely a matter of the author’s image appearing within his own field of representation—important here is the fact that the underlying, original formal author (the author of the authorial image) appears in a new relationship with the represented world. Both find themselves now subject to the same temporally valorized measurements, for the “depicting” authorial language now lies on the same plane as the “depicted” language of the hero, and may enter into dialogic relations and hybrid combinations with it (indeed it cannot help but enter into such relations).
It is precisely this new situation, that of the original formally present author in a zone of contact with the world he is depicting that makes possible at all the appearance of the authorial image on the field of representation. This new positioning of the author must be considered one of the most important results of surmounting epic (hierarchical) distance. The enormous formal, compositional and stylistic implications this new positioning of the author has for the specific evolution of the novel as a genre require no further explanation. (27-28)
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The novelization of literature does not imply attaching to already completed genres a generic canon that is alien to them, not theirs. The novel, after all, has no canon of its own. It is, by its very nature, not canonic. It is plasticity itself. It is a genre that is ever questing ever examining itself and subjecting its established forms to review. Such, indeed, is the only possibility open to a genre that structures itself in a zone of direct contact with developing reality. Therefore, the novelization of other genres does not imply their subjection to an alien generic canon; on the contrary, novelization implies their liberation from all that serves as a brake on their unique development from all that would change them along with the novel into some sort of stylization of forms that have outlived themselves. (39)
from Alain Robbe-Grillet, For a New Novel, trans. Richard Howard (1965)
The New Novel is not a theory, it is an exploration.
It has therefore codified no law. Which means that there is no question of a literary school in the narrow sense of the phrase. We are the first to realize that there are among our respective works—between those of Claude Simon and my own, for example—considerable differences, and we believe that this is a good thing. What interest would there be in the two of us writing, if we were writing the same thing?
But have such differences not always existed within all “schools”? What is found in common between individuals, in each of the literary movements of our history, is chiefly the desire to escape a sclerosis, the need for something else. Around what have artists always grouped themselves, if not the rejection of the outworn forms still being imposed on them? Forms live and die, in all the realms of art, and in all periods they have had to be continually renewed: the composition of the novel of the nineteenth-century type, which was life itself a hundred years ago, is not longer anything but an empty formula, serving only as the basis for tiresome parodies. (134-35)
from Alain Robbe-Grillet, Djinn, trans Yvonne Lenard and Walter Wells (1982)
There is nothing—I mean no incontrovertible evidence—that might allow anyone to place Simon Lecoeur’s story among tales of pure fiction. In the contrary, one can observe that numerous and important elements of that unstable, incomplete text, fissured as it seems, coincide with facts (commonly known facts) with a strange recurrence that is therefore disconcerting. And, while other elements of the narrative stray deliberately away from those facts, they always do so in a manner that one is forced to see there a systematic intent on the part of the narrator, as thought some secret motive had dictated those changes and those inventions.
Such motive, of course, escapes us, at least for the time being. Were we to discover it, it would shed light on the whole affair. It is permissible, in any case, to think so. (7-8)