Fictions d'Amérique

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Fictions d'Amérique… dans tous les sens du terme: écriture romanesque, poétique, officielle; réalité transfigurée, sublimée, déformée, réinventée, subvertie. On trouvera dans ce numéro, consacré à l'Amérique du Nord, des analyses de fictions diverses, parmi lesquelles: Par-delà les tribulations de l'exil, l'espace photographique de Willa Cathe; See the Tiki-Tiki Scatter: une certaine problématique de l'oralité dans les nouvelles littératures en anglais; De la violence à l'innocence: Jeremiah Johnson de Sydney Pollack; De la pacification au morcellement: orientations et contradictions de la politique indienne dans la deuxième partie du XIXè siècle…Avec ce cinquième volume, les Annales du Monde Anglophone se trouvent confortées dans leur ambition d'ouverture de nouvelles voies de recherche dans le domaine des cultures anglophones.
Publié le : dimanche 1 juin 1997
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PUbliée par l'Institut de Recherche du Monde de l'Université Aix-Marseille I Directeur: Serge Ricard
.:. .:. .:.

Premier

semestre

1997

-

N° 5

FICTIONS

D'AMÉRIQUE

.:.

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Tout ce qui concerne la rédaction doit être adressé à M. Serge RICARD, directeur des Annales, au secrétariat de la revue.

SOMMAIRE

. :Fictions
Avant-propos,

page

â'.9Lmérique
7

par Serge RICARD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Death, Love and the Traveller: Strether's through England and France, by Sylvie MATHÉ ............................

Sentimental

Journey
9

Par-delà les tribulations de l'exil: l'espace photographique de Willa Cather, par Stéphanie BROCHON . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Masks in John Barth's The Floating Opera, by Cécile COUDRIOU . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Cynthia Ozick et Bruno Schulz: histoire d'une filiation, par Josée ANTOINE. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . "See the Tiki-Tiki Scatter" (Olive Senior, Jamaïque) : une certaine problématique de l'oralité dans les nouvelles littératures en anglais, par Judith MISRAHI-BARAK . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Aspects de la presse underground des années 60, par Christiane SAINT JEANPAULIN. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

43

53 65

77

83

De la violence à l'innocence: Jeremiah Johnson de Sydney Pollack, ou l'Ouest mythique de F.J. Turner habité par le western, par Sylvia ULLMO . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95 De la "pacification" au morcellement: orientations et contradictions de la politique indienne dans la deuxième partie du XIXesiècle, par Joëlle ROSTKOWSKI. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

107
127

. :J{pte sur Ces auteurs. . Comptes rendus. . . . . . . . . . .
+++

. . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . 129

Avont- Propos

Fictions d'Amérique... dans tous les sens du terme: écriture romanesque, poétique, officielle; réalité transfigurée, sublimée, déformée, réinventée, subvertie. On trouvera dans ce numéro, consacré à l'Amérique du Nord, des analyses de fictions diverses. Dans une étude originale, dense et subtile, Sylvie Mathé propose de nouvelles clefs jamesiennes à propos de The Ambassadors; Stéphanie Brochon explore l'apport de la photographie à l'art de la romancière Willa Cather; Cécile Coudriou déchiffre les jeux de doubles et de miroirs dans les masques de l'insaisissable John Barth; Josée Antoine distingue chez Cynthia Ozick entre cannibalisme et liberté de la création littéraire, entre histoire et fiction; Judith MisrahiBarak s'intéresse aux nouvelles littératures anglophones des Caraibes et à leur utilisation novatrice et subversive de l'oralité; Christiane Saint Jean Paulin nous rappelle que la presse "underground" des années soixante eut quelque mal à inscrire son combat entre réalités politiques et fantasmes idéologiques; Sylvia Ullmo prend le western comme mythification toujours recommencée d'une conquête de l'Ouest fondatrice, dans l'imaginaire américain, d'une nation exceptionnelle; Joëlle Rostkowski, enfin, dissèque discours et actes officiels en matière de politique indienne pour restituer à l'histoire des Amérindiens sa tragique dimension d'irrémédiable gâchis ethno-culturel. Ainsi les Annales du Monde Anglophone, avec ce cinquième volume, se trouvent-elles confortées dans leur ambition d'ouverture de nouvelles voies de recherche dans le domaine des cultures anglophones.

Serge RICARD
Université de Prvvence Directeur

-:-.:..:.

AMA S-1"'semestre

1997

DEATH, LOVE SENTIMENTAL AND FRANCE

AND THE TRAVELLER: JOURNEY THROUGH

STRETHER'S ENGLAND
Sylvie MATHÉ

Université de Provence (Aix-MarseilleI)

April is the cruellest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead soil, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain. T.S. Eliot, "The Burial of the Dead", The Wasteland.

Entre triomphe d'une logique formelle et négativité d'un héros sacrifié, la clôture ambiguë du roman de Henry James, The Ambassadors, trouble et dérange. Cet essai propose une lecture du roman en forme de compte à rebours, dans laquelle la fin - "the point where the death comes in" - est envisagée comme ligne de fuite sous-tendant de bout en bout le parcours de Strether, jusque dans les délais et détours où s'épanouissent les plaisirs et les jours, et où le renoncement final figure comme l'aboutissement d'une pulsion de mort toujours sous-jacente au désir. Roman du soir et de la mélancolie, The Ambassadors, par l'aporie de sa clôture, paraît ainsi éluder la mort qu'entraînerait la détermination du sens, pour mieux l'installer dans un blanc terminal où se fond le héros.

liThe 'happy ending' of The Ambassadors is one of the saddest in all our literature, leaving us with the heartbreaking image of Strether as the man who sees everything but can do nothing, understands everything but can possess nothing" (Fiedler 343). Fiedler's appraisal of the much debated ending of The Ambassadors emphasizes the dimension of failure in Strether's education, lia choice of impotence" (343) dubiously presented by James as lia willed, a moral act" (342). That critics remain remarkably divided in their readings of the ending and that the last book of the novel continues to exert a powerful and puzzling hold can only testify to the uncanny resilience of an ending which undoubtedly raises more questions than it finalizes answers, an ending that finds the reader "neither prepared nor proof"} for such a closure. If, as Barthes writes, "le sens n'est
1. Henry James, The Ambassadors (New York: Scribner's, 1909), vol. 22, p. 262. Subsequent references to the novel are to this edition (vols. 21 and 22 of the New
AMA 5-1"'semestrel997

10

SYLVIE MATIIÉ

pas au bout du texte - il le traverse,,,2 we nevertheless still expect from the ending some sense of finality, whether from confirmation of expectation or gratifying motion of surprise, some notion of ultimate stability. In her study of Poetic Closure, Herrnstein-Smith writes that "closure allows the reader to be satisfied by the failure of continuation or, put another way, it creates in the reader the expectation of nothing" (34). But James's "nonfinal, rest-less endings," by which he denies us "the quiescence of the end" (Brooks 262), leave us rest-less too, haunted and like Strether in exile, deprived of any tangible possessions, with only our "wonderful impressions" (22: 326) to sort out and make sense of. The dramatic and rhetorical protocol of the ending, ambiguously poised between past and future, between retrospection and anticipation, is a peculiarly unsettling one, insofar as the reader is caught between an undeniable perception that this saire pour que nous percevions le texte comme achevé ?,,3 - and a no less pregnant sense that this ending neither totalizes nor finalizes the meanings produced by the text.4 Hence the "sad" note struck by Strether's sweet and sour final pirouette: "Then there we are" (22 : 327). This terminal "bon-mot," the crowning point in a sequel of recurring set phrases and coded formulas, which at this late stage of the novel rings with all the irony of the deflated langage of heightened cliché,5 leaves Strether, Maria and the reader unmistakably in medias res, closing the journey opened by "Strether's first question" (21 : 3) on the hazy perspective of a receding Strether, fading out into what appears simultaneously as the unknown and all too well-known world of Woollett. The tag line on which the novel ends thus triggers a kind of contradictory response to Strether's ambiguous final stance, suspended as he is between paralysis and determination, stasis and will. By superposing a conventional closural thematic - farewell and return home - and an anti-closural one - a new departure to "a great difference - no doubt. Yet l'shall see what I can make of if' (22 : 325),6 the ending which should provide a "removal of the instability" (Richter 166) is perceived instead as an unsettling disturbing move which, for all of James's closural thematic references and the
York edition) and appear in parentheses in the text. Subsequent references to the title will be abbreviated as TA. 2. Barthes, quoted by Hamon (507). 3. Chklovski, quoted by Hamon (497). 4. For theoretical discussions of closure, see Herrnstein-Smith, Hamon, Kermode, Hillis Miller, Richter, Torgovnick, D.A. Miller, Mortimer and Ricœur. 5. See Lodge 196-7,210-2. 6. Bellringer makes the point that "James liked his novels at their conclusions, at the very point of artistic perfection, to lead from art back into life, the relations of things which end nowhere. But from the point of view of a Jamesian novel, the life into which it opens at the end must be unknown" (149). is the end

-

answering

thus Chklovski's

question

"Qu'est-ce

qui est néces-

STRETHER'S

SENTIMENTAL

JOURNEY THROUGH

ENGLAND

AND FRANCE

11

multiplication of farewell scenes in Book XII, does not effect a secure gratifying close. And if, as Herrnstein-Smith writes, a successful ending is meant to tie together "the loose ends" (35) and to keep the reader from asking 'What then ?" (117), the ritualisation of the proceedings and closure of Book XII eschews that goal while seemingly going through the moves.7 James's pursuit of the exacting path of aesthetic duty - the attainment of perfect symmetry - amply justified in his eyes the pruning of life's wanton knots8 and may thus account for his own "euphoric"g reading of the ending, which has served in turn as the basis for the many eloquent defences of Strether's choice, a choice vindicated on the grounds of formal imperative as well as moral transcendence and illumination of vision.lO More "dysphoric" readings emphasize the sense of emptiness, separateness and exile, the sterility of Strether's retreat into a purely idealistic and solipsistic moral realm which holds him prisoner to the barren freedom of a hopeless imaginative desireY Strether "finally heroic and pure" or "priggish and chill" (Veeder 41) - such are the two poles of the dilemma between which finely tuned readings scan the whole gamut of interpretation. What my own reading will argue is that Strether's renunciation and James's formal triumph go hand in hand, and that they are supported by a pervasive death wish running countercurrent to the sense of life which
7. Considering the paradigms of closure, Ricœur writes that "une action est une et complète si elle a un commencement, un milieu et une fin, c'est-à-dire si le commencement introduit le milieu, si le milieu - péripétie et reconnaissance - conduit à la fin et si la fin conclut le milieu. Alors la configuration l'emporte sur l'épisode, la concordance sur la discordance" (41). The problem with the ending of TAis that the very configuration of the novel satisfies aesthetic concordance while resonating with deepex; notes of discordance. 8. For a discussion of James's creed - ''There is life and life, and as waste is only life sacrificed and thereby prevented from 'counting,' I delight in a deep-breathing economy and an organic form" (The Art of the Novel, 84) - see Sears 43-57. 9. For a discussion of the determining role of the ending in setting the euphoric or dysphoric tone of the text, see Hamon 504. 10. Many critics share the view that the ending of TAis an affirmative one, not only in terms of James's essential premise, i.e. that Strether has been enriched by the very "process of vision, " and that this in itself confers intrinsic value to his experience, but also in more absolute terms, that he achieves a moral victory in retreating from a compromised world into an ideal one, "a world elsewhere" (poirier). See in particular Phelan, Wallace, Mac Naughton, Poirier, Fogel, Cargill, Crews, Friedman, Krook, Bradbury, Ward, Durr. 11. See, among others, Forster, Leavis, Winters, Matthiessen, Garis, Sears, Fiedler, Anderson, Hutchinson, Kaston, John Carlos Rowe, Auchinchloss, Tanner, McWhirter, Geismar, Goetz, Joyce Rowe, Schneider, Holland. More ambivalent readings, stressing pragmatism, relativity of values, irony or deconstruction can be found in Bellringer, Samuels, Weinstein, Wegelin, Rivkin, Poole, Posnock, Stowell, Burde, Jolly, Cross, Walton.

12

SYLVIE MATHÉ

fonns the very core of the novel, the germ from which the novel bloomed, Le. the exhortation to live while there is yet time, which is given full resonance in Strether's "irrepressible outbreak" (preface 307) to Little Bilham in Gloriani's garden. Strether's belated awakening to life, his Pilgrim's Progress on the road to aesthetic appreciation and hedonistic living appear not as much countered as upheld by a deep underlying current seeking death in the act of desire. This thanatic urge, pursuing its end in the circuitous paths of narrative, the convoluted detours of imagination and the circular revolution from Woollett to Europe and back to Woollett, confers on Strether's journey of desire its Indian summer-like, nostalgic, "heartbreaking" beauty. Like Saint-Martin's summer, more poignant and precious for its belatedness and its precariousness, Strether's sentimental journey through England and France is like a "petite mort," an ecstatic moment of short-lived eternity leading unto death. The novel ends on the despair and loneliness of a morally victorious yet existentially defeated character whose ultimate withdrawal from life and the business of living reads as a willfulor passive surrender to the death instinctP From his "run-down" (21 : 28), "fagged-out" (21 : 83) condition prior to departure to his final diagnosis of malaise in his Parisian circumstances - "I'm not... in real hannony with what surrounds me" (22 : 320) -, from his rebirth in Chester "with the first swallows of the year" (21 : 17) to his lethal renunciation in the heat and dust of Paris, which returns him to Woollett, "spent," as Maria had foreseen (21 : 37), Strether, like the figures of the old clock at Berne, jigs along his little course, but his eye, for all its free-ranging wandering, never quite loses sight of "the point where the death comes in" (22: 317). What the narrative of TA offers us therefore is a spanning of the "écarts" in the distance separating life from death,13 the detours taken by Strether in the bubbles of timelessness cultivated by his luxuriating fancy, which are like little imaginative gardens of Eden where death is momentarily suspended. His trajectory of desire, which is a trajectory of escape, is one of sustained postponement, in which the end yet
12. Durr's essay "The Night Journey in TA" focuses on Strether's
adventure into the regions of mystery, terror and apotheosis" (25)

"mythical
a voyage

"through alien seas and into dark regions" (27) where Maria serves him as hostess and guide, like the Sybil for Aeneas or Virgil for Dante; but Durr's reading is that this journey leads Strether to freedom and allows him to recognize and expand, if not wholly to transcend, his limits. My own reading is more in keeping with Fussell's analysis of TA ("TA, Gloire Complète") and is intended to pick up where he leaves oH in his conclusion: "TA is not a hymn to death, exactly, but it is a long careful thoughtful deeply felt rendition of what a poet calls 'the always coming on / The always rising of the night' (Archibald MacLeish, 'You, Andrew Marvell'). [...] The text survives as the representation of dying" (214). 13. "Le roman se jouera dans le recouvrement de la distance vie-mort et ne sera qu'une inscription d'écarts (de surprises) qui ne détruisent pas la certitude de la boucle thématique vie-mort qui serre l'ensemble" (Kristeva, quoted by Grivel, 199).

-

STRETHER'S

SENTIMENfAL

JOURNEY THROUGH

ENGLAND

AND FRANCE

13

lurks. In his seminal essay, "The Storyteller," Benjamin makes the point that death is what gives ultimate authority to the storyteller - "Death is the sanction of everything that the storyteller can tell. He has borrowed his authority from death" (94) - and that the reader's essential quest for "the meaning of life" in the narrative can only come from a sharing of the characters' experience of death: "How do the characters make him understand that death is already waiting for them - a very definite death and at a very definite place? That is the question which feeds the reader's consuming interest in the events of the novel" (101) and the question which my reading of TA will address and attempt to elucidate.

12. Beginnings The spirit in which Strether undertakes his journey is one which leads him away from the predetermined arbitrary fixity, the pride and prejudice of Woollett's vision - by which he was ''booked'' (22 : 241) - to allow for the free play of the virtualities of the possible. This adventure in freedom of consciousness marks for Strether the beginning of his new life, the process of rebirth which begins at Chester:
Nothing could have been odder than Strether'ssense of himself as at that moment launched in something of which the sense would be quite disconnected from the sense of his past and which was literally beginning there and then. (21 : 9)

The end of Book I emphasizes this feeling of rupture from Strether's sense of his past when, having ''bought'' Maria's help, Strether falters before the cost:
"It doesn't alter the fact that you're expensive. You've cost me already -l" But he had hung fire."'Cost you what?"
"Well, my past

-

in one great

lump."

(21 : 45)

Having thus shed from the start the burden of his Woollett past, Strether, who had landed at Liverpool "one of the weariest of men," "done for and finished" (21 : 82), finds the miracle cure of Europe to be working wonders from the outset. Waymarsh's skepticism about Strether's
need for the cure

-

"You don't appear

sick to speak of. [...] I mean

[...] that

your appearance isn't as bad as I've seen it" (21 : 28-9) - seems to point indirectly to the immediate relief brought by the therapy of European travel. Unlike Waymarsh, Strether lets himself go, lets himself sink into the difference. The spell of this new beginning is one that abolishes time and makes him climb back the scale of years in a rejuvenating process. Strether at fifty-five meets the "almost insolently young" thirty-five year old Maria (21: 10), offers her his arm "in the manner of a benign dependent paternal old person who wishes to be 'nice' to a younger one" (21 : 20), and

14

SYLVIE MAlHÉ

presently, from Chester to London to Paris, he lets youth take hold of him and revive him, leaving behind "the evening of life" (21 : 40), which is to become "the afternoon of life" (22: 5), for youth itself, as Maria is the first to recognize:
"The wonderful and special thing about you is that you are, at this time of day, youth. [...] It's just your particular charm." His answer too was always the same. "Of course I'm youth - youth for the trip to Europe. I began to be young, or at least to get the benefit of it, the moment I met you at Chester, and that's what has been taking place ever since." (22 : 50)

The failed promise of his first pilgrimage to Paris with his young bride,
just after the Civil War, led to nothing but loss, grief and remorse

-

"the

grey middle desert of the two deaths, that of his wife and that, ten years later, of his boy" (21 : 52). In spite of "this private pledge of his own to treat the occasion as a a relation formed with the higher culture" (21 : 86), this first visit to Paris did not yield the harvest he had hoped for. Looking back, he feels burdened by "a crowded past" of failures in his professional as well as his private life, "a dreadful cheerful sociable solitude, a solitude of life or choice, of community" (21 : 83). The backward picture haunted by "the pale figure of his youth" and "the two presences paler than himself" is thus like a blank page of absence and loss, loneliness and dereliction. But life begins anew for Strether in Chester, from his first morning walk with Maria which strikes him "as the very climax of his foretaste, as warm with presentiments, with what he would have called collapses" (21 : 38), "a kind of finely lurid intimation of what one might find at the end of that process" (21 : 40). Having escaped from "the prison-house"(21 : 66) of Woollett, he is embarked on an adventure in freedom, one that makes him "want more wants" (21 : 40), and one that translates into an eerie, unprecedented
feeling of youth: "He had never expected

-

that was the truth

of it

-

again to find himself young" (21 : 81). Sitting on a penny chair in the Luxembourg gardens on his second day in Paris, Strether is "thankful for breathing-time" (21 : 82), marvelling at the rapid sprouting, "under fortyeight hours in Paris" (21 : 86), of the long buried germs of his first journey. These germs, which may themselves be traced back to the very germ of the novel, "planted or 'sunk'" (Preface 307) in Strether's Horatian homily
to Little Bilham

-

"Live all you can; it's a mistake

not to" (21 : 217)

-

will

bloom for Strether in the expanded dilations of a rejuvenated consciousness, one made belatedly aware that "the right time is any time that one is still so lucky as to have" (21 : 218). But the lurking prospect of death is less effaced than reaffirmed in this plea to make the most of what is left, this urge to experience the ecstasy of time regained. Strether's sense of a new beginning, "a new lease of life" (21 : 180), is, like Chad's "miracle," one of the tricks of fate that life plays: "'Call it then life' - he puzzled it out -

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