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"YOU ALWAYS SEE SOMETHING, BUT YOU NEVER SEE ALL": NARRATIVE DEVICES AND THE READER'S ROLE IN JAMES JOYCE'S A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIS T AS A YOUNG MAN AND ANDREI BELY'S KOTIK LETAEV BY JACQUELINE ALDRICH A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Dr Miriam Wallace and Dr. Alina Wyman Sarasota, Florida May 2012
ii TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract iii Introduction 1 Chapter One The Child's Voice: The Artistic Agency of Child Narrators 6 Chapter Two Narrative Ambiguity and the Problem of Retrospective Narration 24 Chapter Three Semiautobiographical Novels and the Crisis of Genre 40 Conclusion 52 Bib l iography 5 4
iii "YOU ALWAYS SEE SOMETHING, BUT YOU NEVER SEE ALL": NARRATIVE DEVICES AND THE READER'S ROLE IN JAMES JOYCE'S A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN AND ANDREI BELY'S KOTIK LETAEV Jacqueline Aldrich New College of Florida, 2012 ABSTRACT This thesis examines the roles that narration and genre play in the generation and recepti on of texts, through James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Andrei Bely's Kotik Letaev The two works are known as "semiautobiographical novels," existing in a middle ground between fiction and autobiography. The works' child narrators utilize the language as their artistic medium in order to assert their agency. These narrators are ambiguo us and shifting, which is defamiliarizing to the reader and serves to emphasize the division between what is real and what is fictional. These devices all trouble the distinctions of genre and force the reader into a more active role within the realm of th e text. Miriam Wallace and Alina Wyman Divis i on of Humanities
1 INTRODUCTION James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (serialized 1914 15, pub. 1916) and Andrei Bely's Kotik Letaev (serialized 1917 18, pub. 1922) belong, chronologically at least, to the Modernist movement in literature. This era was marked by experimentation with traditional forms and a shift in ways of interacting with the world. These works are, to a certain exten t, reacting against the domination of the literary realm by Realism in the nineteenth century. These novels by Bely and Joyce are both formally and contextually experimental. They approach common conceptions of reality from an alternative perspective, ult imately undermining these assumptions about the world. Both novels feature ambiguous and shifting narrators that confuse and trouble the boundaries between child and adult, author and character. They exist in a vague middle ground between fiction and autob iography, further blurring the line between author and character, in addition to forcing the reader into an unfamiliar role within the world of the text. One way to understand these experimental moves is in reaction to the conventions of Realism. Literary Realism was a movement primarily of the late nineteenth century that attempted to point, through literature, to a world that seems to be like the one in which we live. Rather than present life as it was traditionally written and read about, Realists
2 strove to present life as it was lived to treat "things as they are and not as the story teller would like them to be for his c o n v e n i e n c e 1 One of the characteristic formal aspects of Realism is an awareness of its own literary conventions, and a simultaneous awareness of the limitations of these c o n v e n t i o n s 2 "Realists themselves, in the very struggle to find a way to "represent," were intensely aware of the limitations placed upon them by the singleness of their vision, and the disparity between the verbal medium and the world they were struggling to n a m e 3 The Realist attempts to ground literary representation in something more concrete than language real life; hence "the realist's need to point beyond literature, to locate a reality beyond the conventions of l a n g u a g e 4 In its self consciousness of the conventions and limitations of its form, Realism constructs a division between its own fictionality and the world it is trying to represent. "Resisting forms, it explores reality to find themPositing the reality of an external world, it self consciously examines its own fictionalityThe realistic novel persistently drives itself to question not only the nature of artificially imposed social relations, but the nature of nature, and the nature of the n o v e l 5 The Realist novel is founded upon mimesis. 6 It is not an exact reflection of reality but an imitation of it; its similarity to reality, then, somehow calls greater attention to its ultimate artifice Realist literature can never disconnect from its own f iction; it "must come close, but not too close, to real 1 Northrop Frye, Fables of Identity: Studies in Poetic Mythology (New York: Harcourt, 1963), 27. 2 George Levine, The Realistic Imagination: English Fiction from Frankenstein to Lady Chatterley (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 136. 3 Levine, 136. 4 Levine, 318. 5 Levine, 21. 6 Rosalind Coward and John Ellis, From Language and Materialism: Developments in Semiology and the Theory of the Subject," in Theory of the Novel: A Historical Approach ed. Michael McKeon (Baltimore: John Hopkin s Univ ersity Press, 2000), 595.
3 e x p e r i e n c e 7 Rather than breaking entirely with literary (specifically, Realist) tradition, these Modernists instead take the Realist agenda of accurately presenting life and turn it inwards, to the psychological. While Realists attempted to portray life as it is seen through concrete and often minute external detail, these Modernists portrayed life as it is lived and felt. Joyce and Bely engage more thoroughly with language as the medium of represent ation, with psychological experience, and with problems of memory and epistemology how we know or think we know what it is that we are experiencing. *** James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Andrei Bely's Kotik Letaev are both K nstler romane a subgenre of Bildungsroman A Bildungsroman portrays the growth of its protagonist from childhood to maturity; in a K nstlerroman this protagonist is (or will become) an artist. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (hereafter referred to as P ortrait ) tells the story of Stephen Dedalus, an Irish boy modeled on Joyce's own life. It features a third person narrator who provides access to Stephen's thoughts through free indirect discourse. It opens with Stephen as a very young child who is just le arning to understand language. The narrative then skips several years, finding Stephen as a schoolboy at a Jesuit boarding school. The latter part of Portrait deals with Stephen's maturation from adolescence to young adulthood. These years are characterize d by continuous grappling with and coming to terms with language, religion, and his community. Kotik Letaev is about the child Kotik, based on Andrei Bely, between the ages of three and five years. It is narrated in the first person present tense for mos t of the novel, 7 Michael McKeon, From Prose Fiction: Great Britain," in Theory of the Novel: A Historical Approach ed. Michael McKeon (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2000), 607.
4 but switches to third person and past tense for a few pages near the end. It does not possess much of a narrative structure, but is instead largely a catalogue of impressions, memories, and musings attributed to the young Kotik. These wor ks belong to the Modernist effort to revise how literature functions. They trouble the divisions between narrator and author, child and adult, and they revise the reader's role in the creation of the text. The reaction against the objectivity of Realism is an important factor within Kotik Letaev and Portrait Both novels take Realism's attempted objectification of reality to an extreme of what could be called hyper realism. Whereas Realism presented life as it is seen, Bely and Joyce present life as it is lived. They re subjectify narration where Realism had attempted objectivity, giving greater weight to individual experience and interpretation. Kotik and Stephen are limited in their narration by their linguistic and cognitive capabilities what they know and are able to understand. They cannot represent what they are unable to express in words. As children, they are more inhibited in their linguistic and representational capabilities than an adult narrator would be. The novel no longer contains empirical t ruths to be absorbed by the reader, but these children's subjective observations to be interpreted and interacted with. In Chapter One I focus on the defamiliarizing effects of how a child narrator engages language, exploring the metonymic and poetic effe cts of a naive writer/speaker. In Chapter Two I return to the problem of the narrator but focus on the ambiguities concerning the narrators and their role in the two novels. In Chapter Three I examine the generic confusion of works that are both fictional and putatively autobiographical
5 ("semiautobiographical novels"), and the ways in which this confusion disrupts the reader's expected relationship with the text. These two works play with literary conventions as a way of writing reality differently than we are accustomed to it being written. In contention with Realism, which points through literature to the outside world, these works point instead to interior subjectivity. They blur the lines between the roles of narrator, character, author, and reader. The y place great strain on the role of the narrator in speaking the text, the author in writing the text, and the reader in interpreting the text. These many layers of presentation and perception nevertheless speak to the inevitability that one can never trul y know or understand the world in which s/he lives; "You always see something, but you never see a l l 8 8 John Ruskin, in John Rosenberg, ed., The Genius of John Ruskin (Boston, 1963), 28.
6 CHAPTER ONE The Child's Voice: The Artistic Agency of Child Narrators A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Kotik Letaev are largely narrated by their child protagonists, whose unconventional mode of narration is defamiliarizing to the reader and blur s the lines between child a nd adult, author and character. Portrait depicts Steph en's life from early childhood, beginn ing about age three or four, through young adulthood Kotik Letaev follows Kotik between the ages of three and five years. These child narrators ulti mately resist the marginality of childhood and claim their identities as creative individuals by rejecting adults' linguistic conventions, exercising their agency over the language, and utilizing it as their artistic medium. Portrait is presented by a third person narrator with access to Stephen's thought s, making frequent use of free indirect d i s c o u r s e 9 In contrast, Kotik Letaev has a first person narrator, with the exception of a few pages near the end of the novel, where a third person narrator briefly a p p e a r s 10 The narrative voice alter nates between the perspective of Kotik as a child, narrated in the pre sent tense and the short section narrated by Kotik as an adult, offering a retrospective perspective on his childhood. This chapter is focused on the problem of the child narrator, and is therefore concerned with the moments in 9 The reader never finds out exactly who this narrator is. The question of the identity of the narrator, and whether this is important, must be put aside temporarily for the clarity of this chapter, but will be examined in Chapter Two We must assume that the narrator is expressing Stephen's point of view at the time of the events that are being narrated. For the time being, in the interest of clarity, I will therefore refer to the narrator as Stephen. 10 Andrei Bely, Kotik Letaev trans. Gerald Janecek (Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1971), 206 8.
7 Portrait where the reader h as access to Stephen's thoughts as a child, and the sections of Kotik Letaev that are narrated by the child narrator. The fact that the narrators are (at least periodically) children entrenches them in the state of marginality that is unavoidable in child hood. The period of childhood is characterized by insufficient linguistic and cognitive capacities, leaving children in the margins of society. Throughout the novels, especially as children, Stephen and Kotik assert their agency, and their existence as ind ividuals, through language. They create their own language and re write adults' language in order to define themselves as separate from others. Through the manipulation and reinterpretation of language as p o e t i c s 11 rather than as semantics, they defy the m arginality of childhood in order to assert their own agency as individuals and as artists, claiming the language as their medium. The age of the narrators in both novels raises many questions as to the authenticity of the narration. Children are still in the process of learning the language they speak, so they are constantly being taught new words or grammatical structures by adults. Child's language can never be entirely free from outside influence, because the very nature of linguistic discourse must be learned from others. A distinction must be made, however, between the influence inherent in teaching and learning a language, and direct interference by adult speakers Th is interference takes the form of an adult imposing, often unintentionally, his or her own language structures upon t he child. The child then absorbs the adult's words or the sentiments expressed in them, without actually understanding their content. In th ese instances, the child is stripped of his or her potential 11 The Bedford Glossary of Literary and Critical Terms defines poetics as: "(1) The theory or principles of the nature of poetry or its composition. (2) Writing that expounds such theory or pr inciples Today, poetics also refers to the aesthetic principles of any literary genre, including prose forms." ("Poetics," in Bedford Glossary of Literary and Critical Terms, Third Ed., 389.) It is mostly this second definition that pertains here the aest hetic principles of the prose genre.
8 for linguistic creation. When children are taught conventional, denotative language structures, they are deprived of the opportunity to utilize language to other, more poetic, ends. Adult influ ence (as opposed to interference or domination ) can be seen in instances in which the child does not merely repeat, but reformulates or otherwise reinterprets, what s/he has heard. Through reformulation, the child asserts authority over the language s/he h as heard, positing his or her own agency. This occurs in the early pages of Portrait when Stephen is a very young child. The first sentence of the novel is Stephen's retelling of a story earlier told to him by his father ; "Once upon a time and a very goo d time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby t u c k o o 12 A few years later Stephen is at boarding school, repeating sentences from a spelling book, which were like poetry but they were only sentences to learn the spelling f r o m 13 He reads the sentences as poetry rather than as spelling exercises. In reading the sentences as poetry, Stephen is essentially writing them as poetry, and asserting his agency over the language. In this action, he is resisting conventional language as taught by adults. Stephen transforms the sentences which exist purely for the practical function of teaching spelling into poetic verses, denying their denotative use and instead gra nting aesthetics. Kotik Letaev represents many such encounters with language, because of the protagonist's younger age for most of the work In a store with his mother, Kotik repeats an incomprehensible word spoken by the salesman as "Shahn zhahn likely his phonetic 12 J ames Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man ( New York: Penguin Books, 1964 ), 3. 13 Joyce, 6.
9 interpre tation of the French c h a n g e a n t 14 The foreign word is inherently unfamiliar to Kotik, and his presentation of it has a defamiliarizing effect on the reader. Because Kotik does not know the word, he hears it not for its meaning but for its sound he presents it through its aural and aesthetic qualities rather than its semantic meaning. Like Stephen's denial of the practical function of the spelling exercises, Kotik strips the word of its meaning, whether intentionally or not, and constructs it as almost musical. A later naming event occurs on a walk in a field with his nanny Raisa Ivanovna. I touched the dried cowflop. And Raisa Ivanovna: "Pfui" There were very many dried out "pfuies" a r o u n d 15 Raisa Ivanovna's reaction becomes tied to the object in Kotik's mind, and he assumes that "pfui" is the name of what he has touched. In both of these instances, Kotik interacts with the words he hears in a manner that makes ordinary language poetic. He and Stephen, as children, possess a s ensitivity to language that leads them to turn ordinary language into poetics almost unintentionally. Children's language is stifled by the convention driven language of adults. Stephen and Kotik are able to resist this constraint and retain their natural poetic abilities. After grappling with the uses and purposes of language, children gain a greater ability to use language to their own ends rather than merely to repeat others' words. They use language to identify and construct themselves as individual en tities independent of their surroundings. They manipulate language in order to manipulate their relationship to the world. Stephen and Kotik construct themselves and endow their own existences with meaning t hrough the wielding of language. 14 Bely, 93. 15 Bely, 115.
10 Stephen's firs t instance of constructing himself occurs thro ugh repetition of a song he has been taught. The narrator tells us "He sang that song. That was his s o n g 16 Stephen repeats another's song, then claims the words that he has sung as his own. He does the same t o his father's story of baby tuckoo, identifying himself as baby t u c k o o 17 Marguerite Harkness confirms Stephen's claiming a self through language, "As Stephen identifies with the story's character, he chooses the story as h i s 18 He repeats another's words as his own, and posits his existence through these words As Stephen grows older, he begins to assert himself through language of his own, rather than through language heard from others. In an early instance of this, he writes a list inside the cover of his geography book starting with his name and moving outward through his location in the world : Stephen Dedalus Class of Elements Clongowes Wood College Sallins County Kildare Ireland Europe The World The U n i v e r s e 19 Like reading h is spelling book as poetry, Stephen writes this list for more than its ability to identify to whom the book belongs. He rereads it both forwards and backwards, and tries to determine what it means. In exploring the various functions and meanings of words, he uses language more poetically than semantically. He also grapples with the meaning of these factors that identify his life in relation to the lives of others. In writing 16 Joyce, 3. 17 Joyce, 3. 18 Marguerite Harkness, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: Voices of the Text (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1990), 39. 19 Joyce, 12.
11 this poem list on his book, he claims the book as his own and, more importantly, he posits his existence in his school, his country, and the universe. Stephen performs a similar action several years later, while walking through Cork with his father. He repeats to himself, "I am Stephen Dedalus. I am walking beside my father whose name i s Simon Dedalus. We are in Cork, in Ireland. Cork is a city. Our room is in the Victoria Hotel. Victoria and Stephen and S i m o n 20 This act of positing his existence through naming hi mself, his father, and his location t akes on greater immediacy here than i n the earlier instance. When he makes the list in his book in Clongowes, it functions as a catalogue of his position in the world, in progressively decreasing degrees of familiarity. The second time, he speaks the words to himself, and each level of identi fication relates directly back to himself my father," we are in C o r k 21 He contemplates the relationship s between each of the factors he uses to identify himself, and how they all ultimately relate back to him. In addition to presenting his exterior ex istence his relation to other people, his place in the world he also uses language to govern his emotions. In a state of anguish, he suddenly proclaims, "My heart is quite calm n o w 22 Not merely naming or identifying his emotional state, he is able to talk himself into a particular frame of mind. Stating that his heart is calm enables him to convince himself that it is; believing that his heart is calm makes it so. In addition to using language to his own personal ends of identifying and constructing both h is internal and external states, Stephen also explores the potential for 20 Joyce, 98. 21 Italics mine 22 Joyce, 91.
12 language to be detached from its literal meaning. At school, he hears a classmate call another boy a "suck," which leads him to ponder the meaning of the word: Suck was a queer word. The fellow called Simon Moonan that name because Simon Moonan used to tie the prefect's false sleeves behind his back and the prefect used to let on to be angry. But the sound was ugly. Once he had washed his hands in the lavatory of the Wicklow Hotel and his father pulled the stopper up by the chain after and the dirty water went down through the hole in the basin. And when it had all gone down slowly the hole in the basin had made a sound like that: suck. Only l o u d e r 23 In this passage, Stephen creates his own meaning for the word. He hears the sonic qualities of the word "suck" and is reminded of the sound of a drain clearing, rather than hearing only the meaning of the word. This association highlights the senselessness of language the word itself has only an arbitrary and imposed connection to its definition. The onomatopoeia is yet another instance of detaching language from its conventional semantic functioning and focusing instead on its greater poetic possibilities. Harkness discusses this social function of language ; "we expect that as children grow up their language will more and more approach the language of their community; Stephen's rejection of his community's languages can be seen not as normal maturation but as a refusal to mature within the boundaries available to h i m 24 Stephen is certainly refusing something, but not maturation itself. He is refusing his community, because his community consists of monks and magistrates' sons, with whom he has little in common. He is refusing the language of his community, a language imposed upon his nation by the English. He rejects the typical use of language as a means of merely transmitting information, preferring to explore its various additional meanings and uses. 23 Joyce, 8. 24 Harkness, 23.
13 He enacts the English language against itself, conflating the meaning of the word with its onomatopoeic connotation and exploiting its poetic potential. After the first few pages of Portrait the narrative skips several years, so that Stephen is linguisti cally proficient throughout almost the entire novel. Kotik, on the other hand, is so young that he initially comprehends the world in images and sensations rather than in words. The majority of Kotik's narrative reads as hoarding up impressions,' impress ions which later will constitute his artistic p r o g r a m 25 Kotik's narrative is presented more as a conglomeration of images and disconnected experiences than as a cohesive train of thought. Zsuzsa Hetnyi, in the essay "The Child's Eye," evaluates this s ensory functioning; "In the child's mind, objects and phenomena are transformed into images rather than into concepts or ideas. The child contemplates phenomena but does not understand them in the same way as grown ups; that is why he finds unusual connect ions and re lationships between t h e m 26 Throughout much of Kotik Letaev Kotik contemplates through images in this manner, rather than through words. On the subject of his infancy, he comments, "In that far distant time there was no "I": there was a puny b o d y 27 At this point in his life, he is able to identify himself, but only as a physical entity. He does not yet have any grasp of individual consciousnesses; his existence is entirely physical. Later, he begins to grapple with words in a detached manner; I think in pulses without words ; the words beat into p u l s e s 28 He acknowledges the existence of 25 Richard C. Borden, "Nabokov's Travesties of Childhood Nostalgia," Nabokov Studies 2:1 (1995): 107. 26 Z suzsa Hetnyi, "The Child's Eye: Isaac Babel's Innovations in Narration in Russian Jewish, American, and European Literary Contexts," in The Enigma of Isaac Babel ed. Gregory Freidin (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009), 177. 27 Bely, 10. 28 Bely, 84.
14 language, but transmutes the words he hears into a physical sensation that he is able to understand more clearly. The sophisticated diction of these passages, o n the other hand, is the result of an adult's retrospective on his childhood, not the child's own thoughts. When Kotik begins to grasp the functioning of language, he first uses it to differentiate himself from others. He divides the world into "I and n o t I 29 After thus constructing a linguistic divide between what is and is not himself, he forays into the specifics of naming. He ponders, "Who then am I? Kotik Letaev" 30 He attempts to understand his name and the implications it carries for him, and how i t connects to his identity. After learning to wield language in order to claim an identity for themselves, Stephen and Kotik begin to posit and create the existences of other people as well. Having satisfactorily asserted their own identities, they move their attentions to trying to understand the identities of others. Stephen's linguistic capacities are advanced enough that he uses his understanding of language to postulate about its implications and its other potential functions. As a young boy at Clo ngowes, he ponders the meaning of the word God in relation to his conception of God; "God was God's name just a s his name was Stephen. Dieu was the French for God and that was God's name too But though there were different names for God in all the differe nt languages in the world and God understood what all the people who prayed said in their different languages still God remained always the same God and God's real name was G o d 31 He acknowledges that there can be different names for the same concept (God/ Dieu ). However, he simultaneously asserts 29 Bely, 11. 30 Bely, 69. 31 Joyce, 13.
15 t he predominance of his name for God over anyone else's. While he admits that language is a subjective construct, he nevertheless believes the language he knows to present or construct reality more accurately than any other language. Stephen also explores the potential for language to create or influence reality. He ponders of a classmate, "He had often thought it strange that Vincent Heron had a bird's face as well as a bird's name. A shock of pale hair lay on the forehead like a ruffled crest: the forehead was narrow and bony and a thin hooked nose stood out between the closeset prominent eyes which were light and i n e x p r e s s i v e 32 Vincent Heron's birdlike features are called to attention by his name. This congruity between name and object reifies Stephen's sense that language is always implicitly saying more than it actually says. It is not a coincidence that Vincent Heron's name matches his face; in Stephen's world, language has the power to create reality in its o wn image. Kotik uses language in a similar way to Stephen, to explore the meanings of words and to create new meanings or realities. Because he is younger than Stephen, his explorations are less grounded in concrete reality. Like Stephen's musings on God Kotik connects Auntie Dotty to several unrelated concepts through the similarities between her name and the sound of other words. "Auntie Dotty is a minor scale; or the form of slipcovers sticking outI call "Egorovna"; and to me every armchair is "Egoro vna"; the form of "Egorovnas" is EternityIt is a row of repetitions: E minor ; and A u n t i e D o t t y E m i n o r 33 The "E" in Auntie Dotty's name, Egorovna, reminds Kotik of the same sound in other words. The metonymic mode repeatedly emerges from beneath the symb olic and metaphoric adult narration to which readers are accustomed. In typical 32 Joyce, 80. 33 Bely, 48.
16 adult narration, different objects or ideas come to represent each other through symbolism and metaphor. In the child's metonymic narration, different entities are constantly b eing transformed into one another. The child thinks associatively one idea reminds him of another, which reminds him of still another, until the thought object has morphed into a completely different one. In the child's world, creation abounds language cre ates reality. Just as Stephen mentally constructs Vincent Heron's birdlike features at the suggestion of his name, Kotik imagines a dog named Lion to be a lion. He sees a yellow St. Bernard by the name of Lion, but he comes to believe that the dog is, in fact, a lion. In discussion with a friend, he mentions the lion he saw in his childhood. His friend also remembers Lion; "I too saw Lion'He was a good dog; sometimes he ran out onto the circle; he carried a whip in his teeth; we were afraid of him: we r an off screaming" "And do you remember the scream Lion is coming?'" "Of course I r e m e m b e r 34 The young Kotik sees a large animal by the name of Lion and hears the screams "Lion is coming," so he assumes that the creature he sees must be a lion. This v ariety of logic is a sort of magical thinking in which the word creates the object it describes he believes that the creature he sees is a lion, so it becomes one. The focus has thus far been on the realm of children's language that is unavoidably but ra ther harmlessly influenced by adults. Adult instruction is the means by which children learn to speak a language. Adults thereby influence the development of children's language. This influence is generally benign and inevitable. 34 Bely, 31.
17 There are also, however, instances in these novels in which adult language is imposed onto the children, interfering with their own language and thought processes. These novels are written by adults, intended to be read by adults, and are depicting children and their thought proce sses through adult language. Adult presence and language can thereby dominate the children and their language in these novels that are, supposedly, about the children themselves. One way in which this imposition takes effect is in the identification of th e child through adult language, which leads the child to identify him/herself through adult language. When the child begins to understand and participate in the social realm, s/he will inevitably undergo a period of re identifying him/her self in relation to others. This restructuring occurs for both Stephen and Kotik when they begin to pay attention to how other people, particularly adults, act towards them. They come to understand themselves through what is said about them, rather than through what they k now or believe to be true. When Stephen is a young boy at Clongowes, an incident occurs in which he is punished for accidentally breaking his glasses. Father Dolan pandies him and accuses him of scheming in order to be excused from his schoolwork. Although Stephen knows that he truly did break his glasses by accident, he comes to wonder whether Father Dolan may be right about him after all; "he began to wonder whether it might not really be that there was something in his face which made him look like a sc hemer and he wished he had a little mirror to see. But there could not be; and it was unjust and cruel and u n f a i r 35 Stephen becomes fixated on the word "schemer" after Father Dolan applies it to him, and wishes for a mirror in order to identify the signs of a schemer on his face. 35 Joyce, 54.
18 Stephen takes in what Father Dolan, an authority figure, says about him, which leads him t o doubt what he knows about himself. Stephen's friend Davin is the only one of his classmates who refers to him as Stevie, rather than as Dedalus. This use of his given name leads Stephen to reciprocate his friend's informality; "The homely version of his christian name on the lips of his friend had touched Stephen pleasantly when first heard for he was as formal in speech with others as they were with h i m 36 Davin's attitude towards Stephen, specifically his informal naming of Stephen, in turn constructs Stephen's attitude towards Davin. Stephen's last name, Dedalus, is a frequent topic of jest among his classmates. They mock the foreignness of it, and its connection to the Greek mythological artisan, D a e d a l u s 37 This name is passed down to Stephen by his father, a heritage over which the child has no control. It is a name that belongs to and constantly connotes a mythological Other. His classmates and teachers use his name to characterize him as an artist and to explain and justify his nature. Stephen pass ively accepts this relationship to his name until, late in his adolescence, he ponders; "Now, as never before, his strange name seemed to him a prophecy He would create proudly out of the freedom and power of his soul, as the great artificer whose name he bore, a living thing, new and soaring and beautiful, impalpable, i m p e r i s h a b l e 38 He reclaims his name as prophecy, a declaration of his purpose in life. Having embraced this connection to his namesake, he finds himself in "an instant of wild flight." 39 His soul acquires Daedalus' wings. This metonymic 36 Joyce, 195. 37 In Greek mythology, Daedalus is an artist and artificer, and the father of Icarus. One of the most famous stories of Daedalus is that of his wings. Locked in a tower in Crete, he crafted wings of wax and feathers for himself and Icarus to fly across the ocean. 38 Joyce, 183 4. 39 Joyce, 184.
19 creation of himself is another instance of Stephen asserting his agency as an artist, although this time it is through the language of another. Kotik likewise comes to an understanding of himself in relation to what others say about him. He comes to know himself as "the baby," making such declarations as "the baby is f r i g h t e n e d 40 This is clearly a statement made by someone else, which Kotik then takes as a true observation of himself. Adults' naming of him as "the baby" leads him to consider himself to be "the baby" rather than "Kotik." As a young child, Kotik listens rather than speaks, lacking the command of language necessary to converse with the adults around him. He constructs himself in his own narration through the language of these adults. He claims to remember being "a quiet boy, draped with c u r l s 41 with a "little nose" 42 and "pale chestnut locks." 43 These physical characterizations are reminiscent of an adult's praise of a child. They are words spoken by adults about Kotik, which he then accepts as truth and repeats in his characterization of himself. Kotik takes to heart more than merely the adults' physical descriptions of him; "They told me: at my appearance in the world Academician Grot sent me a huge volume which he had inscribed; I never saw this book, but I was always proud of i t 44 He has never seen this volume and does not have any reason to believe that it exists other than the adults who tell him that it does. Despite this uncertainty, he is proud of the gift. The adults who tell him the story of this gift essentially construct the emotion of pride within him, and he is too young at this point to do anything but comply with their demands. 40 Bely, 12. 41 Bely, 69. 42 Bely, 56. 43 Bely, 69. 44 Bely, 68.
20 After being linguistically dominated by adults and fo rced to yield their agency, the children later begin to reassert themselves through their ability to manipulate language. They reposition themselves in relation to their own language and the language of others, denying the passive role they have been force d to accept, and taking on a newly active role. For Stephen, the reassertion of himself into the language of others occurs through resistance. He begins to fight the domination of his language by adults and by the English language. In conversation with the English dean at Belvedere, he ponders the possession of language; The language in which we are speaking is his before it is mine. How different are the words home, Christ, ale, master, on his lips and on mine! I cannot speak or write these words without unrest of spirit. His language, so familiar and so foreign, will always be for me an acquired speech. I have not made or accepted its words. My voice holds them at bay. My soul frets in the shadow of his l a n g u a g e 45 The priest is speaking English, a langua ge which, although it is Stephen's mother tongue, is not the native language of his nation. Due to the imposition of the English language on the Irish by the British, there is an inherent power imbalance implied in the use of English by the Irish. Stephen feels ill at ease in the shadow of this oppression. The political implication is not, however, the only reason Stephen feels "unrest of spirit." The artist within him also rebels at this passive acceptance of another's language. He dislikes speaking the En glish words because they do not belong to him; he did not create them and so refuses to accept them. Resistance to adult domination occurs in Kotik Letaev through Kotik's simultaneous claiming and questioning of others' language. He considers the differen t names by which he knows his father and the reasons for these names; "my Papa is 45 Joyce, 205.
21 the mathematician Letaev; and Papa is my Papa: only mine, no one else's; the mathematician Letaev cannot be the Papa of anyone on the earth; he is Papa to me; and why is it that my Papa is the mathematician L e t a e v 46 Kotik claims his father as my p a p a 47 asserting himself in relation to his father and to the name he calls his father; or, rather, asserting his father in relation to himself. He simultaneously questions his fat her's existence as Mathematician Letaev, an entity foreign and irrelevant to the child. In this claiming and questioning of his father's identities, Kotik refuses to passively accept the language he hears, instead opening up a sort of dialogue between hims elf, the language, and the object language is attempting to represent. Having established a tension between child and adult language, Stephen and Kotik finally fully assert themselves against adult domination. They achieve this by appropriating adult lan guage in order to identify others (usually adults). This is a complete shift from domination by adults and construction of the child through adult language. The child then asserts his own agency and reverses the dichotomy, using adult language to his own e nds in order to characterize other individuals In Portrait this usurping of another's language in order to characterize others begins when Stephen is still very young. Like most young children, Stephen has little understanding of the actual age of the adults around him. He must instead posit their ages in relation to each other. Uncle Charles and Dante, for instance, are "older than his father and mother but uncle Charles [is] older than D a n t e 48 This is clearly information that he has learned from adul ts, probably his parents. In order to grasp the concept of their ages, he must construct each person in relation to another. 46 Bely, 91. 47 Italics mine. 48 Joyce, 3.
22 Stephen is again faced with the need or desire to create others later, when his father takes him to Queen's College in Cork. Step hen sees the word "foetus" carved into a desk, and is immediately met with a vision of the students who may have written it there. A vision of their lifesprang up before him out of the word cut into the desk. A broadshouldered student with a moustache wa s cutting in the letters with a jackknife, seriously. Other students stood or sat near him laughing at his handiwork. One jogged his elbow. The big student turned on him, frowning. He was dressed in loose grey clothes and had tan b o o t s 49 The sight of the word, written by an unknown hand, leads Stephen to create for himself a vision of the students. He constructs them and their situation in detail, much like a narrative description or a painting might. Like Stephen's depiction of Uncle Charles and Dante, Kotik comes to a certain understanding of his mother and godmother through words spoken by other people. At one point in the narrative, he asserts, "my dearest Mommy is y o u n g 50 There is no reason for Kotik to think of his mother as young, aside from heari ng other adults mention that she is young. He also refers to his godmother as his "old w o m a n 51 presumably because other adults refer to her as such. He stakes a claim on these words and utilizes them to construct his mother and godmother. After thus gra ppling with the relations between people through the language of adults, Kotik comes to use this other language to characterize distinct entities in their own right, rather than through comparison. One instance of this occurs when Kotik attempts to underst and what the word "chicken" means. 49 Joyce, 95. 50 Bely, 87. 51 Bely, 44.
23 "Chicken" this is this is something: crested and feathered, it clucks, it pecks, it bristles; it doesn't change because of the condition of my consciousness; a "chicken" is impenetrable; in addition to this, she is abs olutely distinct to me; and she is sparklingly clear to me in the incomprehensibilities of her bristling, pecked l i f e 52 He recognizes the concept of "chicken" as something separate from himself, but simultaneously identifies its characteristics and claim s that it is "sparklingly clear" to him. In defining and understanding it, he possesses it, and is able to do this through language. Childhood is a marginal period through which all people must progress. It is marked by limited linguistic and cognitive c apabilities, and consequently limited agency. The child narrators combat this marginal phase and form their sense of self through mastery of language. They use language as an instrument of authority through which to assert their identities. Stephen and Kot ik resist adult linguistic conventions in order to construct their own worlds. They create their own language and poeticize adult language to assert themselves as artists. When they finally usurp and restructure adult language to define others, they perfor m an ultimate restructuring action they turn the world, including the people within it, into poetics. By learning to wield language tools, the children resist the marginality of childhood and assert themselves into their worlds as individuals. 52 Bely, 112.
24 CHAPTER TWO Narrative Ambiguity and the Problem of Retrospective Narration Kotik Letaev and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man feature ambiguous narrators that are very different from conventional, third person omniscient or first person narrator s. These narrators shift between first and third person, adult and child. They unsettle the reader forcing him/her to take on greater interpretative responsibility within the text, and ultimately serve to emphasize the division between what is real and what is fictional, both within the realm of the literary work and elsewhere. They simultaneously allow for mobility between the past and the present, the real and the fictional. In Kotik Letaev the narrator progresses from a child to an adult recollecting his c h i l d h o o d 53 both in the first person; then, finally to the third p e r s o n 54 The pr imary narrator, the first person adult, takes the position of an outsider towards his childhood self. He narrates his own past as fiction, p resenting the child Kotik as an oth er person eventually even referring to the child in the third person. Because of this separation from himsel f, the narrator lies outside ordinary life in the novel he functions as a narrator, not as a character. The fact that he is able to take this stanc e on his own life emphasizes the fictional nature of the text. 53 "I am thirty fiveI stand before myself; we converse with each other" (Andrei Bely, Kotik Letaev 3). 54 "Kotik Letaev, left by us, was sitting, grey in the dark wit h his little chair" (Bely, 206).
25 The primary mode of narration in Portrait is free indirect discourse, a style that expresses the character's (in this case, Stephen's) thoughts obliquely through the voice of a third person nar rator With the narrator expressing Stephen's private thoughts in this manner, free indirect discourse blurs the lines between character, narrator, and author in a way that the lines between self and other in the non fictional world cannot be blurred. The narration of these texts who the narrator is, how s/he tells the story is a distinct event, separate from the story itself. The mode of narration entirely controls how much of the story the reader hears and in what order. Mikhail Bakhtin states in "Forms of Time and Chronotope in the Novel "Before us are two events the event that is narrated in the work and the event of narration i t s e l f 55 Bakhtin is arguing that, in addition to the plot of the sto ry, every novel also possesses a plot, style, and structu re that compose the narration itself. I am not interested in the plot of the narration so much as the style of the narrator. In Portrait and Kotik Letaev I will argue that the event of narration specifically the style of narration is more important to the reader's understanding of the novel, and of greater concern here, than the story itself. The narrator is the lens through which the reader receives the story. As Seymour Chatman argues, "We depend on the eyes' we are seeing with narrator, character, imp lied author. Are we inside or outside the character? And outside' in what sense? Completely separate from, alongside, or w h a t ? 56 The narrator determines through what (or whose) eyes we see the story. This narrative perspective matters immensely. A first p erson narrator enables the reader to see the story directly through the eyes of a particular 55 Mikhail Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981), 255. 56 Seymour Chatman Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film (Ithaca : Cornell University Press, 1978), 102.
26 character, or sometimes multiple characters. A third person narrator, on the other hand, serves as a layer of separation between reader and character, intervening and potentially interfering in the transmission of the story (and therefore also interfering in the reader's understanding of the story). It is in the case of the third person narrator, the narrator who is "outside the character," that we must raise Chatma n's question "Outside' in what sense?" The third person narrator is not directly involved in the events of the story, but does s/he have an agenda of his/her own in telling the story? Richard C. Borden addresses one of the concerns of a third person narr ator; such a narrator may have a vested interest in selecting and shaping the factsand thus an agenda that perhaps distorts the t r u t h 57 This type of narrator, even if s/he purports impartiality, is rarely truly objective. What the narrator does or does not say determines the reader's understanding of the story; the narrator therefore has tremendous power to manipulate the details of the story to meet his/her own ends. Much of the narrator's power hinges on his/her authority in defining what constitutes "reality" within the world of the text. The characters are merely figures who act within the reality of the text; it is the narrator who determines what comprises this reality. The narrator is the intermediary force between reader and character, reader and author. S/he interacts most directly with the reader, drawing him/her into the s t o r y 58 The power to define what is real is the power to capture the reader. It is the narrator's (pseudo )objective stance that provides him/her with this authority. Character s in the story are more private figures than the narrator, with their 57 Richard C. Borden, "Nabokov's Travesties of Childhood Nostalgia," Nabokov Studies 2:1 (1995) 130. 58 "Vividness is often taken to be a mark of the real; but it may do so because it is an intensification of the act of attention, rather than a representation of what is visualized. What capt ures us defines the real for us ( Amelie Rorty, "Characters, Persons, Selves, Individuals," 308)
27 own motivating drives. Blakey Vermeule explains, "We simply have greater access to our own point of view than we do to other people's points of view. In our own minds, we are round chara cters; but we flatten everyone else around u s 59 It is precisely this position on oneself that denies characters authority in defining the world of the text. The narrator, who is less overtly biased is therefore granted greater authority. Fiction is never truly feigning objectivity, but the narrator does, to a certain extent, claim to be outside the fictional world, reporting on it. The guise of narrative objectivity is problematic, however, especially in these two works. Does the narrator actually see an d present the story objectively, or does s/he (under the guise of objectivity) present the story the way s/he wants it to be? Vermeule states, "We shade the information we take in about the world towards our own interests, and we put ourselves at the cente r of our own drama (although why we should do so adaptively is an interesting question. Why haven't we evolved to see the world as it really is rather than as we would like it to b e ? ) 60 Vermeule is referring to real people, not literary narrators, but the question is nevertheless relevant. The narrators in these works function essentially as distinct characters, with their own motivations and biases They are likewise subject to the human tendency to see things not as they are, but as they would like them to be. This unavoidable subjectivity becomes problematic when it is presented as fact under the mask of objective narration. The pseudo objective narrator usurps the character's ability to define him/herself. A person consistently surrounded by others' op inions, standards, and characteristics has little opportunity to evaluate his or her own being outside the influence of these opposing 59 Blakey Vermeule, Why Do We Care About Literary Characters? (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010) 172. 60 Vermeule, 173.
28 forces. Similarly, a character whose very existence is voiced by another has no agency in the creation and presentation o f h i m / h e r s e l f 61 The power of the narrator to create strengthens his/her position of superiority over the rest of the text. S/he is inside the text but above and outside of the narrated events. Peter Barta writes of this type of narrator, "He enjoys superio rity over the objects of his vision thanks to his position, which allows him to survey the crowd from inside. He proceeds to read' the crowd as one reads the p a p e r 62 The narrator is able to read the characters as though they were a book of their own, then reinterprets and restates the contents of this "book" for the benefit of the reader. With a narrator acting as a conscious interpreter, the narration becomes more fo cused on the act of narration itself than on what is being narrated. In this scenario, Rorty claims, "What is seen drops out and the passion for being the seer, eventually the passion for being this seer takes o v e r 63 What is seen fades into the background and the seer, the narrator, commands attention instead. This type of subjective narration raises many questions regarding the nature of the information that is being presented. The uncertainty as to whether the narrator is expressing fact or opinion combi nes here with the close relationship between narrator and character in these two novels. It becomes impossible to determine who is truly speaking whether it is the author speaking through the narrator, the character through the narrator, or just the narrat or. Ann Banfield asserts, "Sentences in narrated monologue 61 "I nitially, one's rightful and natural place is the particular stance one has on the world, the way in which social and historical forces exemplify themselves through the pin point of consciousness which is one's perspective, one's own vision. It is then that being an individual requires having a room of one's own, not only because it is one's possession, but because only there, in solitude, away from the pressure of others, ca n one develop the features and styles that differenti ate one's own being from others ( Rorty 316) 62 Peter I. Barta, Bely, Joyce, and Dblin : Peripatetics in the City Novel (Gainesville: University Press of Flori da, 1996), 9. 63 Amlie Oksenberg Rorty, "Ch aracters, Persons, Selves, Individuals," in The Identities of Persons ed. Amlie Oksenberg Rorty (Berkeley: Univer sity of California Press, 1976) 317
29 are unspeakable.' They do not express any single point of view. They make claims that are backed up by no agent. Such sentences allow the totality of a sentence's meaning [to] be attributed simul taneously to both a third person SELF and a narrator [and for] the two different readings [to] be c o n t r a d i c t o r y 64 Lack of knowledge as to who is speaking enables the reader to attribute a given statement simultaneously to multiple consciousnesses within the text. The multiple layers of interpretative processes surrounding the text cause further u n c e r t a i n t y 65 The characters' presentation of themselves, the narrator's interpretation and presentation of the characters and the story, and the reader's interpre tation of the work as a whole ultimately surround the text with uncertainty. There are so many elements of interpretation within and around the text that it is impossible for the reader to identify one "true" version of the story. The immense uncertainty i n the text does not merely enable but forces the reader to provide his/her own interpretation This responsibility is somewhat unfamiliar and unsettling to most readers of fiction. The traditional Realist novel contains easily interpreted characters, an om niscient or at least reliable narrator, and a story that is told to the reader rather than, in a way, discussed with him/her. Vermeule explains of less conventional narrators, "When they want to experiment, they knock us out of our comfort zone by increasi ng the pressure on our mind reading a b i l i t i e s 66 These narrators have a direct effect on the reader. By forcing him/her to perform the unfamiliar act of interacting with the text, the narrator disturbs and unsettles the reader. 64 Ann Banfield, in Vermeule, 77. 65 "Our aspiration for certainty is unremittingly obstructed by inter pretative processes ." (Martine Guyot Bender, "Making Sense of Narrative Ambiguity," in Paradigms of Memory 18.) 66 Vermeule, 71.
30 *** The narrator of Andrei Bely's Kotik Letaev is an adult taking a retrospective look at his own childhood. This narrator pretends at times to be the child he is examining but, as Carol Anschuetz claims, the adult is merely stooping to the intellectual and de velopmental level of the child, not raising the child to his own level and allowing the child to narrate his own story; "The adult narrator sinks to the child's level; he does not raise the child to his own. There is in fact no child in Kotik Letaev : only the caricature of a preternaturally wise c h i l d 67 There is no child in the novel, merely an adult feigning the perspective of the child he used to be. The novel is narrated almost entirely in the present tense, furthering the illusion that it is the child who is speaking. Anschuetz explains, "Each persona uses his own present tense, the adult's present and the child's present which is also the adult's past. Recollection is a search for Belyj's forgotten past: a search in which the adult's identity can fuse with the c h i l d s 68 The use of the (child's) present tense is merely an attempt to fuse the adult self and the child self into one. The novel is full of close interactions between the adult and the child, the child and himself. The narrator as child procl aims, "on the brink of my third year I stand before myself; we converse with each other; we understand each o t h e r 69 Here there are two Kotiks standing before one another, presumably one of them being the child experiencing the brink of his third year in the present, and the other being the adult narrator recollecting this period of his childhood. The adult narrator takes a point of view towards himself as a child that one would typically take towards another person. This is because his past self is essen tially, another 67 Carol Anschuetz "Recollection as Metaphor in Kotik Letaev ," Russian Literature (1976), 353. 68 Anschuetz, 345. 69 Bely, 3.
31 person. He cannot re experience his childhood as the person he is as an adult; likewise, he could not have taken the same stance on himself and the events of his life as a child that he takes, in retrospect, as an adult. Bakhtin proposes th at it is only through another's point of view, or at least through acknowledgment of another's point of view, that we acquire the capacity for self evaluation; "The point of view that another' takes toward us which we take into account, and by which we ev aluate ourselves functions as the source of vanity, vain pride, or as the source of o f f e n s e 70 In one of the passages of Kotik Letaev in which the narrator admits to being an adult, this self evaluation comes into effect: I throw mute and lengthy gazes i nto the past I am thirty five: self consciousness has burst open my brain and hurtled into childhood; with burst open brain I watch how clouds of events puff up at me; how they run back a g a i n 71 It is through the lens of his adult life that he is able to recollect on the events of his childhood as though he were another person entirely; it is therefore only as an adult that he acquires the power of self evaluation. In telling his childhood, the adult narrator is essentially writing an autobiography. Martin e Guyot Bender explains the fictional characteristics of autobiographies; "autobiographies are texts written by individuals who encounter the same struggle with language as fiction writers. Life writing and fiction writing function in similar ways and find themselves easily entangled in the complicated narrative j e 72 Because of the retrospective stance he takes on his childhood, viewing his past self as an Other, the narrator consequently narrates his own past as fiction. 70 Bakhtin, 145. 71 Bely, 3. 72 Guyot Bender, 20.
32 The act of recollection is not me rely remembering past events, but rewriting and recreating them. Seymour Chatman asserts, "Looking back is a conception, no longer a p e r c e p t i o n 73 The narrator of Kotik Letaev is not remembering the exact incidences that he presents in the novel, but is cr afting them (as a fictional tale). Martine Guyot Bender asserts that one of the causes of this preponderance of conception as opposed to recollection is that memory is not strong enough to reproduce pas t scenes in their entirety, and any lapse in memory is compensated for with imagination. "Exact images of past episodes are not imprinted forever in one's mind, ready to emerge intact into consciousness. Rather memory is influenced by the accumulation of further experiences and imagination which, at times, co mpensates for f o r g e t f u l n e s s 74 Moreover, even if he could flawlessly and completely reenact scenes from his youth, the adult narrator would be unable to approach them with the same mindset that he did as a child. Chatman explains, "The protagonist as narra tor reports things from the perceptual point of view of his younger self. His ideology on the other hand tends to be that of his older self. The narrator is older and wiser for his e x p e r i e n c e s 75 The adult narrator is unable to fully recapture his childhoo d because of the experiences of his adult life, turning him into a different person altogether. Most of Kotik Letaev is narrated in the manner Chatman discusses, from the perceptual perspective of the child but the intellectual perspective of the adult. A t one point, the narrator states, "The thoughts of this moment will start in pursuit of me like an a v a l a n c h e 76 Narrated in the first person and present tense, this thought is presumably 73 Chatman 155. 74 Guyot Bender, 27. 75 Chatman, 158. 76 Bely, 5.
33 intended to appear as belonging to the child. The diction, however, i s clearly characteristic of an adult, not a child of three years. The prediction that his thoughts "will start in pursuit" of him suggests an adult's remembrance of his childhood point of view. The use of the simile, "like an avalanche," is evocative of fi ction writing and supports the assertion that the narrator is constructing his past as fiction. Because of the pseudo objective stance the narrator takes toward his own past, and his propensity for narrating his childhood as fiction, he effectively alienat es himself from everyday life. He constructs himself as a narrator of, rather than a participant in, his own life. Bakhtin explains this phenomenon, "The main protagonist and the major turning points of his life are to be found outside everyday life He me rely observes this life, meddles in it now and then as an alien force; he occasionally even dons a common and everyday mask but in essence he does not participate in this life and is not determined by i t 77 He is situated above and outside of his own life, looking down at it. A pertinent question in our study is this Why does the narrator write from the child's perspective, rather than more clearly an adult's retrospective? One benefit of writing from the perspective of a child is that it allots greater ar tistic freedom to the narrator. Writing as a child, he is not necessarily expected to uphold a linear or logical structure, which might be more expected of an explicitly adult narrator. The children in both of these novels also possess a greater ability an d freedom to manipulate language than do the adults Writing as a child thus enables the narrator to construct language into poetry rather than straightforward prose. This question also returns to the issue of retrospective narration, and its effects on th e way the narration functions. The narrator, 77 Bakhtin, 121.
34 alienated from ordinary life, is looking back on himself as a child as a different person. He is therefore writing an external narrative of what was once his internal life. *** The role of the narrator in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is somewhat uncertain and ambiguous. The novel is narrated almost entirely in free indirect discourse, so the reader receives Stephen's thoughts semi directly in spite of the presence of the narrator. What is the funct ion of a third person narrator when the reader is essentially hearing Stephen's thoughts regardless? One characteristic of free indirect discourse is that it is simultaneously internal and external, private and public It presents the character's thoughts, but internal monologue delivered in this way cannot be entirely trusted because of the potential for interference by the narrator. Vermeule explains, "Free indirect style is the mechanism through which personal and collective values are sorted out and al igned. It is subjective and objective, private and p u b l i c 78 Free indirect discourse provides a glimpse of the character's thoughts that is not inherently reliable. It merges the private world of internal thoughts with the external, social world. Free ind irect discourse interweaves seemingly disparate realms of the novel. It combines the narrator's voice with the character's, and alternates between the two. It transmutes the present moment in the novel into an indefinite past through this narration. Dorrit t Cohn explains this phenomenon, Through its use of erlebte Rede [free indirect discourse], the text can weave in and out of Stephen's mind, can glide from narrator to character and back again without perceptible transitions. By allowing the same tense to describe the individual's view of reality and that reality itself, inner and outer world become one, eliminating explicit distance between the narrator and his creature Erlebte 78 Vermeule, 190.
35 Rede thus captures the spirit and style of interior monologue within the textu re of a third person story, and at the same time casts the immediacy of the present experience into a past n a r r a t i v e 79 A particularly characteristic instance of this occurs early in Portrait when Stephen ponders the meaning of colors and their implicati ons, "Lavender and cream and pink roses were beautiful to think of. Perhaps a wild rose might be like those colours and he remembered the song about the wild rose blossoms on the little green place. But you could not have a green rose. But perhaps somewher e in the world you c o u l d 80 This passage, although narrated in the third person and past tense, is an expression of Stephen's train of thought in the novel's present. The narrative intrusion of "he remembered" transplants, in Cohn's terminology, the immedi acy of Stephen's present into the narrated past. This medium in which the character's private thoughts are given voice by the narrator ultimately results in the fusion of the character's and narrator's voices. Cohn explains, It is hardly possible to talk of a separate narrator The fusion of his voice with the character's corresponds on the level of fictional technique to the lyric oneness expressed by the textThe narrated monologue is the choice prose medium for this portraiture of an artist as an artist where poet and poetic spokesman c o a l e s c e 81 Fusion of character and narrator can be seen in many passages of the novel One example occurs when Steph en breaks his eyeglasses at Clongowes; "The fellows seemed to him to have grown smaller: that was because a sprinter had knocked him down the day before, a fellow out of second of grammar. He had been thrown by the fellow's machine lightly on 79 Dorritt Cohn "Narrated Monologue : Definition of a Fictional Style ," Comparative Literature 18:2 (199 6), 99 100. 80 J ames Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man ( New York: Penguin Books, 1964 ), 9. 81 Cohn, 111.
36 the cinderpath and his spectacles had been broken in three pieces and some of the grit of the cinders had gone into hi s m o u t h 82 This passage displays the narrator's verbalization of Stephen's nonverbal memory. The distinction of who is doing the remembering character, narrator, or even author becomes clouded. Free indirect discourse also serves to draw the reader into the world of the text. This type of narration gives the illusion that the reader is hearing the character's private, internal thoughts. It causes the reader to believe that s/he is somehow hearing something that s/he is not supposed to hear. The reader of free indirect discourse feels that s/he is eavesdropping on the character's private thoughts, rather than reading something constructed by an author for the reader. The fusion of the narrative vo ice with the character's thought processes allows the narrator to empathize with the character. Free indirect discourse effectively draws the narrator into, or at least encourages him to empathize with, "the character's view of the fictional r e a l i t y 83 Ste phen's adoration of a girl whom he likens to the fictional Mercedes particularly inspires the empathy of the narrator. The narrator gives voice to Stephen's heartbreak in a manner that is too emotionally charged to imply that the narrator is entirely disco nnected from Stephen's feelings. Outside Blackrock, on the road that led to the mountains, stood a small whitewashed house in the garden of which grew many rosebushes: and in this house, he told himself, another Mercedes lived. Both on the outward and on the homeward journey he measured distance by this landmark: and in his imagination he lived through a long train of adventures, marvelous as those in the book itself, towards the close of which there appeared an image of himself, grown older and sadder, st anding in a moonlit garden with Mercedes who had so many years before slighted his l o v e 84 82 Joyce, 41. 83 Paul Hernadi "Dual Perspective: Free Indirect Discourse and Related Techniques," Comparative Literature 24:1 (1972), 37. 84 Joyce, 65.
37 Paul Hernadi argues, the narrator's sympathetic substitution of his own words for Stephen's thoughts and feelings contributes to the esthetic illusion that we are overhearing the inner voice of an inward turned, self tormenting c o n s c i o u s n e s s 85 In order for the narrator to accurately transmit Stephen's thoughts, he must be sympathetic to the emotions he is conveying in his narration. The intrusion of the narrator in to Stephen's mind is paralleled by the intrusion of other, sometimes competing, discourses in Stephen's life. His life is dominated by voices his own, th e narrator's, other characters'. Martine Harkness explains, "Not only does Stephen himself evidence a p eculiarly strong interest in words and language, but also the various aspects of his life are imaged as languages spoken often by disembodied voices. Recent literary critics might call these differing languages "discourses" ways of speaking and shaping utt erances that mark the participants as part of a particular c o n v e r s a t i o n 86 Stephen is constantly hearing and reacting to the voices of others, voices by which he often feels threatened; "His father's whistle, his mother's mutterings, the screech of an unse en maniac were to him now so many voices offending and threatening to humble the pride of his y o u t h 87 Since Stephen uses language to assert himself into his world, these competing voices threaten to rob him of his identity. The qualifier "now," however, i mplies that something has changed in his reaction to these voices. Whereas he had previously been a young child, somewhat exempt from the words of others because of a lack of understanding, he is now an adolescent, hearing but rejecting the voices of 85 Hernadi, 37 8. 86 Marguerite Harkness, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: Voices of the Text (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1990) 23. 87 Joyce, 190.
38 other s. This is a transitory phase between child and adult, in which he has not yet learned how to assimilate the words and voices of other people into his life. The multitude of voices also serves the function of connecting Stephen to distant people, places, and times. The conflicting discourses in his narrative seem to be ageless and placeless. He hears other voices as though they belong to history, "He heard the choir of voices in the kitchen echoed and multiplied through an endless reverberation of the choi rs of endless generations of children: and heard in all the echoes an echo also of the recurring note of weariness and pain. All seemed weary of life even before entering upon i t 88 Bakhtin examines this indeterminate, mobile quality of language; "Where la nguages and cultures interanimated each other, language became something entirely different, its very nature changed: in place of a single, unitary sealed off Ptolemaic world of language, there appeared the open Galilean world of many languages, mutually a nimating each o t h e r 89 To these voices of many cultures and times the narrator adds his own voice. The voices of the past, Stephen's voi ce, and the narrator's interpretation of Stephen's voice all interact on the same plane of existence We return now to the question of why there is a third person narrator delivering Stephen's thoughts, rather than Stephen himself. This interaction between Stephen's mental processes and the words of the narrator blurs the lines dividing character from narr ator and, to a certain degree, even those dividing narrator and character from author. The narrator also plays into the variety of discourses in Stephen's life, adding his voice to the conglomeration of voices (past, present, and future) intermingling in S tephen's story. 88 Joyce, 177. 89 Bakhtin, 65.
39 The narrators of these novels serve as factors defining what is fictional and what is real. The child turned adult narrator of Kotik Letaev views his childhood self as a separate person. He lies outside of his own life and narrates his pas t as fiction. Through free indirect discourse, the third person narrator of Portrait draws the reader into the fiction as though it were an overheard story, and blurs the distinctions between character, narrator, author, and reader in a way that could only occur in a fictional tale, never in real life. These ambiguous narrators thus ultimately emphasize the division between fiction and reality, but also allow for greater mobility between the past and the present, real life and fictional life.
40 CHAPTER THREE Semiautobiographical Novels and the Crisis of Genre Kotik Letaev and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man are both often categorized as semiautobiographical novels that is, they are neither entirely fictional nor entirely f a c t u a l 90 It is essential for the reading of these works that we acknowledge this middle ground, and read them as both fiction and autobiography. They are essentially structured as novels, but are in actuality a kind of life writing Novels may possess an underlying suggestion of truth including real places, events, or people. In each of these texts, however, the experiences of the protagonist parallel (but are not identical to) the author's experiences. There are many consistencies between the lives of the novels' protagonists and their authors. Andrei Bely's mother called him "Kotik" as a child and his father was a mathematician, as in Kotik L e t a e v 91 Similarly, many biographical points match up between Stephen and James Joyce, inclu ding attending the same s c h o o l s 92 In tension with these similarities, the works make use of recognizably fictional characteristics. The result is a sort of extreme form of autobiographical fiction that defies the conventions of traditional autobiography an d traditional fiction, but is undeniably 90 Kotik Letaev is an autobiographical epic" [Gerald Janecek, introduction to Kotik Letaev by Andrei Bely (Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1971), v.]; "The autobiographical' and narrative' coincide in Joyce's work only as long as Joyce conceives of the artist' as the hero of a s tory'" [Steven Helmling, "Joyce: Autobiography, History, Narrative," The Kenyon Review 10:2 (1988), 95]. 91 Gerald Janecek, introduction to Kotik Letaev, by Andrei Bely (Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1971), ix. 92 Marguerite Harkness, A Portrait of the Artist as a You ng Man: Voices of the Text (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1990) xi.
41 both. This duality of genre offers the reader an entirely new experience of reading, interpreting, and ultimately writing the text. Most readers expect a bright line between "fiction" and "autobiography;" however, this distinction has not always existed. Lennard Davis argues that in the eighteenth century, "i t might not have been considered out of the ordinary to have written a biography of a real or contemporary person and included fictional characters and encount ers, or to have written a novel and inc luded historical f i g u r e s 93 As Davis explains, encountering historical figures in a novel or fictional characters in a biography would not have been considered particularly strange (as in historical fiction, for insta nce). When a text does not adhere strongly to a single convention, and therefore does not indicate exactly how it should be read, the reader holds the responsibility of determining how to read the text. The distinctions between genres have not always been in place. They were, however, during the Modernist era, so that experimentation with these conventions and merging of forms came to be seen as breaking boundaries. The blurring of lines between genres is not necessarily an act of deception by the author, b ut can instead be an exploration of forms and loosening of the definitions of genres. In "Discourse in the Novel," Mikhail Bakhtin proposes that even in a work of fiction, a text tells the story of the author as much as it tells the story of its characte rs. He explains, "b ehind the narrator's story we read a second story, the author's story; he is the one who tells us how the narrator tells stories, and also tells us about the narrator h i m s e l f 94 Even in a fictional work, the author's voice can be heard b ehind the voices of the characters. It is the author who tells the story to the reader, behind the mask of the 93 Lennard J. Davis, Factual Fictions (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983) 148. 94 Mikhail Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981), 313 14.
42 characters or the narrator. This phenomenon enables the blurring of the lines between different discourses and the de emphasis of the distinction s between genres. How can a distinction be drawn between the author's story as told in an autobiography, and the author's story as told through the narrator of the novel? Autobiography as a genre, especially as it appears in Kotik Letaev and Portrait in herently possesses a gap of identity between the writing or speaking subject and the actual subject of the autobiography. The retrospective nature of autobiography prohibits a true simultaneity of speaker and subject. The act of retrospective recollection forces the speaker or writer to look upon his/her younger self as an entirely different person. Philip Lejeune argues, "t his gap [in perspective] can have nothing of the fictitious about it and can be simply that which exists between an aged autobiographer narrator and the life of t he protagonist that he w a s 95 The apparent untruths in an autobiography can be attributed not to dishonesty, but rather to the distance between the author and his/her former, younger self. It is specifically the act of writing about oneself that creates this gap in perspective. Felicity A. Nussbaum asserts, "d ividing the self from the self, the diary sets out an alternative self to ponder. And by declaring that divided self textually, autobiography renders self division increasi ngly commonplace and n a t u r a l 96 The division between current and past selves (or writing and written selves) is not only inevitable but, in Nussbaum's terminology, "commonplace and natural" in the form of autobiography. If the writing self is unavoidably d ivided in some respects from the 95 Philip Lejeune, On Autobiography, trans. Katherine Leary (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989) 40. 96 Felicity A. Nussbaum, The Autobiographical Subject (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Universi ty Press, 1989) 27.
43 written subject, then the act of writing an autobiography is essentially no different from writing another's biography or even writing an account of a fictional character's life. Martine Guyot Bender proclaims, "w riting one 's life story is, above all, writing a s t o r y 97 Autobiography, then, is unavoidably and inextricably linked to fiction. If autobiography is thus linked to fiction, then it should come as little surprise when the forms of fiction and autobiography come to resemble each other. Both Joyce and Bely at times present autobiography as fiction and fiction as autobiography. Kotik Letaev and Portrait include many factual details and resemblances to their author's lives, but are written as novels with protagonists w hose names differ from the names of their authors (presenting autobiography as fiction). However, these works that are generally regarded as semiautobiographical contain characters and incidents that are clearly fictitious, or at least artistically embelli shed (presenting fiction as autobiography). In Portrait for instance, a professor's voice is described as a coil of energy; The droning voice of the professor continued to wind itself slowly round and round the coil it spoke of, doubling, trebling, quadr upling its somnolent energy as the coil multiplied its ohms of r e s i s t a n c e 98 This description is clearly a fictionalized embellishment of the professor's voice. Such artistic styling is one of the reasons for the confusion between fiction and autobiography of these works. The primary reason for the constant struggle between fiction and autobiography in these works, however, is the duality of the speaking subject. In writing oneself retrospectively, the past self is simultaneously united with and distanced from the current 97 Martine Guyot Bender, "Making Sense of Narrative Ambiguity," in Paradigms of Memory: T he O ccupation and Other Hi/stories in the N ovels of Patrick Modiano ed. Martine Guyot Bender and William VanderWolk (New York: Peter Lang Publish ing, Inc., 1998), 22. 98 Joyce, 210.
44 self. If the author is constantly stru ggling between a view of his past self as "self" and as "other," then the text will necessarily exist in a continuous state of flux between autobiography and fiction. Guyot Bender asserts, autobiographies are texts written by individuals who encounter the same struggle with language as fiction writers. Life writing and fiction writing function in similar ways and find themselves easily entangled in the complicated narrative j e 99 This shifti ng je ("I") can be seen in the clearly retrospective passages of Kotik Letaev ; "At this time I recall being a philosopher: I was crawling in the present: without any views of the future withou t projects, without p l a n s 100 In this passage, the first "I" th e "I" that is recollecting refers to the adult narrator reflecting on his childhood. The second "I," the crawling "I," refers to the child Kotik. This constantly shifting I is what enables autobiography and fiction to share so many features. The use of such an indefinite "I" also gives the autobiographer novelist greater formal freedom. Lejeune asserts, "i f the autobiographical narrator ever uses other figures in a combined manner, like the narrative present and the indirect free style, he will be able to create rather bewildering plays of confrontation between what he was and what he is, under the pretense of an apparently singular I 101 The use of fictional structures within an autobiography implicitly constructs the author of the autobiography as sim ultaneously one with and separate from its subject. Portrait is written almost entirely in free indirect discourse, a style typically reserved for novels and seemingly incompatible with autobiography. Kotik Letaev is written mostly in the first person but often in the present tense, which is likewise not 99 Guyot Bender, 20 (Cited also in Chapter 2) 100 Bely, 65. 101 Lejeune, 35.
45 associated with autobiography, an inherently retrospective form. However, this shifting "I" (or "he," in the case of Portrait ), which refers to the subject at varying stages in his life, unites these seemi ngly disparate elements of the works. There is some doubt, however, as to whether the speaking self is always the same subject. Each person possesses a collection of memories and experiences, which seemingly all belong to a single remembering and experienc ing entity. We experience ourselves as a continuous subject, but is this really the case? These novels set up a tension between sameness and difference in the subject. They construct a singular speaking subject the subject that is simultaneously the child being written about and the author writing. They also, however, emphasize the change in this "singular" subject. The phenomenon of retrospective thus highlights the problematic nature of the singular but ever changing subject. These two "semiautobiograph ical novels" operating in a marginal state between fiction and reality beg the question: Why not just write an autobiography or a novel? What is the purpose of a fictional autobiography or an autobiographical novel? In the case of these two novels, the flu idity of genre enables multiple readings of the text, granting the reader interpretative (and, ultimately, even creative ) freedom. These works are simultaneously autobiographies and novels, and neither one nor the other. Their authors are both real peopl e writing novels, and fictional characters within those novels. Lejeune describes the author as "s traddling the wor ld beyond the text and the text[;] he is the connection between the two. The author is defined as simultaneously a socially responsible real person and the producer of a d i s c o u r s e 102 102 Lejeune, 11.
46 Any author is simultaneously a real person (the Real Author) and a writing entity or, in Lejeune's words, "the producer of a discourse" (the Implied Author). 103 Because t he author plays so many roles he is a real p erson (Real Author), an almost mythological author figure (Implied Author) and, in the case of autobiography, a character in the story the "I" of an autobiography is a convoluted subject to untangle. Guyot Bender asks, "t o whom does, in this case, this je refer? The author of the autobiographythe subject a mixture of both or the writer's altered vision of who he used to b e ? 104 In these two novels, the subject (the "I" of Kotik Letaev the "he" Stephen of Portrait ) represents simultaneously a fictional char acter, the author's past self, the Real Author, and the Implied Author. An effect of the multifaceted identity of the author is a n ability to detach from him self. The connection between these various permutations of the author figure (subject of the auto biography, author's past self, Real Author, Implied Author) is alternatively and simultaneously a split. Guyot Bender explains, "a nother consequence of such an inborn split between the writing entity and the subject of the autobiography is, of course, the conscious or unconscious reshaping, by the individual writing, of the images of the past lived by the subject. Do past events not often seem as though they belonged to someone else's s t o r y ? 105 The autho r's perception of him self as a child being a different person can become exaggerated into a sense that the a utobiography is not even his own story. The author's ability to identify with so many different roles then also enables him to 103 As opposed to the Real Author, the living person who produces a text, the Implied Author is "an implicit picture of an author who stands behind the scenes,always distinct from the real man' whatever we may take him to be who creates a superior version of himself, a second self,' as he creates his work." (Wayne Booth, The Rhetoric of Fiction, 151). 104 Guyot Bender, 22. 105 Guyo t Bender, 22.
47 disidentify, in turn, from thes e same roles and to tell his own story as tho ugh it belonged to someone else. The author's disidentificiation from himself can be seen in both Portrait and Kotik Letaev The clearest evidence of this is the fact that Portrait is written almost entirely in the third person. Kotik Letaev is also writ ten partially in the third person. The author's use of the pronoun "he" rather than "I" in reference to the subject of the autobiography is an undeniable instance of detachment from himself. Jean Starobinski discusses this phenomenon: "t hough seemingly a m odest form, autobiographical narrative in the third person accumulates and makes compatible events glorifying the hero who refuses to speak in his own name. Here the interests of the personality are committed to a he,' thus effecting a solidification by o bjectivity. This is quite the opposite of pure monologue, where the accent is on the me' and not on the e v e n t 106 The Knstlerroman is a way of portraying the writer's self as a hero wi thout seeming like he is heroizing him self. Distancing himself from the protagonist enables the author to glorify the subject of the autobiography "the hero who refuses to speak in his own name." This occurs constantly throughout Portrait originally entitled Stephen Hero, with Joyce presenting Step hen as a growing artist. In Kotik the heroization occurs much more blatantly towards the end of the novel the narration switches to third person for a few pages, shortly after which Kotik is suddenly constructed as a Christ figure: "History is sharpening into a summit; on itwill be a cross; I will put it there: it will be my last step toward the huge world; onto itI must climb; beneath my feet will be the bustle of life, the crowd, upon which I will be gazing with an unseeing gaze, embracing with my arms the huge cross 106 Jean Starobinski, "The Style of Autobiography," trans. Seymour Chatman, in Autobiography: Essays Theoretical and Critical ed. James Olney (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980) 77.
48 bars of w o o d 107 Although this passage is narrated in the first person, it follows closely enough behind a section of third person narration that it is easy to attribute this passage to the same, disconnected narrator. Because of the third p erson narration in both of these cases, the author appears to be separate from the subject. Glorifying this subject, then, does not appear to be merely self promotion. Although the author is able to d istance himself from his autobiography by emphasizing its novelistic qualities and referring to its subject in the third person, the fact remains that these texts are, nevertheless, autobiographical (or at least semiautobiographical). H e, as the author of the autobiography, is inextricably linked to the subje ct because the subject is the author in his earlier years. This continual a ttempt at detaching from him self is si multaneously a denial of his human life (rather than life as an author figure) and an emphasis on the subject as an event rather than as merely a subject. Establishing the subject as an event, then, is completely in line with the artist's construction of him/herself as hero within the K nstlerroman. An author's dual role as both the author and protagonist of a work limits his/her authorial contr ol. S/he has no way of knowing what the characters are thinking because they are real people, or representations of real people, in his/her life (or at least childhood). Likewise, s/he can only exert a limited amount of control over the plot, because it is at least partially a recounting of past events that actually happened and cannot be entirely re or over written. The very nature of autobiography enacts some limits upon authorial omniscience and agency. The indeterminacy of the author's position in rela tion to the text and the resulting indeterminacy of genre give the reader a unique role in the text's interpretation. Lejeune 107 Bely, 220.
49 asserts that there exists an unstated contract between the author and the reader, in which the reader agrees to receive the text w ithin the boundaries in which the author presents it. He explains, T he problematic of autobiography proposed here is thus not grounded on a relationship, established from the outside, between the extratextual and the textbut upon analysis, on the global level of publication of the implicit or explicit contract proposed by the author to the reader a contract which determines the mode of reading of the text and engenders the effects which, attributed to the text, seem to us to define it as a u t o b i o g r a p h y 108 Within the scheme of this author reader contract, if the author presents a work as partially autobiographical and partially fictional, then the reader will receive it as such. The indeterminate middle ground between fiction and autobiography gives the reader a sort of interpretative license in reading the text. The reader is granted greater freedom by this authorial contract discussed by Lejeune than by works that adhere strictl y to a single genre or paradigm. Dorritt Cohn discusses this interpretative responsibility; "t he distance separating author and narrator in any given first person novel is not a given and fixed quantity but a variable, subject to the reader's evaluation. A nd this perennial unknown is one of the factors that makes the reading of a fictional autobiography in principle such a different kind of experience from the reading of a real autobiography, where the parameter of unreliability (in Booth's sense of the wor d) is by definition reduced to z e r o 109 In a text that strictly adheres to a single paradigm or genre, the degree of unreliability is "reduced to zero." In the case of a "real" autobiography, this occurs because the author reader contract is one of truthful ness. In fiction, on the other hand, the contract is founded on untruthfulness. In a semiautobiographical novel, however, which occupies an unstable middle ground between "real" autobiography and 108 Lejeune, 29. 109 Dorritt Cohn, The Distinction of Fiction (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), 34.
50 fiction, the author reader contract assigns interpretative f reedom to the reader. The reader is free, then, to read the text however s/he chooses. Such ambiguous works can be read, on the one hand, as a sort of life writing revealing truths about the authors' lives and psyches. On the other hand, they can also be r ead as novels with artistic shape and purpose. Interpretative freedom is capable of turning life into fiction and fiction into life. This constant interpretation and reinterpretation, a responsibility shared by the author and the reader, is further reflec ted in the distortion of various narrative devices. This stems from the author's own relation to his/her past and memories. Guyot Bender explains, "i n response to the inherent distortions of memory, the novelist proposes alternative narrative devices that give the reader more responsibility in understanding the p a s t 110 The author uses narrative devices that parallel or substitute for the distortion of memory by time and age. One instance of this in Portrait is again connected to the embellished style of rec ollection in Joyce's narrative. Stephen recalls, "Her nakedness yielded to him, radiant, warm, odorous and lavishlimbedand like a cloud of vapour or like waters circumfluent in space the liquid letters of speech, symbols of the element of mystery, flowed forth over his b r a i n 111 It is unlikely, though not impossible, that these metaphors can be directly attributed to Stephen at the time of the event; the style of narration instead suggests artistic embellishment or recreation of a past event. The author mus t constantly reinterpret his knowledge of the past due to "the inherent distortions of memory." This is then reflected in the distortion of narrative devices in the text, forcing the reader to perform an equivalent reinterpretation. 110 Guyot Bender, 29. 111 Joyce, 242.
51 The reader, therefore, performs a pivotal role in the development of the text. Nussbaum describes the process of the creation of an autobiographical text; "a given autobiographical text, then, is also a series of accumulating acts of writing, revision, and r e c e p t i o n 112 The read er, as the sole figure with the ability to perform the last of these tasks reception therefore holds as much responsibility as the author in determining the ultimate fate of a text. The author presents the reader with the text, the reader interprets (and, in a way, writes it), and this process of writing and reception repeats indefinitely. A crucial feature of these texts is that they can be read as both fiction and autobiography. M oreover, it is imperative not only that they can be read in both of these ways, but that they are. Occupying this middle ground between genres is what grants these novels their fluidity. It enables the author to exist as continuous with and separate from t he subject of the work, and it gives the reader the power to write the text alongside the author. Much of what makes these novels so interesting is that they can be read as either portraits of their authors' adolescences or as fictional tales, and this int erest is lost when they are limited solely to the realm of fiction. The ambiguity of the texts means that the author and the reader share in their creation the reader essentially helps write the text making the reading experience entirely different than th at of a purely fictional work. 112 Nussbaum, 18.
52 CONCLUSION A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Kotik Letaev though from different places and belonging to different literary traditions, nevertheless address remarkably similar narrative and generic conc erns. They were written in the same decade, and published only eight years apart. They both possess an ambiguous and shifting child narrator, and through these narrators they address the concerns of narrative unreliability and retrospective. They explore a nd trouble the distinctions between fiction and autobiography, resulting in texts that are simultaneously both and neither. These Modernist works achieve what Realism attempted, through an inward turn to the psychological a strikingly "real" portrait of li fe as it is lived. Given these concerns, there are several directions in which this project could extend. The question of the child narrator is addressed in a wide variety of works, from Charles Dickens's Great Expectations to modern novels like Roddy Do yle's Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha (1993) There are many other lenses through which the child narrator can be examined, such as using the psychoanalytic route of object relations theory to attempt to understand the development of the child's psyche. The study of ambiguous narrators could likewise extend across broad categories, from Nikolai Gogol's obtrusive but unidentified third person narrators to the shifting or shared free indirect narration in many British Modernist works like Virginia Woolf's
53 Mrs. Dallow ay (1925 ) whose narrators enable the reader to see the world through one person's eyes, then another's, and so on. The question of genres could move deeper into autobiography, to examine the stylistic construction of genuine biographies or autobiographies It could also move away from strict autobiography into the more ambiguous category of life writing, which can refer to any method of recording experiences, whether one's own or another's. A more thorough examination of the Implied Author and the Real Aut hor could be pertinent here. A related issue is the scandal' of James Frey's A Million Little Pieces (2003 ) which was marketed as a memoir but later revealed to be partially embellished and fictionalized. The outcry over this debacle prompts the question Why does it matter whether the memoir is entirely accurate or partially fictional? This question points to the crux of my study the division between fiction and reality, and the author's and reader's relationship to this division. The child narrator is a defamiliarizing tool, forcing the reader out of his/her ordinary mode of reading and perceiving, and into the child's mode of viewing the world. Ambiguous and shifting narrators defamiliarize even narrative structures and emphasize but trouble the divisi on between fiction and reality, both within and without the world of the text. The form of the semiautobiographical novel questions and blurs this boundary. All of these narrative and generic tools force the reader into a more active role in the ultimate c reation of the text, i mparting agency to the reader t he writing o f such a work is shared between the author and the reader.
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