The Plot Machine: The French Novel and the Bachelor Machines in the Electric Years (1880-1914)

The Plot Machine: The French Novel and the Bachelor Machines in the Electric Years (1880-1914)

by Kai Mikkonen




This book presents a new and exciting theory of the modern French novel by developing the notion of the narrative as a “textual machine”. Many turn-of-the-century French novels thematically identified their means of narration through the various machines that they depicted. The narrative devices that were particularly important in this self-reflection included: the temporal order of the plot, the question of a narrative’s beginning and end, the hierarchy of narrative voices, and the techniques of the point of view. The question of mechanization became central on all these fronts. Has the novel become automated or machine-like? At the same time, the machine metaphors in the novels of Alfred Jarry, Emile Zola, Jules Verne, Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, Raymond Roussel combined the question of the narrative form with new ways to think about man’s relationship with technology and the cultural environment. The early modernist texts drew upon contradictory notions of technological promise and threat while they also depicted new forms of identity and behavior, related to or modeled after machines. These texts highlighted cultural assumptions concerning technological innovations and critiqued, mainly through parody and through various figures of man-machine fusion, the positivistic belief in progress. Such writers looked for evidence of advanced forms of consciousness arising out of encounters with new technology such as: telephones, trains, bicycles, telegraphy, phonographs and electricity.
This volume will be of interest to anyone working in the field of modern French literary and cultural history. It will especially appeal to anyone intrigued with the origins of the modernist novel, the history of narrative forms, and the question of how the experience of new technology may be portrayed in literary texts.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9789042015968
Publisher: Brill Academic Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 01/01/2001
Series: Faux Titre Series
Pages: 274
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.50(h) x 2.70(d)

About the Author

Kai Mikkonen is a stylist who enjoys an almost physical engagement with textuality, and is able to suggest the fecundity of overlapping networks of images in a precise and vibrant critical idiom.” – Professor Jean-Michel Rabaté, University of Pennsylvania

Table of Contents

I Introduction: Monstrous Machines and Plotted Designs
II The Copy of Consciousness and the Micro-Politics of the Narrative Form: Baudelaire, Huysmans, Dujardin
III The Electric Narrative in Jules Verne’s Le Château des Carpathes and Paris au XXe siècle
IV The Plot Engine in Emile Zola’s La Bête humaine
V Narrative Lines of Desire in Villiers de l’Isle-Adam’s Future Eve
VI The Work of Life in an Age of Mechanical Competition: Alfred Jarry’s Le surmâle
VII Twice-Told Tales and Semiotic Translation in Raymond Roussel’s Novels

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