Modern Languages and Literatures, Department of


Date of this Version

September 1987


Published in French Forum 12:3 (September 1987). Copyright (c) 1987 French Forum.


This study starts from the premise that the young Flaubert had difficulty sustaining his narratives, that once underway, the opposing efforts of both narrator and character to promote their individual interests within the text led to an impasse, a kind of narrational death, which required a particular strategy (presumably on the part of the author) to circumvent the difficulty and keep things going. For Ginsburg this "stammering" (1) was a problem that Flaubert never quite outgrew. Consequently, she invites us to read his development as a novelist in terms of the different solutions the various works bring to the problem of continued narrative and, ultimately, to that of the representation of the self. Barthes's notion of the interchangeability of text and reading is important here, as are certain precepts from Lacan and Derrida, notably that all projections issuing from the self are necessarily of the self and that the self can be said to exist only as it is represented in language. The self in question, however, is not Flaubert's (although Ginsburg is willing to admit this as a marginal hypothesis). It is the spectacle that is projected by the narrator, or by a character turned narrator, that makes Flaubertian narrative possible.