Narrating the Self: Parergonality, Closure and. by Holly Franking. hermeneutics focus attention on the transactional aspect of the aesthetic

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1 Narrating the Self: Parergonality, Closure and by Holly Franking Many recent literary theories, such as deconstruction, reader-response, and hermeneutics focus attention on the transactional aspect of the aesthetic transaction, rather than on any single factor in that equation--author, text, reader. In this paper, I also will focus on the dynamics of the transactions, specifically on the relationship between the author and himself as implied author in prose fiction. However, instead of stating a thesis and supporting it with specific references, I will attempt to delineate some problems raised by the question: Is the author, either as implied author or as narrator, inside or outside the text? Since some readers still assume that the narrator is the author, some distinctions that Wayne C. Booth makes in his The Rhetoric of Fiction are important. Booth says that when an author writes, he creates an "official version of himself" or "implied author" that is distinct from the "real author."1 Booth adds that the implied author is both part of and yet separate from the narrator because the narrator is a separable creation within the narrative, while the implied author is the sum of all the parts of that narration.

2 Next we'll look at Mark Schorer's essay, "Technique as Discovery" in order to garner more insight into the nature of a narrator. Like Booth, Schorer distinguishes the narrator from the author, but Schorer does so because for him this separation makes the difference between biography (non-literary text) and literature (literary text). Schorer uses Defoe's Moll Flanders to explain his position: The point of view of Moll is indistinguishable from the point of view of her creator. We discover that the meaning of the novel (at unnecessary length, without economy, without emphasis, with almost none of the distortions or the advantages of art) in spite of Defoe, not because of him. Thus the book is not a true chronicle of a disreputable female, but the true allegory of an impoverished soul, the author's; not an anatomy of the criminal class, but of the middle class. And we read it as an unintended comic revelation of self and of a social mode. Because he had no adequate resources of technique to separate himself from his material, thereby to discover and to define the meanings of his material, his contribution is not to fiction but to the history of fiction, and to social history.2 Schorer's essay does not refute Booth's contention that the implied author and the narrator remain within the text. On the contrary, its seems to support it because to Schorer this created narrator is a means or technique by which an author separates himself from the raw material of his real-life

3 experiences and then shapes them into an artistic composition. Now, we will consider Wimsatt and Beardsley's concept of the intentional fallacy since, like Schorer's, it is an attempt to make the literary text self-sufficient, an entity that is somehow distinct from the author's own conscious intention: There is a gross body of life, of sensory and mental experience, which lies behind and in some sense causes every poem, but can never be and need not be known in the verbal and hence intellectual composition which is the poem. For all the objects of our manifold experience, for every unity, there is an action of the mind which cuts off roots, melts away context--or indeed we should never have objects or ideas or anything to talk about. (p. 340). So far these last three critics have tried to melt away the context of a literary text and define it as a separate, self-contained unit or object that can be detached from its maker. Perhaps these writers are simply reflecting the New Critical mode of thought that a "literary work can account for itself and stand free as a self-contained fusion of being and doing."3

4 Before showing how deconstruction questions the New Critical theory of a literary work's organic autonomy, it will be interesting to see what postmodern or post-structuralists have to say, such as Frederic Jameson in The Political Unconscious and Susan Lanser in The Narrative Act. Jameson states his position that political interpretation of literary texts is primary because:... only Marxism offers a philosophically coherent and ideologically compelling resolution to the dilemma of historicism.... Only Marxism can give us an adequate account of the essential mystery of the cultural past... and to deliver its long forgotten message in surroundings utterly alien to it.4 Jameson, here, is dealing with a reader's response to a literary text, however, all questions of interpretation deal with the issue of how the "voice" of a text, that implied author, speaks to the reader, especially those separated by the ages. Jameson poses the hermeneutical question: Is the "voice" of a text silenced by time and entombed within its own context of the text? Jameson proceeds to give his Marxist answer. To him, all men of all ages have the same problem, which has to do with matters of

5 political consciousness: These matters can recover their original urgency for us only if they are retold within the unity of a single great collective story; only if, in however disguised and symbolic a form, they are seen as sharing a single fundamental theme--for Marxism, the collective struggle to wrest a realm of Freedom from a realm of Necessity. (p. 19) Jameson's attempt to liberate the "voice" or implied author from its own "cultural past" is crucial, yet the "rosetta stone" that he uses to decode texts, and there is only one--a Marxist one. For me, then, Jameson's theory is too reductive. Instead of liberating individual "voices" within various texts, he seems to silence them all the more effectively by making them all seem to say the same thing. The other postmodern critic, Susan Lanser, specifically tries to develop a theory or poetics of point of view, and she seems to start where Booth ended: In these early chapters I emphasize the pivotal role of point of view in narrative and provide a context for acknowledging relationships between textual

6 perspectives and voice and the writer's relationship to the literary act.5 Lanser is most interested in the relationship between the narrator and the implied author. But unlike Booth, she identifies his implied author with her "extrafictional voice" and situates them both within the text. Unlike this inquiry, she is not interested specifically in the relationship between the implied author and the real author. And like Jameson, Lanser tries to reduce the complexities of these relationships to a deep structure, but a feminist rather than a Marxist one: Early in my research it became obvious that what I considered some of the most important elements of point of view--the gender of the narrator, the speaker's basis for authority, the narrator's "personality" and values, and the relationship between the writer's circumstances and beliefs and the narrative structure of the text--were peripheral to most contemporary theories of point of view. (p. 5) Both of these postmodern critics enrich the concept of the implied author by pointing out unacknowledged elements, such as the implied author's political orientation, historicity, and gender. But neither deals directly with the relationship of the implied author to the real author. From their deep structures, it will be useful to turn to Roland Barthes's almost

7 opposite concept of the structuralist activity which Barthes says, "seeks less to assign completed meanings to the objects it discovers than to know how meaning is possible, at what cost and by what means."6 In the following citation, Barthes gives a more specific description of structuralism and its purpose: "The goal of all structuralist activity, whether reflexive or poetic, is to reconstruct an "object" in such a way as to manifest thereby the rules of functioning (the "functions") of this objects. Structure is therefore actually a simulacrum of the object, but a directed, interested simulacrum, since the imitated object makes something appear which remained invisible, or if one prefers, unintelligible in the natural object. Structural man takes the real, decomposes it, then recomposes it; this appears to be little enough (which makes some say that the structuralist enterprise is "meaningless," "uninteresting," "useless," etc.). Yet, from another point of view, this "little enough" is decisive for between the two objects, or the two tenses, of structuralist activity, there occurs something new, and what is new is nothing less than the generally intelligible: the simulacrum is intellect added to object, and this addition

8 has an anthropological value, in that it is man himself, his history, his situation, his freedom and the very resistance which nature offers to his mind. We see, then, why we must speak of a structuralist activity: creation or reflection are not, here an original "impression" of the world, but a veritable fabrication of a world which resembles the first one, not in order to copy it but to render it intelligible." (pp ) If, according to Barthes, the literary text becomes a model or simulacrum of the way a particular author makes meaning, then, perhaps the real author by analyzing his "second self" or the implied author can come to know himself in a way other men do not have access to because for others it is a Kantian impossibility, the ability to know oneself as one really is and not merely as one appears, the ability for the subject to observe himself in the act of knowing. In other words, what becomes objectified in the literary text is a model of the real author's act of signification embodied in the implied author. The next question is can the real author truly detach himself for his "second self" or the implied author and bring about closure of the literary text so that it contains not only a single moral, meaning or theme but rather a

9 simulacrum of his own unique mode of signification or process of knowing? Now is the time to explore the boundary line that is necessary to separate the real author from the text which contains his "second self." Kant offers the notion of the frame or "parerga": Even what is called ornamentation (parerga), i. e. what is only an adjunct, and not an intrinsic constituent in the complete representation of an object, in augmenting the delight of taste does so solely by means of its form. Thus it is with the frame of pictures or the draperies on statues, or the colonnades of palaces.7 Jonathan Culler, in On Deconstruction, shows how Derrida deconstructs Kant's "frame" by pointing out that "at the very moment that it is playing an essential... role... it undermines this role by leading itself to be defined as subsidiary ornamentation" (p 195). As a result the concept of framing exists but the frame itself does not: Framing can be regarded as a frame-up, an interpretive imposition that restricts an object by establishing boundaries: Kant's framing confines aesthetics within the frame of a theory of the beautiful, the beautiful

10 within a theory of taste, and taste within a theory of judgment. /m But the framing process is unavoidable, and the notion of an aesthetic object, like the constitution of an aesthetics, depends upon it. The supplement is essential. Anything that is properly framed--displayed in a museum, hung in a gallery, printed in a book of poems--becomes an art object; but if framing is what creates the aesthetic object, this does not make the frame a determinable entity whose qualities could be isolated, giving us a theory of the literary frame or the painterly frame. (pp ). /m The problems of parergonality force us to reexamine the relationship between the real author who supposedly is situated outside the text and the implied author who is supposedly situated inside the text. /m According to Derrida, there is no such thing as a pure outside distinct from a pure inside; therefore, the relationship between the real author can never be posited outside or over and above the implied author, who equally can never be posited within the text itself. /m Booth says that

11 the implied author is only one version of the real author, nevertheless, the question remains: can the real author by analyzing the implied author (even though he recognizes it to be only a version of his many other selves) defy the Kantian boundary of self-knowledge: observe the self observing the self? The answer from deconstruction is that the real author's position is not a privileged one. The real author cannot know himself as he really is because there is no such person as that "real" author. The meaning or reality of that "real" author is itself a construct. /m So, while the real author cannot know himself as he really is, he can, in the Kantian sense, know himself as he appears by means of the implied author. But, as with all meaning, this occurs from a play of "differance" among all versions of the real and implied author. /m This inquiry has dealt with the relationship between a real author and the implied author in a literary text as a means of testing the Kantian limits of self-knowledge, which states that one cannot know oneself as one really is but only as one appears If the real author can bring about closure of the

12 literary text, define a pure outside as opposed to a pure inside that separates the real author from the implied, then use the text as a simulacrum or model of his own unique mode of knowing or making meaning by the process of signification, perhaps, at that point, the real author can know himself as observer. /m In other words, the real author, unlike others, might be able to see himself in the very act of knowing not as object of appearance but as he truly is--as subject, knower, observer During the course of this inquiry, I put the question of the limits of self-knowledge and the act of narrating the self to a New Critic, feminist, Marxist, structuralist, and deconstruralist. /m New Critics by treating a literary text as an autonomous work imply that the implied author is also objectified or posited within the text and detached from the real author. Feminists and Marxists think that texts can be decoded if one uses such "keys" as gender or politics so that the "voice" of the text can speak This "voice" becomes synonymous with other terms like "implied author" and "authorial presence," and these, too, are posited within the text. Barthes's structuralism adds a new dimension to the concept of the "implied author" in

13 that what the text makes intelligible are the acts by which meanings are produced by a particular author within a particular text If the mode of meaning can be equated with the implied author, and the literary text seen as a narration of the real author's self, perhaps the real author can gain an uncanny access to a knowledge of himself Difficulties, however, arise when one tries to bring about closure of the literary text, to establish a frame or "parerga." It is not simply that the implied author is just one version of the real author. Deconstruction undermines the concept of closure and frame as well as that of "real" author The versions of the "real" author are separated in a more fundamental way from themselves than Booth suggests. The self is always and already deferred from itself. Kant's dictum that man can never know himself as he really is but only as he appears to himself is not only reaffirmed by deconstruction but takes on yet another "meaning" by showing that all meaning comes from a play of "differance"--from "appearances." Therefore, one can never know anything as it really is because presence can never be posited anywhere whether in the self, the text, or the word.

14 Meaning itself is indeterminate, present only in that absence from its own self.

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