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Framed Narratives

Framed Narratives: Diderot’s Genealogy of the Beholder

Jay Caplan
Afterword by Jochen Schulte-Sasse
Volume: 19
Copyright Date: 1985
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 144
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  • Book Info
    Framed Narratives
    Book Description:

    Focuses on the problem of framing in and of Diderot and proposes an interpretive model that draws upon the notion of dialogue developed by Bakhtin. “Written in an engaging, readable style, Caplan’s short book reopens fascinating questions on Diderot’s texts for both specialist and non-specialist readers.” --Modern Language Notes

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8222-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. [Illustration]
    (pp. vi-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-14)

    Like Jean-François Rameau, Diderot is a figure who has inspired a range of conflicting reactions in those who encounter him. The philosophe has been admired and despised, he has moved his readers and irritated them, and often at the same time. It has therefore seemed that the nature of those conflicts is the fundamental problem to be grasped in Diderot. From Hegel onward, Diderot’s interpreters have tried to imagine a synthetic perspective from which the paradoxes could be resolved—to frame them, so to speak. InFramed Narratives,I have sought to pay more attention to this problem of framing...

  5. Chapter One The Aesthetics of Sacrifice
    (pp. 15-29)

    In the secondEntretien sur le fils naturel,Dorval relates a scene he has witnessed that he believes is made for theater:

    Une paysanne du village que vous voyez entre ces deux

    montagnes . . . envoya son mari chez ses parents, qui

    demeurent dans un hameau voisin. Ce malheureux y fut tué par

    un de ses beaux-frères. Le lendemain, j’allai dans la maison

    où l’accident était arrivé.J’y vis un tableau,et j’y entendis un

    discours que je n’ai point oubliés. Le mort était étendu sur

    un lit. Ses jambes nues pendaient hors du lit. Sa femme écheveleé


  6. Chapter Two Genealogy of the Beholder
    (pp. 30-44)

    In the previous chapter, I argued that Diderot’s writings display a series of shifts in emphasis: first, that despite the philosophe’s advocacy of the tableau as part of a program for theatrical reform, his most powerful tableaux are meant to be read and not staged; second, that the same is true of his dialogues, that they are not well suited to staging; and third, that the fundamental dialogue in Diderot takes place not really between characters, but among the author, the printed dialogue of these characters, and the possible responses of the reader or “beholder.” In this chapter, I shall...

  7. Chapter Three Moving Pictures (La Religieuse—I)
    (pp. 45-59)

    Literary history has revealed thatLa Religieusewas the product of “a horrible plot.”¹ In late 1759, we know that Grimm, Diderot, and others set out to recall their friend, the Marquis de Croismare, from his Norman meditations by means of a “mystification.” By soliciting the marquis’s sympathy for the plight of a fictional nun, they hoped to lure their friend back to Paris. At some point after the initial exchange of letters between the nun and the marquis, Diderot assumed sole authorship of the nun’s letters. He expanded and rewrote them until as late as 1781 or 1782, for...

  8. Chapter Four Misfits (La Religieuse—II)
    (pp. 60-75)

    I have suggested thatLa Religieusecould be viewed in terms of a contradiction in Diderot between empirical singularity and generic abstraction; between the demands of the heroine’s “natural” body and the necessity for institutions (such as the convent, the family, and the novel) to abstract from that body, to “civilize” it. There is a long and justly famous speech inLa Religieusethat contains a indictment of convents and monasteries, a passage that imposes itself astheplace where Diderot’s opinion of convents is expressed. This passage exemplifies the sort of contradiction of which I have been speaking.


  9. Chapter Five A Novel World (Bougainville as Supplement)
    (pp. 76-88)

    Let us suppose that a Montesquieu, Buffon, Diderot, Duclos, d’Alembert, Condillac, or men of that stamp traveling in order to inform their compatriots, observing and describing, as they know how, Turkey, . . . China, Tartary, and especially Japan; then in the other hemisphere, Mexico, Peru, Chile, the straits of Magellan, not forgetting the Patagonias true or false, . . . Florida, and all the savage countries: the most important voyage of all and the one that must be undertaken with the greatest care. . . . [W]e ourselves would seea new world [un monde nouveau] come from their...

  10. Chapter Six Conclusions
    (pp. 89-96)

    The narrative tableau in Diderot revealed itself to be a highly paradoxical structure, whose frame excludes the same figures (beholder, author) that it requires in order to reach completion. The same paradoxical tableau structure also marks the overall dialogic relationships in Diderot’s novel,La Religieuse.In Diderot, it seems that every tableau is a virtual narrative, and vice versa. The detachment of the reader from Diderot’s novelistic fiction (or of the preface from the body of the novel) must in fact turn into identification—laughter must become tears—for the text to achieve its rhetorical goal. In other words, the...

  11. Afterword Art and the Sacrificial Structure of Modernity: A Sociohistorical Supplement to Jay Caplan’s Framed Narratives
    (pp. 97-116)
    Jochen Schulte-Sasse

    Jay Caplan’s point of departure in his close (contextual) reading of Diderot is what he calls Diderot’s aesthetic of sacrifice. Precisely what makes this aesthetic “sacrificial”? We would customarily label an aesthetic like the one Caplan describes in his first chapter areception aestheticbecause it acknowledges the reader’s role as a structurally fundamental part of textual understanding. But this label only offers a terminology to compensate for the long-standing omission of the reader as one of three structurally constitutive links of textual understanding: the author, the text, and the reader.Reception aestheticssays more about the ideological history of...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 117-128)
  13. Index
    (pp. 129-134)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 135-135)