THE NARRATIVE MATRIX: BETRAYALS OF ORIGIN IN "LE ROUGE ET LE NOIR"
MOSSMAN, CAROL ANN
Doctor of Philosophy
The Ancien Regime's fall forced a re-evaluation in narrative outlook: the works of Stendhal register this post-revolutionary confusion. Chapter I considers paternal surrogation as furnishing the novel's narrative springboard. The erosion of the Patronym shoots Julien Sorel to the pinnacle of his career: pinnacle turns into brink. Happy Endings are eluded, to the general scandalization of critics, who have read a different novel encoded within Le Rouge. Chapter II focuses on Freud's patriarchal structures, suggesting that the Story of Fathers and Sons is inherently more narratable than that of mothers (example: the occulted Mme Sorel). Framing this plot of filial subversion are twin blades: the sawmill and the guillotine. The novel emerges as fantasy-construct of filial design: "Julien Sorel" is presented as a medium tendentiously refracting textual psychoconstructs. Chapter III probes the name's evocative power, addressing problems of intertextuality. Eradicating the patronym simultaneously lays bare the son's name, around which other bio-narratives cluster. Julian Hospitatur and Julian the Apostate constitute palimpsest texts beneath the surface narrative. The fate of John the Baptist (present in the novel) dictates Julien's, over whose decapitated head other tales converge. Le Rouge opens on a Primal Scene of Writing. Chapter IV examines the novel's indictment of the usurpatory capacities of the Word. First the Son's weapon, the Father appropriates the Word, containing its contagion in secret libraries. Paternal speech yields to its degraded progeny, writing, which subsequently virilizes Mathilde. Only the Mother stands untainted. Blades, the erstwhile signifiers of castration and metonymy, are here re-read as agents of parturition. The five church tableaux group characteristics clearly uterine; birth is in turn incorporated into the narrative dynamic. The birth scenarios inaugurating each cycle function metaphorically, lending coherence to a syntagmatic flow otherwise doomed to meaningless repetition. The blade stands at the juncture of metaphor and metonymy, myth/history, Maternal/Paternal. The ending traditionally misapprehended as the decapitation shifts to the projection of Julien's "son" left dangling in utero as the textwork is accomplished at the expense of closure: the babe-in-a-matrix constitutes a restitution of the originary lack out of which this celebrated narrative has been spawned.