Subjectivity, gesture and language consciousness in the early prose fiction of Jean Genet (1910-1986)
This thesis interprets the language of the self in both editions of Jean Genet's five works of early prose fiction. Its appendices present the first list of the 65000 words of excisions and variants between the subscribers' (1943-48) and public editions (1949-53). Many critics have interpreted Genet's works in terms of his life, applying to them a reductive notion of the self. Subjectivity in this thesis is a broader concept which addresses the (self-) representation of narrators and characters. I apply close textual analysis to two types of passage (relating to gestures and language consciousness respectively) which represent subjectivity in non-specular language (where one thing does not clearly reflect or refer to another). I use the ubiquitous 'geste' as the guide-word for my analysis of gesture since its usage is similar in each of the texts considered. Gestures are of course mediated by language in Genet's texts but, surprisingly, are only partially represented in visual terms. Consequently, gestures do not serve to consolidate subjectivity and resist attribution to individual characters. It is rather in the interpretation of gestures that narrators and characters who both perform and interpret gestures can negotiate the assigning of meaning and the concomitant firming tip of subjectivity. Language consciousness is a textual speculation on the production and reception of a passage or text and each of Genet's texts demonstrates different interactions between such speculations and the representation of subjectivity. My emphasis on language consciousness helps to elucidate tile structure of the prose text (narrative frames, for example) and its relation to other genres (literary criticism and poetry, for example). I conclude that in Genet's texts innovative language represents (and sometimes fails to represent) plural subjectivity in complex ways. I argue that the interdependence of these three aspects (language, representation and subjectivity) presents a new paradigm for understanding Genet's texts. Furthermore, I outline in my conclusions how it is possible to apply a comparative analysis of these aspects to other works such as Martin Heidegger's Zur Seiqfrage (1955).