Marguerite Duras and Alain Robbe-Grillet : a 'reading in pairs'
This thesis examines the effects of Duras's and Robbe-Grillet's intertextual relationship upon the development of their literary careers. Previous critics have predominantly studied the two writers within the mutually exclusive discourses of feminism and structuralism, with the result that the extensive areas of common ground between them have been overlooked. In order to compare their works and to read between the lines of existing criticism, a comparative and double-gendered approach, termed 'reading in pairs', is adopted. Chapter 1 provides the contextual framework for the paired readings of the subsequent four chapters: it explores the main parallel shifts between Duras's and Robbe-Grillet's corpuses, and examines how these betray the workings of a sustained, permutating psychodynamic rivalry. Chapter 2 studies how similarities of practice in works of the 1950s and early 1960s reflect a brief period of emulative alliance. Chapter 3 focuses on the combative dynamics which characterize their intertextual relationship during the 1970s and 1980s, following Duras's adoption by feminist theorists. Comparison of Duras's and Robbe-Grillet's treatment of explicit sado-erotic thematics brings into question some of the gender-related assumptions of previous approaches. Chapters 4 and 5 then study the final stages of the two writers' rivalry within the appropriately narcissistic genre of autobiography. They examine how Duras's and Robbe-Grillet's respective portrayals of the self and of literary history are influenced by the reversal in fortunes brought about by the phenomenal success of Duras's L'Amant. By comparing Duras's and Robbe-Grillet's treatment of similar thematic and generic elements, this study sheds new light on both writers' oeuvres and reassesses many of the assumptions and findings of existing criticism. The Concluding Remarks suggest that the 'reading in pairs' method might fruitfully be applied to the study of other writers of the opposite sex, and thus contribute to a more rounded picture of literary history.