Madness in the text : a study of Simone de Beauvoir’s writing practice
This study, which is based on close readings of L'Invitee, Les Belles Images and La Femme rompue, focuses on the textual strategies that Simone de Beauvoir uses in her fiction. It shows that madness is an intrinsic quality of the text. Marks of excess, plurality, disruption and transgression are interpreted as an inscription of madness at a discursive level. Madness is discernable in the text whenever the meaningfulness of language is subverted. Chapter One, `L 'Invitee: The Gothic Imagination', argues that, in her first novel, Simone de Beauvoir created a Gothic textual universe in order to confront pain and madness. Gothic conventions and figures are shown to inform the text. In so far as it is Gothic and transgressive the text is mad. Chapter Two, `Continuities in Change: Imagery in L'Invitee, Les Belles Images and La Femme rompue', examines how madness is mediated in the text by images that evoke pain and distress and a sense of lost plenitude. Detailed readings reveal a close affinity between the symbolic landscapes of L'Invitee and the later fiction where excess and hyperbole persist. Chapter Three, `Instability and Incoherence', investigates how disruptive textual strategies unsettle meaning and contribute to the creation of a mad textual universe. It demonstrates how the text subverts notions of a unified and stable identity. Temporal confusion, fragmentation and multi-layering are seen to be a source of the incoherence which exemplifies madness in the text. Traits that disrupt and destabilise the text and duplicate madness are illustrated and discussed. Analysis also reveals how disarticulated and contorted syntax is instrumental in the evocation of the anguish of madness and how syntax can convey a sense of claustrophobia and obsession. Chapter Four, `Language and Meaning: Les Belles Images', locates madness in the text at those points where the meaningfulness of language is subverted. The way plurality, irony, enumeration and repetition enact madness in the text is the focus of attention. It emerges clearly from the close readings undertaken, that Simone de Beauvoir's writing is inflected by forceful emotions and disrupted and destabilised by the excess of madness.