Quête de soi, quête du sens : alchimie et roman comique à la première personne dans Le Page disgracié et L’Autre Monde
Quest for Self, Quest for Meaning: Alchemy and First Person Novel in Le Page disgracié and L’Autre Monde
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The Other World and Le Page disgracié (The Disgraced Page) occupy a singular place in the luxuriant seventeenth-century novel landscape on account of their first-person writing. In a process quite akin to the formative novel, the experiences of the “I” are stages in the construction of a meaning that is elaborated in the course of adventures rather than set as a goal to be reached. Meaning remains elusive, never predetermined, ravelled and unravelled as it is along with the episodes experienced by the narrator, regardless of whether those episodes are conveyed by the imagination of Cyrano or by the memory of Tristan’s experiences. No matter whether we are dealing with the most unbridled fantasies or autobiographical narrative, the route followed by the “I” is not oriented towards a goal that would make sense. Both texts call for alchemy, but the narrators do not make the quest for the philosopher’s stone the guiding thread of their narrative. Alchemy, described as a deception in Tristan and as an approach among others to the mysteries of the world in Cyrano, is presented as the touchstone of a possible decoding of the world, as the reign of illusion and, therefore, of the impossibility even to fix meaning. A pie-in-the-sky quest for meaning leading to a goal that does not exist (the two texts are abruptly interrupted), the formative novel finds a possible hermeneutic opening in the form of libertinism that forces one to play with meaning. Both works put sensual pleasure at the heart of the adventures lived by the characters and this rehabilitation of sensuality could offer itself as the key to a libertine strategy.
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