, Volume 91, Issue 4, pp 583–595 | Cite as

De la feintise à la fiction. Le mouvement dialogal de la préface

  • Nathalie Kremer
Original paper


The preface of the eighteenth-century French novel is usually considered to be a means of authentication of the novel, that is to say, it aims at establishing the veracity of the text, using different kinds of procedures that certify either its origin (e.g. in resorting to the procedure of the found manuscript), or the truthfulness of the related events (e.g. by resorting to witnesses or historical figures). These authentication-procedures are so widely diffused and repeated, however, that they become ‹common topics’ of the prefatory discourse. This article is based on the theoretical assumption, as formulated by Jean Bessière, that literature stems from the juncture of common ideas on the one hand, and creativity on the other. The common topics ensure the acknowledgement of literature, and thereby its very existence. Starting from this theoretical statement, our scope is to show that the topics in the prefatory discourse of the novel in the eighteenth century do not want to “make us believe” in the truth of the novel, but rather to “make us recognize” the novel as fiction. If at first sight the preface appears as a “fake”, the topicality of its discourse obliterates this idea and establishes the recognition of fiction. Thus eighteenth-century fiction is based on a paradox: it exists on the basis of a discourse that, when read literally, intends to deny its fictional nature. We aim at foregrounding this assumption through the discussion of three main aspects of the prefatory discourse: the performativity of the preambulary “I”, the procedure of the found manuscript, and the topic of the authenticating witness. In doing so, we adopt a pragmatic standpoint, situated along the lines of the works of Jean-Marie Schaeffer.


Dialogue Comme Pragmatic Standpoint Prefatory Discourse Nous Verrons Nous Voyons 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Angelet, C., & Herman, J. (Éds.), (2003)Recueil de prÉfaces de romans du XVIIIe siècle. Louvain: Presses Universitaires de Louvain. Volume I: 1700–1750, par Jan Herman, 1999 et Volume II: 1751–1800, par Christian Angelet.Google Scholar
  2. Barthes, R. (1993). Le bruissement de la langue. Paris: Seuil.Google Scholar
  3. Bessière, J. (1999). La littérature et sa rhétorique. Paris: PUF.Google Scholar
  4. Cavillac, C. (1995). Vraisemblance pragmatique et autorité fictionnelle. Poétique, 101, 23–46.Google Scholar
  5. Chartier, R. (Éd.). (1993). Pratiques de la lecture. Paris: Payot & Rivages.Google Scholar
  6. Del Lungo, A. (2003). L’Incipit romanesque. Paris: Seuil.Google Scholar
  7. Duchet, C. (1975). L’illusion historique. L’enseignement des préfaces (1815–1832). Revue d’Histoire littéraire de la France, 245–267.Google Scholar
  8. Genette, G. (1987). Seuils. Paris: Seuil.Google Scholar
  9. Hamon, P. (1996). L’Ironie littéraire. Essai sur les formes de l’écriture oblique. Paris: Hachette.Google Scholar
  10. Hobson, M. (1982). The object of art. The theory of illusion in eighteenth-century France. Cambridge: University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Idt, G. (1977). Fonction rituelle du métalangage dans les préfaces ‹hétérographes’. Littérature VII , 27, 65–74.Google Scholar
  12. Kristeva, J. (1969). Semiotikè. Recherches pour une sémanalyse. Paris: Seuil.Google Scholar
  13. Losse, D. N. (1994). Sampling the book. Renaissance prologues and the FrenchConteurs’. London and Toronto: Associated University Presses.Google Scholar
  14. Mitterand, H. (1986). Le discours du roman. Paris: Presses universitaires de France.Google Scholar
  15. Schaeffer, J.-M. (1999). Pourquoi la fiction? Paris: Seuil.Google Scholar
  16. Zawisza, E. (1977). Sur le discours préfacier dans les romans au XVIIIe siècle. Acta Universitatis Wratislaviensis, 319, 89–104.Google Scholar
  17. Zawisza, E. (1992) Les introductions auctoriales dans les romans des Lumières ou Du Bon Usage de la préface. Romanic Review, 83, 281–296.Google Scholar
  18. Zawisza, E. (1995). Pour une lecture rhétorique des préfaces romanesques des Lumières. Australian Journal of French Studies, 155–175.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Postdoctoraal onderzoeker van het Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek - Vlaanderen (FWO) Postdoctoral Fellow of the Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)KU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

Personalised recommendations