The Materiality of Fiction

  • Michael Evans


The ‘nouveau roman’ has often been defined in terms of its place in the historical development of the novel genre which has, over the last two centuries, narrowed down its broad panoramic view of society and nature, as proposed by global visionaries like Balzac, Zola, Galdós, Tolstoy, and Dickens, to a microscopic close-up of the world of objects and sense-impressions. Dubbing the new novelists ‘chosistes’ and casting them as members of an imaginary ‘école du regard’ some critics have interpreted this historical development simply as an increasing preference for one type of realism over another. Early critics in particular held that whereas traditional realism, in all its various guises, aimed at representing as much as possible of the universe surrounding man, either collectively or as an individual, the new blinkered realism of modernity was focusing on a tiny portion of that universe: namely, the world of objects.2 Thus, for R.-M. Albérès the pure ‘objectivity’ of Robbe-Grillet’s novels stands as the determining feature of the ‘nouveau roman’ as a whole:

Le fondateur de l’école, Alain Robbe-Grillet, modifie notre vision en donnant plus d’importance aux objets qu’aux êtres […] On se trouve alors en face d’un procédé: refuser toute ‘psychologie’, et évoquer, assez arbitrairement, une aventure humaine, uniquement par le moyen des objets qui l’entourent et la cernent [ . ]3


Semantic Context External Reality Fictional World Referential Dimension Tiny Portion 
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Notes and Reference

  1. 4.
    Vivian Merder, The New Novel: from Queneau to Pinget (New York, 1971), p. 267.Google Scholar
  2. 7.
    the cleansing power of vision’. See Stephen Heath, The Nouveau Roman (London, 1972), pp. 116–17.Google Scholar
  3. 15.
    See Wylie Sypher, Loss of the Self in Modern Literature and Art (New York, 1962), pp. 79–86.Google Scholar
  4. 18.
    Michael Spencer, Michel Butor (New York, 1974), p. 26.Google Scholar
  5. 27.
    F. R. Palmer, Semantics (Cambridge, 1976), p. 78.Google Scholar
  6. 29.
    Jonathan Culler, Structuralist Poetics (London, 1975), p. 95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Michael J. Evans 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Evans

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