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Théorie de la ré-écriture

A Different Kind of Circularity: From Writing and Reading to Rereading and Rewriting

Un genre de circularité différent : de l’écriture et la lecture à la  relecture et la ré-écriture
Marian Rebei
p. 45-59

Résumé

La ré-écriture est une pratique ancienne de transformation et composition de textes (par exemple, l’adaptation, l’imitation, la parodie, le plagiat, le commentaire, etc.) qui cependant, au cours du siècle dernier, semble avoir emprunté une voie différente en incorporant un certain nombre de points de vue (par exemple politique, social, sexuel, herméneutique, etc.) qui débordent des frontières nationales, géographiques et littéraires. En tant que tels, il y a diversité de modes de ré-écritures, comme il y a fluctuations diachroniques des genres de ré-écritures. Dans cet article, je m’attacherai plus particulièrement à la ré-écriture qui découle de la lecture et de la critique et je suggèrerai que, puisque la ré-écriture a le texte pour objet, l’écriture, la lecture et la critique sont des activités liées de diverses manières au texte, et donc à la ré-écriture. Si l’on accepte la validité de la remarque selon laquelle tout texte a deux aspects, selon que l’on en considère la production ou la réception, il s’en suit que l’écriture se trouve du côté de la production alors que la lecture et la critique se trouvent de l’autre côté. La ré-écriture semblerait occuper le milieu du terrain puisqu’elle incorpore ces trois activités et je démontrerai que l’écriture et la critique affectent la ré-écriture et entretiennent avec elle une relation directe, influençant ainsi la littérature elle-même en ré-inventant presque des textes déjà existants.

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Entrées d’index

Index chronologique :

20th century, XXe siècle

Index thématique et géographique :

literature, littérature, société, society
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Texte intégral

  • 1  T. S. Eliot, “Tradition and the Individual Talent” in Frank Kermode (ed.), Selected Prose of T. S. (...)
  • 2 Ibidem, 39.

1I begin by suggesting that the historical sense, tradition, and the interaction between past and present literature partly account for or constitute the background of rewriting. I think that a sense of the past is what one reads literature by and there inheres in literature a historical sense, which is to say that present literature is aware of past literature. To some extent, tradition is the locus in which old/past works engage with new/present works. T. S. Eliot viewed the matter of tradition with regard to “the pastness of literature” and argued that tradition involves the historical sense understood as a perception “not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence”1. In literature, then, the historical sense refers to a sense of the past and to tradition, and there is connection and even overlapping between the historical and the aesthetic sense that are dimensions of tradition. Present literature builds on and interacts with past literature given that the latter has its own existence in the moment of the present. Eliot emphasizes this viewpoint when he maintains that there exists “an ideal order” amongst literary texts that regulates the relationships between old, existing works and new ones and he subsequently contends that “the past should be altered by the present as much as the present is directed by the past”2. Present literature is different, in the sense of “modern,” from past literature and, while being the product of past literature, it aims at finding its own voice; it tries to be new, original, and authentic in regard to literature of the past from which it attempts to severe itself. One may think of present literature as a Janus figure: one face is turned to the past and the other to the future. Present literature needs the sanctity of tradition, that is, of past literature, because the past can guarantee, to some extent, legitimacy and authority: past literature underwrites present literature. Present literature not only severs itself from past literature, it also swerves away from it through rewriting works that belong to past literature.

Defining rewriting

2My discussion attempts to explore such matters as definition, types, implication, modus operandi, outcome, etc., which pertain to rewriting. Rewriting is a concept and a practice that is at work in mathematics (algebra) and computer programming languages as well as in literature, language and history, that is, in this latter case, in those areas where its object is a sentence structure or/and a text and I deem it appropriate to define rewriting from this perspective. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, to rewrite means to revise a text and from the point of view of linguistics, to rewrite is “the act or process of writing an analysis of a phrase or sentence structure in a different form, usually by expansion.” The intrinsic meaning of the verb is that of writing anew, supposedly but not necessarily in a better form. The original text is re-written through revision and expansion and thus becomes a rewrite of the initial text. The original text is inscribed anew and so the rewrite may be said to start afresh as another “original” text. The inscription of the original text implies modernization, since to rewrite also means “to modernize,” that is, to re-write an old text into modern spelling and language. In addition, one of the definitions of to rewrite has its origin in the English verb to rescribe which comes down from the Latin rescribere. What is special about rescribere is that it not only means “to write again or anew” but also “to write back, to write in reply.” In conclusion, rewriting carries out two functions: one is that of writing the text again through a new inscription—thus remaking it and devising it anew, and the other is that of writing back to the original text.

  • 3  Chantal Zabus, Tempests after Shakespeare, New York: Palgrave, 2002, 3.

3Chantal Zabus views rewriting as a category of textual transformation that performs “the appropriation of a text that it simultaneously authorizes and critiques for its own ideological uses”3. The rewrite is somewhat dependent on the original text—much the same way a parasite depends on its host, and on the reader. The original text serves as an originating point, as a pre-text/pretext and, at the same time, grants authority to the rewrite. The rewrite becomes an entity on its own, parallel to the original text: the two texts co-exist within the same frame (e.g. literature) and the reader has access to either of them. However, it would not be possible for the rewrite to substitute the original text because the former risks losing its reference supplier. The most that the act of rewriting can accomplish is to write in or write over, but not write out the original, because the absence of the original may render the presence of the rewrite non-functional or at least dysfunctional.

  • 4  Harold Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence, New York-Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997, 28.
  • 5 Ibidem, 14.
  • 6 Ibid., 14.
  • 7 Ibid., 30.
  • 8 Ibid., 14.

4The process of rewriting sometimes involves influence and imitation and this fact may account for an anxiety of anteriority that pertains to rewriting. Harold Bloom sees (poetic) influence as “part of the larger phenomenon of intellectual revisionism”4. He nevertheless points out that poetic influence has its roots in what he calls poetic misprision. Bloom uses this term in The Anxiety of Influence where he writes: “Clinamen, which is poetic misreading or misprision proper; I take the word from Lucretius, where it means a ‘swerve’ of the atoms so as to make change possible in the universe. A poet swerves away from his precursor, by so reading his precursor's poem as to execute a climamen in relation to it”5. Poetic misprision appears then as a corrective movement that a later poet undertakes in his poem in relation to a precursor’s poem. According to Bloom, this undertaking implies that the later poem goes accurately up to a certain point as the precursor poem, but it would then move in a new direction6. Subsequently, he considers that poetic influence “always proceeds by a misreading of the prior poet, an act of creative correction that is actually and necessarily a misinterpretation”7. In other words, in spite of an initial potential for imitation the rewrite swerves away from the original text in what appears to be a “creative interpretation” or a “corrective movement” in relation to the parent-text8.

  • 9  Matei Calinescu, Rereading, New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1993, 243.
  • 10 Ibidem, 143.

5In a broad sense then rewriting refers to a practice of textual transformation. Matei Calinescu reminds us that rewriting is a relatively new and fashionable term for a number of old techniques of literary composition and subsumes imitation, parody, burlesque, transposition, adaptation, pastiche, translation and critical commentary under the rubric of rewriting9. One can therefore speak of a range of rewriting modes and there seem to be “diachronic fluctuations of the various genres of rewriting”10. In the light of these ideas, rewriting can also be defined as the adaptation or appropriation of a text that has different effects.

Starting the text: writing and reading

6In the following section I assert that, since rewriting has the text as its object, writing, reading, and criticism are activities/processes tied in various fashions to the text and to rewriting and their relationship to rewriting is worth exploring to determine the extent to which literature is affected by it. One way to start with is to admit as valid and practical the claim that the text has two ends: the production end and the reception end. Without doubt writing lies at the production end, while reading and criticism lie at the other end. Rewriting, however, occupies a middle position as it incorporates the three mentioned activities: rewriting emerges through reading and criticism and finds its completion in writing.

  • 11  Jean-Paul Sartre, “What is Literature?” and Other Essays, Cambridge, Massachussets: Harvard Univer (...)
  • 12  Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984, (...)
  • 13  Jean-Paul Sartre, “What is Literature?” and Other Essays, op. cit., 52.
  • 14  Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, New York: Crossroads, 1989, 119.

7I want first to discuss the extent to which reading impacts on rewriting. In the case of the present discussion, the sense of the word reading is to be understood both in its meaning of perusing or looking over a written text with understanding of what is meant by the letters or signs and also in its sense of interpreting, making out, discovering the meaning or the significance of a written text. Writing and reading are activities related to the text in the sense that they work the text, they work on the text, and they work out the text. This is not to say that they cannot work for or against the text. As such, writing and reading can fit the description of activities of production. The text seems to be caught between writing and reading, between writer and reader/addressee. The text circulates from writer to reader and, as Jean-Paul Sartre points out, “the creative act is only an incomplete and abstract moment in the production of a work. The operation of writing implies that of reading as its dialectal correlative”11. At any rate, reading is one fundamental aspect of consumption as “the binominal set production-consumption can often be replaced by its general equivalent and indicator, the binominal set writing-reading”12. However, to perceive reading only in this way does reading little justice. Sartre, for instance, suggests that reading is an operation of re-invention or discovery of the text in which the reader is “conscious of disclosing in creating, of creating by disclosing”13. By and large, writing produces the text that reading, through interpretation and commentary, may re-produce since, from a hermeneutic point of view, interpretation amounts in a way to a re-production of an original production (i.e., the given text) and, in a sense, “interpretation probably is re-creation, but this is a re-creation not of the creative act but of the created work”14. If interpretation is re-creation of the work, this is then one instance when reading turns into rewriting.

  • 15  Edward Said, The Text, the World, the Critic, London-Boston: Faber and Faber, 1983, 129.
  • 16  Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, op. cit., 169.
  • 17 Ibidem, 169.
  • 18  Geoffrey H. Hartman, Criticism in the Wilderness, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980, 162.
  • 19  E. D. Hirsh, Validity in Interpretation, New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1967, 128.
  • 20  Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, op. cit., 160.

8If, on the one hand, we accept that writing and reading are activities that “theoretically and practically incorporate within them most of one’s needs for the production and understanding of a text”15, and on the other hand, we refute the rather narrow or simplistic view that to read is to receive a text from someone else “without putting one’s mark on it, without remaking it”16, we can avoid the theoretical debate that may spring from the consideration of whether to assimilate reading to passivity. In most cases, though, the assimilation of reading to passivity is rendered improbable by the fact that, for example, the reader’s meaning differs from the author’s: “the reader takes neither the position of the author nor an author’s position. He invents in texts something different from what they ‘intended’”17. Geoffrey H. Hartman is of the opinion that reading can have an impact in writing as long as the reader ceases to be passive and thinks through his reading in writing18. Renouncing his alleged passivity and discarding his contemplative role the reader becomes both an interpreter of texts and a producer, that is, a writer of further texts. In sum, through his/her reading a reader can rewrite the text he/she is reading. Inasmuch as one’s understanding of a text depends on one’s interpretation of it and since “every known interpretation of every text has always been different in some respect from every other known interpretation of the text”19, it is fair to posit that reading, with and even without understanding, is a kind of re-production of textual meaning20, and amounts to rewriting.

  • 21  E. D. Hirsch, Validity in Interpretation, op. cit., 128.

9This analysis so far provides inconclusive arguments as to whether reading can actively produce rewriting. Reading alone does not seem to suffice because “no single interpretation can possibly exhaust the meaning of a text”21. It follows that rereading, understood as a second, subsequent reading to a first reading will, through the new interpretations that it produces, add to the known textual meanings and thus open the possibilities for rewriting. Critics such as Roland Barthes, Matei Calinescu, Marcel Cornis-Pope, Henry James, André Lefevere and Michael Riffaterre among others speak quite convincingly in favour of a paradigm of rereading and argue about its implicit connection to the rewriting of texts.

Rereading toward and for rewriting

  • 22  Henry James, The Art of the Novel, New York-London: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1937, 336.
  • 23 Ibidem, 339.
  • 24 Ibid.
  • 25 Ibid.
  • 26 Ibid., 342.

10Henry James, in his preface to The Golden Bowl, discusses acts of rereading with consideration to the writer of a text. He writes that rereading may give one a rather detached perspective on a text thus contributing to a re-visitation or re-vision of the text. He suggests that the act of rereading makes a writer aware of the deviations and differences that may break out between his/her earlier work and his/her actual one. Therefore, a writer is able to re-appropriate his/her existing work to contemporary terms and visions. For James, re-appropriation is “an infinitely interesting and amusing act”22 which is intertwined with revision of which he says it “means in the case of a written thing neither more or less than to re-read it”23. Next, James tells us that he attached “the idea of re-writing” to the act of re-reading and these proved to be not two distinct activities but one24.Later on he accounts how “the act of revision, the act of seeing it again, caused whatever I looked at on any page to flower before me” and concludes that, through revision, the “old” matter in the text is re-tasted and re-assimilated25. From James’s argument, it can be inferred that this act of rereading is not equivalent to a rewriting that actually changes the viewpoint of the story or the textual meaning; rereading here has to do at most with a fresh re-consideration of one’s work. What seems likely to happen is that “the buried, the latent life of a past composition” might vibrate “at renewal of touch”26.

  • 27  Roland Barthes, S/Z (1970), London: Jonathan Cape, 1975, 4.
  • 28  Matei Calinescu, Rereading, op. cit., 46.

11Things differ when it comes to readers as it is widely accepted that the text has a changeable meaning through its readers. One can assume that while some readers read disengaged, non-participative and their reading is thus cathartic, others read engaged, critically, thus fostering the production of reflective and interpretative readings. To some extent, the latter category of reader may be closer to assuming the role of a reader-writer who points to aspects of which the author may not be aware. In this instance, the reader is not only a consumer, but also a producer of texts, as Roland Barthes argues in the opening pages of S/Z. Barthes introduces the concepts of “writerly text” and “readerly text” and opens his discussion on how to evaluate a text by saying that “our evaluation can be linked to a practice, and this practice is that of writing”27. The difference between the writerly text and the readerly text resides in the fact that the former can be both read and written/rewritten, and, in addition, the writerly text corresponds to a productive model as opposed to a representative one. Matei Calinescu observes that Barthes’s two kinds of texts correspond to “two antithetical types of reading: the first is passive and singular (a onetime affair)” and “the second is active, productive, ultimately playful, and it truly involves the reader in the pleasure of (mentally) writing or rewriting the text”28.

  • 29  Roland Barthes, S/Z, op. cit., 5.
  • 30 Ibidem.
  • 31 Ibid., 15.
  • 32 Ibid.
  • 33 Ibid., 16.
  • 34 Ibid.

12Opposite the writerly text, which Barthes implies to be the ideal condition of a text, stand the readerly texts that are products with a “reactive value” for whose differentiation a second operation is required, namely interpretation29. Barthes sees interpretation as a chance to appreciate the plurality of meaning of the text, not a chance to give the text a meaning. A text that is “unimpoverished by any constraint of representation (of imitation)” is a “galaxy of signifiers” to which we “gain access by several entrances, none of which can be authoritatively declared to be the main one”30. One may argue that since the text is plural, one or a reading of the text does not suffice to reach at or tease out all the meanings embedded in it. Barthes claims that in order to establish a plural of the text it is necessary that the act of reading be also plural in the sense that “the ‘first’ version of a reading must be able to be its last, as though the text were reconstituted in order to achieve its artifice of continuity”31. His concept of reading does not relate to or imply consumption of a text, but play as he puts forth the idea of “reading the text as if it had already been read”32. He actually proposes that reading starts at the outset of the text as rereading because, proceeding in this way, rereading “saves the text from repetition”33 and multiplies the text in its variety and plurality. Rereading then obtains “not the real text, but a plural text: the same and new”34. In sum, the meaning of a text lies in the totality of its readings, and the practice of rereading, which Barthes favours, consists in multiplying the signifiers of a text.

  • 35  Matei Calinescu, Rereading, op. cit., xiv.
  • 36 Ibidem, xi.
  • 37 Ibid.

13Matei Calinescu approaches the matter of rereading by pondering whether one should indeed distinguish between reading and rereading. His interest is on what happens after reading and therefore his study on rereading “deals largely with the expectations, assumptions, and guesses of someone who returns to a known text,” but he warns that his consideration of the activity of (re)reading makes use of a reader or rereader who is a hypothetical construct35.In his opening paragraph Calinescu links rereading to a metaphor of haunting and he explains that, on the one hand, “there are texts that haunt us, that cannot and will not be forgotten, texts […] that urge us to reread them” and, on the other hand, “there are texts that haunt other texts […] as expected or unexpected visitors”36. Calinescu’s metaphor of textual haunting implies “the essential circularity of the time of reading”37 and seems to echo the rewriting phenomena of the twentieth century.

  • 38 Ibid., xiii.

14His proposed dichotomy between reading and rereading benefits from a close analysis of such matters as attention and the historical understanding of the subject matter. He foregrounds the question of attention as he thinks that rereading presupposes a different kind of attention from the one involved in the first linear, curious reading of a text. In relation to the temporal aspect of the dichotomy, he mentions the paradoxical situation that historically, in the Western world, “reading was preceded by rereading” and he illustrates this by reminding us of the factor of repetition that was a significant dimension of oral cultures38.

  • 39  Roman Ingarden, The Cognition of the Literary Work of Art, Evanston: Northwestern University Press (...)
  • 40  Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, op. cit., 298.
  • 41  Roman Ingarden, The Cognition of the Literary Work of Art, op. cit., 145.
  • 42  Matei Calinescu, Rereading, op. cit., 35.

15Reading and rereading are temporal activities: they can be viewed temporally as they occur in temporal sequence. In relation to this aspect, Roman Ingarden comments that “the aesthetic concretization of a literary work of art” can be accomplished only in “a temporally extended process”39. Gadamer illustrates the historicity of understanding by emphasizing that understanding emerges from historical and temporal acts of reading. Temporal distance between reading and rereading is not necessarily a drawback; it may sometimes constitute the ground for accomplishing the aesthetic concretization of a text. Gadamer observes that the discovery of the meaning of a literary text is never finished because is “an infinite process”40. As understanding of a text is achieved through reading, a text may be properly understood if it is read as the occasion requires, in which situation reading becomes a rereading. Ingarden, for instance, is aware of the shortcomings of a first reading, but despite them he has the conviction that the first reading “decides in large measure whether one will succeed in a correct apprehension of the work of art at all”41. Calinescu explains thus Ingarden’s preference for a first reading: “the second reading will always be secondary in an aesthetic sense, even though it can produce an improved, richer, and deeper understanding of the work”42.

  • 43  Michael Riffaterre, Semiotics of Poetry, Bloomington & London: Indiana University Press, 1978, 5.
  • 44 Ibidem, 5-6.

16Michael Riffaterre prioritises reception by emphasizing the reader’s role in bringing out the meaning of a text and constructs a theory of reading that distinguishes between two stages of reading. The understanding of a literary text starts with a first, “heuristic reading” “where the first interpretation takes place, since it is during this reading that meaning is apprehended”43. This first reading necessitates the reader’s own input, namely linguistic and literary competences, in order to decipher the “single, linear text” and Riffaterre concludes that at this stage mimesis is fully apprehended or, rather, hurdled. The second stage is that of “retroactive reading”: the reader remembers what he/she has read and comes to a better understanding of the text by, for example, correcting his/her first interpretation. The reader now reviews, revisits and compares backwards as he/she goes through the text again. This second reading or, in fact, this rereading of the text is a “hermeneutic reading” that will eventually reveal the meaning of the text44.

  • 45  Matei Calinescu, Rereading, op. cit., 75.
  • 46 Ibidem, 73-7.
  • 47 Ibid., 45.

17Before I sum up the viewpoints expressed so far, I would like to draw attention to the fact that Marcel Proust, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry James advanced the concept of creative reading that brings one closer to rewriting a text. Proust, for one, suggested that the classics “can always be read romantically, that is, creatively,” and Emerson maintained that there is creative reading and creative writing45. James talked of his custom of reading by which he would consider in his mind the creative problems that a text may raise; in other words, he suggests reading as a form of mental rewriting46. A number of psychological factors that pertain to the reader can contribute to the act of creative reading or mental rewriting of a text: level of education, concentration, attentiveness, motivation, and purpose for reading. In retrospect, then, rereading appears to be the norm for a thorough understanding of a text and, even though there seems to be a tension between the first and the second reading, the important thing is not necessarily to decide which is better but rather to decide “which one should be given an aesthetically normative status”47.

18In the above discussion, the dichotomy between reading and rereading focuses upon the temporal and sequential dimensions of the reading act; hence rereading is viewed as subsequent to (a first) reading. Rereading here means to re-enter the text in an attempt to fill in the probable gaps that surface after a first reading. Rereading will then seek to adjust, expand and, if applicable, supplement the first reading, but not to alter, challenge, disrupt, or displace it. In this case rereading is not the medium in which political, religious, social, gender and sexual, historical, cultural trends or theories sum up in order to affect the interpretation of the text. Most certainly, rereading does not mean reading according to certain interpretative practices and codes in which case rereading can in fact become a counter-reading.

19Up to this point, the discussion took little or no account of such variables as the reader’s gender, race, historical, geographical, and cultural background, and level of education. These variables contribute to and affect the act of reading because readers from different historical, geographical, and cultural backgrounds not only read differently but also are bound to do so. With every new actualised reading, the text’s meaning is also actualised and finds a new concretization. Given that in a new context, reading will produce new interpretations and considering that a text has an aesthetic identity that presents itself differently in the changing course of ages and circumstances, it appears that reading has to change into rereading.

20The claim for a different or new reading is valid, say, for gender as feminist critics argue that women read differently from men due to particular traits and characteristics that influence the way they read a text. By advocating and attending to issues of gender, feminist theories of reading have asserted a revisionist mode of reading that is in fact rereading. The feminist reading theory promotes the centrality of rereading through re-examination and criticism of the canon and demands the reassessment of literary texts from a feminist point of view.

  • 48  Marcel Cornis-Pope, Hermeneutic Desire and Critical Rewriting: Narrative Interpretation in the Wak (...)
  • 49 Ibidem, 13.

21I now turn my attention to the instances through which the act of reading becomes rereading under the impact of interpretative practices and codes and ask whether there is a sustainable, direct or oblique, relation between rereading and rewriting. Theories of reading—here reading is to be understood as interpretation, have undergone significant theoretical and practical changes in the last century. These changes are endorsed by a number of approaches (e.g., linguistic, historical, hermeneutical, political, etc.) to reading.  It has been maintained that reading should make the transition from a paradigm of search for and understanding of textual meaning to a critical interpretative paradigm that focuses on the production of textual meaning. Apparently, it became insufficient or outdated for reading to be a traditionalist, hermeneutic, text-centered practice that seeks to reveal the meaning of a text. Reading will instead accomplish more if it becomes an active, revisionist practice that seeks to disclose how the text produces and articulates meaning. Reading toward textual understanding has been supplemented and, sometimes, displaced by reading toward interpretation and production of textual meaning. This latter type of reading seems to concentrate upon finding new meanings or actualizing latent meanings given that, from a deconstruction perspective, textual meaning is continuously negotiable and articulated, all the more so when “new interests and frames of reference are brought to bear on the text”48. In this instance, the act of reading can become a critical reading or an act of rereading especially when it “hopes to render manifest what the text and its various readings articulate, imply, or repress”49. The act of reading that manages to point out that one or another interpretative approach highlights or represses certain textual meanings is closer in its function to a mode of rewriting because it engages with the text and with the approaches to the text.  

  • 50 Ibid., 15.
  • 51 Ibid., 14.
  • 52 Ibid., 21.

22Many of the approaches that transform reading into critical reading or rereading stem out from competing socio-cultural, linguistic, philosophical, and political models of interpretation that are divided by epistemological and methodological perspectives.  These models position themselves and operate from opposed vantage points and, through their theoretical and practical engagement, they foster recreation of meaning thus leading to rewriting. However, as Marcel Cornis-Pope rightly observes, any critical reading is based on an interpretative strategy that is bound to a specific mode of approaching the text within certain interpretative frameworks50. In other words, a critical reading, while reaching a certain understanding of the text, will still not cover the whole range of meaning possibilities because most theories of reading “respond to a triple demand, defining a readerly role, an interpretative strategy, and simultaneously constructing a story of reading that supports and legitimizes them”51. Instead of a finite conclusion, it is not without significance to contemplate the idea that many of these models conceive of critical reading as “a bifid process, reactive and recreative, performative and self-reflective”52, which is a way to say that rereading according to interpretative models performs rewriting of textual meaning.

  • 53 André Lefevere, “‘Beyond Interpretation’ Or the Business of Rewriting”, Comparative Literature Stud (...)
  • 54 Ibidem, 17-19.
  • 55 Frederick Jameson,The Political Unconscious, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1981, 58.
  • 56 André Lefevere, “‘Beyond Interpretation’ Or the Business of Rewriting,” op. cit., 18.
  • 57 Ibidem, 19.

23André Lefevere explicitly articulates the need for a consideration of criticism as one form of rewriting as he maintains that criticism is one way to rewrite literature53. What prompts his theoretical position is the concern about “the increasing marginality of literary criticism and/or theory” and the fact that the interpretations of texts may border redundancy lest they “can be made use of to unravel the network of social, political and economic factors which regulate both the production and reception of literature”54. Lefevere’s theoretical tenet gains support from Frederick Jameson’s assertion: “We will assume that a criticism which asks the question ‘What does it mean?’ constitutes something like an allegorical operation in which a text is systematically rewritten in terms of some fundamental master code”55. Lefevere suggests a shift in the role of criticism in order to see criticism re-assume “some of the social relevance it possessed in the past”56. His emphasis is on investigating the connections between literary works and the complex social system in which they are produced and received. The following premises are his starting points: 1) poetics and ideology exert an influence on the rewriting of literature; 2) “the rewriting of literature is at least as important as its actual writing in terms of reception”57.

  • 58 Ibid., 20.
  • 59 Ibid.
  • 60 Ibid.

24For his investigation, Lefevere adopts and applies the concept of system to literature: he sees literature as “a contrived system” because it consists of literary works and readers58. In addition, literature is a unit capable of maintaining its identity in spite of changes going on in it and a part of larger systems, such as culture and society, with which it interacts. As open systems, literature and society influence each other and factors belonging to each system regulate this influence. One such factor that tries “to control the literary system from inside, within the parameters set by the second element [i.e., society]” is “represented by critics, reviewers, teachers of literature, translators, and other rewriters who will adapt works of literature until they can be claimed to correspond to the poetics and ideology of their time”59. In other words, literary works are made to fit or conform to contemporary terms or visions. A second control factor is that of patronage, which Lefevere defines as “the powers (persons or institutions) which help or hinder the writing, reading, and rewriting of literature”60.

  • 61 Ibid., 30.

25To sum up, Lefevere contends that rewriting has to follow the guidelines of the poetics within which it operates and, because of this conforming tendency, rewriting plays its own part in shaping a literary canon. Rewriting, in its guise as criticism, adapts works of literature according to a certain ideology or poetics to a given audience and “influences the way in which readers read a work of literature”61.

26By way of a tentative conclusion, rewriting changes and remakes a literary work. The act of rewriting occurs at the reception end of a work as it emerges from the interaction between reader and text within the context of several approaches to textual interpretation and criticism. In order for reading to result in rewriting, the former has to perform more than textual understanding and has to engage retrospectively with the work by assessing previous readings. A certain ideology or poetics finds expression through rewriting that will adapt a literary work to conform to the parameters of the said ideology or poetics thus affecting textual understanding and interpretation. Thus, rewriting appropriates a work according to an alternative perspective, and the work is moulded into something new. In this way, old texts are being re-invented and literature itself is renewed and invigorated. Rewriting can take different forms (e.g., critical and creative), has different effects and highlights the interaction, the continuity and divergence between the past and the present, redirecting the circulation of knowledge.   

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Bibliographie

Works cited

BARTHES Roland, S/Z (1970),translated by Richard Miller, preface by Richard Howard, London: Jonathan Cape, 1975.

BERTENS Hans and DOUWE Fokkema (eds), International Postmodernism: Theory and Practice, Amsterdam/Philadelphia: Johns Benjamins Publishing Company, 1997.

BLOOM Harold, The Anxiety of Influence, New York-Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.

CALINESCU Matei, Rereading, New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1993.

CALINESCU, Matei, “Rewriting”, in BERTENS and DOUWE (eds), International Postmodernism.

CORNIS-POPE Marcel, Hermeneutic Desire and Critical Rewriting: Narrative  Interpretation in the Wake of Poststructuralism, Basingstoke, Macmillan, 1992.

DE CERTEAU Michel, The Practice of Everyday Life, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984.

ELIOT T. S. “Tradition and the Individual Talent” in Frank Kermode (ed.), Selected Prose of T. S. Eliot, London: Faber and Faber, 1975.

GADAMER Hans-Georg, Truth and Method, New York: Crossroads, 1989.

HARTMAN Geoffrey H., Criticism in the Wilderness, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980.

HIRSCH E. D., Validity in Interpretation, New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1967.

INGARDEN Roman, The Cognition of the Literary Work of Art, Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1937.  

JAMES Henry, The Art of the Novel, New York-London: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1937.

JAMESON Frederick, The Political Unconscious, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1981.

LEFEVERE André, “‘Beyond Interpretation’ Or the Business of Rewriting”, Comparative Literature Studies, 24.1 (1987): 17-39.

Oxford English Dictionary Online, Oxford University Press, 2003.  <http://dictionary.oed.com/>

RIFFATERRE Michael, Semiotics of Poetry, Bloomington & London: Indiana University Press, 1978.

SAID Edward, The Text, the World, the Critic, London-Boston: Faber and Faber, 1983.

SARTRE Jean-Paul, “What is Literature?” and Other Essays, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1988.

ZABUS Chantal, Tempests after Shakespeare, New York: Palgrave, 2002.

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Notes

1  T. S. Eliot, “Tradition and the Individual Talent” in Frank Kermode (ed.), Selected Prose of T. S. Eliot, London: Faber and Faber, 1975, 38.

2 Ibidem, 39.

3  Chantal Zabus, Tempests after Shakespeare, New York: Palgrave, 2002, 3.

4  Harold Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence, New York-Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997, 28.

5 Ibidem, 14.

6 Ibid., 14.

7 Ibid., 30.

8 Ibid., 14.

9  Matei Calinescu, Rereading, New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1993, 243.

10 Ibidem, 143.

11  Jean-Paul Sartre, “What is Literature?” and Other Essays, Cambridge, Massachussets: Harvard University Press, 1988, 51.

12  Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984, 168.

13  Jean-Paul Sartre, “What is Literature?” and Other Essays, op. cit., 52.

14  Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, New York: Crossroads, 1989, 119.

15  Edward Said, The Text, the World, the Critic, London-Boston: Faber and Faber, 1983, 129.

16  Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, op. cit., 169.

17 Ibidem, 169.

18  Geoffrey H. Hartman, Criticism in the Wilderness, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980, 162.

19  E. D. Hirsh, Validity in Interpretation, New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1967, 128.

20  Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, op. cit., 160.

21  E. D. Hirsch, Validity in Interpretation, op. cit., 128.

22  Henry James, The Art of the Novel, New York-London: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1937, 336.

23 Ibidem, 339.

24 Ibid.

25 Ibid.

26 Ibid., 342.

27  Roland Barthes, S/Z (1970), London: Jonathan Cape, 1975, 4.

28  Matei Calinescu, Rereading, op. cit., 46.

29  Roland Barthes, S/Z, op. cit., 5.

30 Ibidem.

31 Ibid., 15.

32 Ibid.

33 Ibid., 16.

34 Ibid.

35  Matei Calinescu, Rereading, op. cit., xiv.

36 Ibidem, xi.

37 Ibid.

38 Ibid., xiii.

39  Roman Ingarden, The Cognition of the Literary Work of Art, Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1937, 397.

40  Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, op. cit., 298.

41  Roman Ingarden, The Cognition of the Literary Work of Art, op. cit., 145.

42  Matei Calinescu, Rereading, op. cit., 35.

43  Michael Riffaterre, Semiotics of Poetry, Bloomington & London: Indiana University Press, 1978, 5.

44 Ibidem, 5-6.

45  Matei Calinescu, Rereading, op. cit., 75.

46 Ibidem, 73-7.

47 Ibid., 45.

48  Marcel Cornis-Pope, Hermeneutic Desire and Critical Rewriting: Narrative Interpretation in the Wake of Poststructuralism, Basingstoke, Macmillan, 1992, 5.

49 Ibidem, 13.

50 Ibid., 15.

51 Ibid., 14.

52 Ibid., 21.

53 André Lefevere, “‘Beyond Interpretation’ Or the Business of Rewriting”, Comparative Literature Studies, 24.1 (1987): 19.

54 Ibidem, 17-19.

55 Frederick Jameson,The Political Unconscious, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1981, 58.

56 André Lefevere, “‘Beyond Interpretation’ Or the Business of Rewriting,” op. cit., 18.

57 Ibidem, 19.

58 Ibid., 20.

59 Ibid.

60 Ibid.

61 Ibid., 30.

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Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Marian Rebei, « A Different Kind of Circularity: From Writing and Reading to Rereading and Rewriting », Revue LISA/LISA e-journal, Vol. II - n°5 | 2004, 45-59.

Référence électronique

Marian Rebei, « A Different Kind of Circularity: From Writing and Reading to Rereading and Rewriting », Revue LISA/LISA e-journal [En ligne], Vol. II - n°5 | 2004, mis en ligne le 26 août 2009, consulté le 31 octobre 2014. URL : http://lisa.revues.org/2895 ; DOI : 10.4000/lisa.2895

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Auteur

Marian Rebei

(Canberra, Australia)
Marian Rebei is a PhD candidate in Literature, Screen, and Theatre Studies Program at the Australian National University in Canberra. His doctoral thesis deals with rewriting Shakespeare’s The Tempest from 1660 to the present day. He is interested in the creative textual alterations and transformations of the original that are based on or prompted by aesthetic, political, social, etc., theories and ideas.

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