Boutin on Harkness and Wright, eds. (2010-2011)
Harkness, Nigel, and Jacinta Wright, eds. George Sand: Intertextualité et Polyphonie 1. Palimpsestes, Échanges, Réécritures. Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien: Peter Lang, French Studies of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries Series no. 30, 2010. Pp. 345.
Harkness, Nigel, and Jacinta Wright, eds. George Sand: Intertextualité et Polyphonie 2. Voix, Image, Texte. Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien: Peter Lang, French Studies of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries Series no. 31, 2011. Pp. 322, 1 ill., 1 tabl.
Aimée Boutin, Florida State University
Scholarship in Sand studies bears fruit following the biannual international George Sand conference. Jacinta Wright of University College Dublin and Nigel Harkness of Queen's University Belfast hosted the George Sand Association's seventeenth colloquium in 2006 in Dublin, Ireland, and their double-volume edition of the proceedings, George Sand: Intertextualité et Polyphonie, exhibits the importance of exchange and dialogue at these meetings. There are, in fact, productive correspondences between the dialogism practiced in Sand scholarship and the polyphony evident in Sand's writing. This collection of thirty-nine essays edited by Wright and Harkness examines, on the one hand, the dynamic rapport between Sand, her precursors and her contemporaries across her extensive writings, and, on the other hand, exchanges among discursive voices or between the arts. The editors explain in their jointly written introduction to the first volume that intertextuality and polyphony have special relevance for Sand. She rejects the Bloomian or vertical model of influence (and rivalry) to espouse a horizontal model of exchange, (af)filiation and dialogue with writers of diverse backgrounds, genders and reputations. Harkness and Wright argue that Sand's writing has much in common with poststructuralist conceptions of textuality such as Julia Kristeva's notion of intertextuality and Mikhail Bakhtin's theory of dialogism. Sand shares their interconnected and cooperative view of textuality, but as Harkness and Wright recognize, she did not subscribe to the "death of the author." Her ever-present authorial voice participated in dialogue. Intertextuality in Sand's writing also reflects the author's communal ethics and inter-artistic aesthetics; just as texts relate to each other, so subjects are understood as pieces in a mosaic that stick together (to use an image from Les Maîtres mosaïstes).
The introduction to Volume 2 written by Harkness brings to bear on Sand's works Roland Barthes's influential theories on voice and orality from Image, Music, Text (1977). Indeed, scholars such as David Powell and Peter Dayan have expertly shown elsewhere music's extensive influence on Sand's writings; however, Harkness here uses Barthes and Bakhtin to stress the musical, "polyphonic" texture of Sand's writing. Following Bakhtin, Dayan, in this volume, clarifies that "polyphony" or the musicological term for compositions with equal-voiced music, is strictly speaking absent in most writers' works, including Sand's; what we have in Sand is more properly understood as "heterophony," or dialogism, the interrelation of multiple, different voices. Together the contributions to the second volume manifest the importance of dialogue in the narrative structure, as well as in the plurality of discursive voices and points of view in the novels. As Harkness explains, Sand espouses a substantially different model of influence than her contemporaries; rather than strive for originality, or for impersonality, Sand "did not hesitate to draw attention to those who had influenced her by means of explicit citation" (2:12) and accordingly she sought "a more egalitarian concept of literary (inter‑)relations, in which influence is acknowledged, incorporated, dispersed" (2:7). Instead of hiding from others' influence, the writer advocates her place within a community of voices.
Volume 1 provides a wealth of new perspectives on the intertextuality between Sand and other writers, both well known (Shakespeare, Hoffmann, Goethe), and lesser known (d'Urfé, Sedaine, Genlis), ranging from the eighteenth century (Rousseau, Diderot), through the Romantic period (Balzac), and into the future (Colette, Proust). Five essays on eighteenth-century intertexts make clear how much Sand's thought draws (though not without contradictions) from the Enlightenment ideals of perfectibility, social order and imagination. Jean-Jacques Rousseau's influence on Sand, for instance, is examined by Christine Planté, in "George Sand fils de Jean-Jacques," which is also the title of her new edited volume containing Sand's unfinished novel, Mémoires de Jean Paille and Sand's articles on Rousseau (PUL, 2012). Also noteworthy is the extent of the coverage of Sand's theater, including contributions by Catherine Masson, Anna Szabó, Isabelle Michelot, Merete Stistrup-Jensen, and Olivier Bara, who has since published Le Sanctuaire des illusions: George Sand et le théâtre (PUPS, 2010), and to which we can add Shira Malkin's essay on Sand's friendship with Shakespearean actor Charles Macready in the second volume. Several essays show the centrality of re-writing and adaptation (notably of the novels of Balzac, but also of Dostoyevsky), whereas others analyze Sand's use of networks of allusion and intratextuality (for instance, between Sand's journalism and fiction, as in the case of Catherine Nesci). Contributions on Sand's Isidora--by Annabelle Rea and Pascale Auraix-Jonchière (in vol. 1), Isabelle Naginski and David Powell (in vol. 2)--significantly advance the scholarship on this little-known novel whose polyphony is surprisingly modernist. The volume concludes with two examples of Sand used as intertext in the works of other writers: Proust's Le Temps retrouvé and Colette's Le Pur et l'impur. Among the essays about Sand's exchanges with other women writers such as Mme de Genlis (Damien Zanone) and Flora Tristan (Máire Cross), Marion Krauthaker's contribution on Colette has recently been published in its full length as L'Identité de genre dans les oeuvres de George Sand et Colette (L'Harmattan, 2011).
Volume 2 emphasizes the centrality of orality in Sand's writings. Isabelle Naginski reconsiders the trope of the "veillée" across Sand's corpus, which combines storytelling as oral performance and narrative device. David Powell and Monia Kallel further examine the ways Sand's texts undermine the male narrator and attenuate an authoritative voice. Peter Dayan and Anne Marcoline explore how musical metaphors enrich our understanding of Sandian fiction, whereas Véronique Bui's reflections on frog songs and Simone Bernard-Griffiths's night music tune into the harmonics and the poetry of Sand's fictions. Among the essays about ideological polyvalence, let me single out both Mary Rice-DeFosse's discussion of the clash between provincial and Parisian cultures, and Françoise Massardier-Kenney's reading "à rebours" of racial stereotyping in La Filleule. A section on interdiscursivity and exchange between Sand's correspondents such as Tristan and Jules Néraud (Michèle Hecquet), or with her list of dedicatees in the never-published edition (with Michel Lévy) of the complete works (Marie-Ève Thérenty), makes clear the extent to which Sand favors palimpsestic reading. Exchange transcends generic boundaries to connect with music and the visual arts in the final four contributions of volume 2. Janine Gallant, Nancy Rogers, Barbara Wright and Alexandra Wettlaufer analyze the "painterly moments" (Rogers) and the figure of the female painter to reveal Sand's commitment to the sister arts. The modernity of Sand's writing can be found in this resistance to authoritative or monologic narrative. Instead, her writing allows for a plurality of voices to be heard and to contest one another, as long as the reader is open to dialogue. These essays provide the Sand scholar as well as the generalist a useful lesson in how to read a polyphonic text.