From Identity to Identifications: Depersonalizing the Subject of the Nervalian Chimère


In both his texts and his writing practice, Gérard de Nerval (1808–55) manifests a propensity toward subjective fragmentation and instability. This fragmentation is not simply a symptom of a psychological disorder, but is itself a positive value in the context of Nerval’s un-self-centered poetics. Through his presentation of the actor Brisacier in “À Alexandre Dumas” (1854), Nerval suggests that the writing subject’s relation to what it writes is one of serial identification not intended to arrive at any unified identity. This mobility of identifications is evident, for example, in the unwieldy intertextuality of the sonnet “El Desdichado” (1854), which resists synthesis and makes hybrids of both poem and lyric subject. The circulation of images and subjects in the poem makes it not a work of self-expression.

Catherine Talley
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