Sylvie: The Method of Myth

Thematic studies of Nerval's work often treat the mythic element as merely a Jungian-symbolic quality of imagination. Some perceive the mystical charge of his "symbols, reflections and analogues" (Knapp); myth is one of Nerval's ruses for transcending time. Still others assert that Nerval was pathologically committed to mythical invention. Purely textual analyses have addressed the issues of authenticity, irony, and the explicitness of mythical flavor. The proposed analysis synthesizes much of this work – presenting Sylvie as a viable myth in itself, an exemplum of the forces that Nerval associated, sometimes explicitly, with myths. Textual study uncovers in the narrative structure a belabored emphasis on the origins of fantasy – the narrator's mythogenic existence in Paris. It is this structure that gives poignancy to the narrator's pursuit of mythical figures. This train of analysis, however, must not remain closed to Nerval's spiritualism. Sylvie is a studied attempt at contact with the spiritual. It is technically designed for preservation in the memory, for pre-eminence in the struggle against time. This is why Le Valois strikes the reader with the force of mythical abstraction. Further textual analysis reveals the effectiveness of an abstractive use of color in this design. (PST)

Thompson, Peter S.
Volume 1983-1984 Fall-Winter; 12(1-2): 96-104.