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Critical Essays on Michel Butor’s «L’Emploi du temps»

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Sudarsan Rangarajan

Michel Butor, one of the earliest exponents of the French New Novel, is known for experimenting with narrative voice (the second-person narration in La Modification), focalization (the changes in narrative perspective in Degrés), and the treatment of genres ( L’Emploi du temps).
L’Emploi du temps (1956) is a quintessential nouveau roman for it is about a novel within a novel. In Critical Essays on Michel Butor’s L’Emploi du temps, Sudarsan Rangarajan examines the different aspects of the novel from a postmodern perspective. Engaging contemporary theorists – Sartre, Foucault, de Man, and Prince among others – the essays encompass diverse areas: narratology, rhetoric, genre studies, existentialism, and postcolonialism. From the analysis of the beginnings and the function of narratees to the study of rhetoric, the journalistic discourse, the hybridization of the detective and the Gothic genres, the figure of the flâneur, and postcolonialist concepts (the elite and the subaltern), the essays provide new insights into one of the greatest twentieth-century novels.

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3 The Journalistic Discourse: Faits divers, Features and Interviews 39

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3 The Journalistic Discourse Faits divers, Features and Interviews hroughout the course of their evolution, the newspaper and the novel have exchanged and exploited certain discursive elements by osmosis. 1 Mikhail Bakhtin describes intergeneric relationships between different types of discourses as follows: Certain features of language (lexico-logical, semantic, syntactic) will knit together with the intentional aim, and with the overall accentual system in one or the other genre: oratorial, publicistic, newspaper and journalistic genres, the genres of low literatures (penny dreadfuls, for instance) or, fictionally the various genres of high literature. (288–89) While journalists have borrowed from the novelists narrative devices such as dialogues and documentation, novelists, in their turn, have incorporated faits divers, interviews, and eyewitness accounts in their works. Such interpenetration between literary and the so-called extra-literary discourses, an intertextual phenomenon, is most pronounced in the twentieth-century novel. L’Emploi du temps, both in form and content, is a synthesis of genres.2 This essay examines the journalistic discourse in the novel by focusing on three elements: the fait divers, interviews and features. The fact that the detective novel originated from chroniques du crime and feuilletons is a case in point for the present study, because the story of L’Emploi du temps revolves around the detective novel, Le Meurtre de Bleston. Several intergeneric relationships between journalistic discourse and detective fiction can be identified. The term ―investigative reporting,‖ widely used in journalistic parlance, implies that the journalist has much in common with the detective. The magazine Détective, ―le premier...

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