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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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6 Hybridity: The Detective and the Gothic Genres 105

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6 Hybridity The Detective and the Gothic Genres espite the preponderance of the discourse of the detective novel in L’Emploi du temps, it defies classification purely under that genre. As Butor says of the French New Novelists in general: ―Les gens du nouveau roman utilisent certaines règles du roman policier mais pas toutes…Ils ne sont pas à l‘intérieur du genre roman policier‖ (Rice-Sayre 108). Butor intended L’Emploi du temps to be different from Le Meurtre de Bleston, the detective novel mis en abyme. Underscoring the idiosyncratic quality of L’Emploi du temps, Butor declares: [U]ne des règles du roman policier [c‘est] qu‘on sache à la fin ce qui [s‘est] passé. Mais dans certains cas, il peut rester une ambiguïté sur ce qui s‘est passé. Ce qui est très important c‘est que des lacunes aient été comblées, qu‘il y ait une explication sur chaque trou qui a été décelé. Mais des gens très astucieux peuvent fournir deux explications. Par exemple, il peut y avoir une explication réaliste et une explication fantastique. (Rice-Sayre 109) When his ratiocinative investigation of Burton‘s accident, which he believes is a case of an attempted murder, leads him nowhere, Revel accuses the city of Bleston, the ―démon possesseur,‖ of being responsible for the crime. There are two narrative planes that determine the intergeneric character of L’Emploi du temps: one fantastic and the other realistic, that can be attributed to the...

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