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Stendhal's Paper Mirror

Patterns of Self-Consciousness in His Novels


James T. Day

Stendhal's narrators explicitly put forth an ethos of realism, yet their self-conscious voice calls attention to artifice in fictional texts that readily depict their own elaboration. This study examines the integration of various patterns of self-consciousness into works whose «textual realism» encourages readings that respect the novels as both textual construct and referential illusion. In reflecting their own structures en abyme through various embedded narratives, in thematizing the heroes' and the narrators' self-consciousness, in exalting literariness through patterns of novelistic and theatrical imitation, Stendhal's novels problematize fictional narrative discourse and language itself while affirming their referential appeal to the reader's imagination.
Contents: Self-conscious narrative discourse in Stendhal - Embedded narratives - Thematic self-consciousness - The «role» metaphor - literary realism.