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Rewriting rewriting

Marguerite Duras, Annie Ernaux, and Marie Redonnet


Cathy Jellenik

Although the storytelling of any time rewrites itself, rewriting became a primary concern in the literature of the twentieth century, an era characterized as having quoted, reenacted, cannibalized, revised, redone, refurbished, and outright plagiarized the texts of earlier times. The modern obsession with literary reiteration manifests itself in a rather unique way in the narratives of Marguerite Duras, Annie Ernaux, and Marie Redonnet. These authors systematically and repeatedly rewrite their own texts, and in so doing, give evidence of three of the more salient aspects of twentieth-century French literature: a trend toward the representation of multifaceted selves, a desire to reevaluate the literary paradigm, and an acute concern for the unreliability of language. This book argues that the rewriting performed by Duras, Ernaux, and Redonnet moves beyond the tacit rewriting that occurs in any text toward a renovation of various features of the literary arena within which they circulate. Cathy Jellenik argues that all writing contains rewriting – an argument grounded in the theoretical apparatuses of Saussure, Bakhtin, Benveniste, Barthes, Kristeva, and Derrida. She then examines and interrogates the ways in which Duras, Ernaux, and Redonnet use rewriting to question and rethink the literary traditions they inherit. Jellenik suggests that the rewriting projects of Duras, Ernaux, and Redonnet promise to lead them, and their readers, toward the creation of a new literary aesthetic capable of responding to the questions of our times.