Latent disfigurations: Corneille’s paratextual mishaps
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- Muratore, M.J. Neohelicon (2010) 37: 193. doi:10.1007/s11059-010-0043-z
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The “examens” that accompany Corneille’s dramatic opus are in fact, adjuvants, written after the fact. As defensive meta-commentaries wherein the focus rarely departs from an attempt to demonstrate how his plays do or do not conform to theoretical prescriptions, they are prefaces in name only: publishers have tended to displace them in advance of the work despite their “belated” appearance relative to the work. Displacement is, however, not to be overlooked. For if the pasted additives known as the “examens” suffer at the level of insightful texts, they do adopt significance as paratexts. In his extra textual writings, Corneille the theaterician and Corneille the theoretician jockey for discursive supremacy, and it is ultimately the theaterician who emerges victorious. The more he reviews his plays, the more muted becomes the voice of the disciplined theoretician, and conversely, the more assertive the voice of the theaterician. Shortly after Rodogune, it will be noted that Corneille becomes more eager to defend rather than condemn his creative instincts, and less hesitant to criticize the rules themselves. Corneille’s decision not to engage in a theoretical examination of his final works suggests that at the end of his career, as at the beginning, Corneille believed his primary commitment was to his own aesthetic vision.