Semiotics 1980 pp 275-279 | Cite as

The Impact of Speech-Act Theory and Phenomenology on Proust and Claude Simon

  • Marlies Kronegger


Both structuralism and phenomenology in literature experience a shifting of conventional forms which threatens to abolish the causalism of the realist novel by establishing a dialectic of synchronic and diachronic experiences. Both the structuralist Gérard Genette1 and the phenomenologist Merleau-Ponty derive their theories of language from Saussurian linguistics. They institute a dialectic of perception to bring the diachronic and synchronic views into communication. Diachrony envelops synchrony; the dichotomy between impression and language is rejected by Merleau-Ponty who sees writing as bodily expression which is part of the ongoing primordial process of perception. The act of naming arranges a series of perceptual data, inaugurating rather than exhausting order. The written word indicates the presence of thought. Taking Saussurian linguistics as a basis for his argument, Merleau-Ponty hypothesizes an original utterance when langue is presented in its individual aspect as parole. Speech does not presuppose thought since parole has an innovative function and is not simply prefabricated from langue. Merleau-Ponty invokes Husserl’s differentiation between the voluntary intentionnalité d’acte and the involuntary intentionnalité opérante.


Bodily Expression Reflective Consciousness Story Time Epistemological Mode Phenomenological Vision 
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  1. 1.
    Gérard Genette, Figures I (Paris: Seuil, 1966); Figures II (Paris: Seuil, 1969); Figures III (Paris: Seuil, 1972 ); and Mimologiques ( Paris: Seuil, 1976 ).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    L’Age des noms, Mimologiques, p. 315.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Ibid., p. 328.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Marcel Proust, “Du côté de chez Swann,” A la recherche du temps perdu, I (Paris: Gallimard-Pleiade, 1954), pp. 387–388, quoted in Mimologiques, p. 315.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Maurice Merleau-Ponty, “The Problem of Speech,” Themes from the Lectures at the College de France 1952–1960, translated by John O’Neill (Evanston: 1970 ), p. 25.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Roland Barthes, “Proust et les noms,” Le degré zéro de l’écriture (Paris: Seuil, 1953 et 1972 ), p. 133.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marlies Kronegger
    • 1
  1. 1.Dept. of Romance LanguagesMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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