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UBC Theses and Dissertations

L’Humour dans les romans d’Alain Robbe-Grillet Tubbesing, Ruth Helene


Humour, as Alain Robbe-Grillet presents it in his six novels, comprises the comic, which makes us laugh at or about someone other than ourselves, and humour, as defined by Freud which differs from black humour only in intensity. This study discusses comedy before humour, mainly because the former appears towards the beginning of the evolution of Robbe-Grillet's novels. Considering the reader's viewpoint, the comic is also more obvious, less complex than humour arid exists almost exclusively in the narrative story. The three principle elements of any comedy may also be found in Robbe-Grillet's first four novels, that is: character, situation, and language. The mechanisation of characters, as described by Henry Bergson, identifies the comic of the first two elements. The last cannot demand earnestness for all its superfluous pomp in expression and vocabulary. In comedy, the reader is unconscious of the narrator's intervention. For this reason, the narrative viewpoint passing suddenly from one character to another finds a place here. Dramatic, often tragic incidents ending on an incongruous playful note therefore also fall into this category. To the extent that these elements express a certain aggressiveness in reflecting our weaknesses and attacking our emotions, humour is inevitably the cause. Only at the level of the "ecriture", however, does Robbe-Grillet's humour attain its full expression. The narrator is evidently the inventor of his text and also often participates in it; his uncertainty, illogical transitions and repetitions are quite contrary to the conventional expectations of the reader. The playfulness that spurs the narration on tests the reader's capacity to laugh at his own misjudgements and unfulfilled expectations, and his capacity to laugh at his own weaknesses. Robbe-Grillet's treatment of eroticism is also another way of playing with the illusions or hidden complexes of the reader who can, at the realisation of the text's intention laugh or show disappointment and frustration. Black humour is evident here, but its full realisation occurs only in Robbe-Grillet’s last book: "Projet pour une revolution a New York", where the reader is brought to experience himself.

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