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Time, tense and L’étranger : an approach through performance theory Arthurs, James

Abstract

A study of the considerable literature written around L'Etranger makes clear that its wide range of approaches and methodologies raises interesting and important questions of a theoretical nature. In the particular area of language-oriented studies, the disparity of the models proposed or presupposed and, in the case of very similar models, the notable disparity of the conclusions drawn call for further examination of the theory behind them. Most such models are seen to revolve around the role of the narrator and his relation to events recounted in the text. Unlike most linguistic models, these are performance-oriented - a fact that is seen as crucial, raising the question of the nature of a putative performance theory and its relation to models based on competence/lanpnqe. Consideration of these questions establishes the need for elaboration of the study of enonciation (or "allocution") and more particularly of the "aspect indiciel du langage" in order to elucidate time and tense in relation to performance. The method adopted, involving a detailed analysis of the prevailing models in this area (Benveniste and Weinrich), shows the binary elegance of their schemes to be misleading and at variance with numerous examples of literary usage. The proposal is made that the dlsoours/recit contrast "be regarded as belonging to the area of illocutionary forces in general and as such capable of being marked by various devices in addition to tense-forms and "shifters". A particular set of devices, the presententials, is proposed: founded on the syntactic notion of the higher S, they mark both the force and the time of utterances. A related class, the interruption sentences, is examined and expanded and, along with a third class, the commentary forms constitutes an important addition to the markers of sui-reference. Finally, a detailed inspection of L'Etranger reveals the importance of these devices in the text and, in connection with the oft-discussed "moments de narration", gives rise to a different perspective based on a clearer understanding of the relation of "le temps linguistique" and "le temps chronologique" in the novel and a more precise explanation of the role of the reader. In the light of this, various subsidiary aspects are then explained in relation to Camus's intentions and his artistic achievement in L'Etranger.

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