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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Repetition and structure : a study of William Faulkner and Claude Simon Cobley, Evelyn Margot


This study focuses on repetition as a literary device and documents its findings with examples from William Faulkner's Absalom, Ahsalomt and Claude Simon's La Route des Flandres. It distinguishes between the following kinds of repetition: 1. Immediate repetition of words where two or more identical or near-identical words succeed each other immediately. 2. Interrupted repetition of words or sentences where some material separates two or more occurrences of the same or similar words (sentences). 3. Repetitive patterns in the narrative structure which take the form of a) simple duplication of episodes, characters, narrators; b) repetition as a retardation device in the suspense structure of Absalom, Absalom!; c) repetition in the fragmented structure of La Route des Flandres; d) doubling of characters in repetitive behavioral patterns. 4. Repetition and Intertextuality where literary allusions draw attention to the "copy mechanism" which connects a text with a pre-coded cultural system. These divisions form the major chapters of this study; they move from the smallest to the largest units of the fictional text and follow an analogical rather than a causal pattern. The major purpose of repetition in Absalom, Absalom', and La Route des Flandres is to perform such functions as ambiguities; formal transitions between episodes; the relationship between main narrative and digressions; narrative pace, temporal stratifications, narrative voices, thematic associations; the relationship between fact and fiction; narrative progression; the symmetrical arrangement of narrative fragments; the doubling of characters and narrators in structural and psychoanalytic terms; representation and non-referentiality in literature. As a result, repetition in Absalom, Absalom! and La Route des. Flandres: 1. conforms to conventional usage in some instances and exploits experimental possibilities in others. 2. contributes both to narrative continuity and discontinuity. 3. functions as an ordering, stabilizing device but acts as a subversive agent when it erodes the coherence it supposedly establishes and maintains. 4. challenges literary conventions by blurring the distinctions between such categories as character and narrator, past and present, time of narration and time of the narrative, main story and narrative frame. 5. challenges assumptions about human nature by undermining the concept of the independent and isolated human individual. 6. challenges assumptions about the nature of creativity by questioning the possibility of original (ex nihilo) literary production. Most critics discuss repetition in terms of sameness and "spatial form." Assuming that a word or phrase, when repeated, is identical to its previous occurrences, they conclude that the aim of repetition is to abolish time by space. But this study makes difference rather than sameness the main focus and accounts for the effect on repetition of intervening material. This new perspective corrects the overemphasis that the "spatial form" orthodoxy places on analogical relationships. When repetitive devices are analyzed both temporally and spatially, Faulkner and Simon are seen to go beyond spatial form to exploit repetition through breaks in the narrative sequence. Continuities and discontinuities thus complement each other in ways that differ significantly from "spatial form" interpretations.

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