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4. De Man, Lejeune, & Bergson Cheat Sheet by

wf lit

Henri Bergson (1859-­1941)

Creative Evolution

“The Evolution of Life – Mechanism and Teleology” (1907): An evolution in which a free emergence of the individual intell­igence could be recogn­ized. Bergson based his theory on the distin­ction between matter and the élan vital, or life force, the progress of which he saw as a line contin­ually bifurc­ating or diverging from its course.

Dura­tion: the subjective experience of time → connected to memory
Élan vital: the vital impetus linked to creative intuition (not thinking) that motivates evolution
Theory of Knowledge vs. Theory of Life

The Mold of Indivi­duality

“who can say where indivi­duality begins and ends, whether the living being is one or many, whether it is the cells which associate themselves into the organism or the organism which dissoc­iates itself into cells? In vain, we force the living into this or that one of our molds. All the molds crack. They are too narrow, above all too rigid, for what we try to put into them”

Reality vs. Imitation

“‘It is no longer reality itself,’ it says, ‘that will recons­truct, but only an imitation of the real, or rather a symbolical image; the essence of things escape us always; we move among relations; the absolute is not in our province; we are brought to a stand before the Unknow­able.’ – But for the human intellect, after too much pride, this is really an excess of humili­ty

On autobi­ography

One’s identity isn’t fixed but rather ever-c­han­ging, which implies that the author of an autobi­ography could not be the same as the character in it, having had more experience while writing.

Duration states

“The truth is that we change without ceasing, and that the state itself is nothing but change [...] the transition is contin­uous” (2).
Obse­rving an object: perspe­ctive, time, emotion

Unforeseen events are part of duration; we only focus our attention on them because they are intere­sting
Arti­ficial bond: we must reunite these events. We imagine these events like “beads of a necklace” on a “colorless substr­atu­m" (ego)
Cerebral Mechan­ism: drives back into the uncons­cious almost the whole of the past, allowing through only what is useful
Impulse: we vaguely feel that our past remains present and it is this past with which we desire, will, and act (not think)

Paul de Man (1919-­1983)

Summary De-fac­ement

De Man seeks to explore the limits of autobi­ogr­aphy. He combats the idea of autobi­ography as a closed constr­uction as produced by life itself and instead questions whether the very shape of this outcome defines or alters whom it references to in the first place. By doing so, he posits that the distin­ction between fiction and reality as posited to underlie autobi­ography is "­und­eci­dab­le" (921), as its limits cannot clearly be demarc­ated. The autobi­ography should not be considered a literary genre because it does not seem to fit within any generic defini­tion. Autobi­ography logically seems to depend on reality, unlike literature which is fictive. De Man however theorizes that “the distin­ction between fiction and autobi­ography is not an either/or polarity” and in effect autobi­ogr­aphies require a different way of reading or unders­tan­ding. Every text in this sense contains an autobi­ogr­aphical element.

Philippe Lejeune (1938-)

Le Pacte Autobi­ogr­aphique (1975)

Philippe Lejeune talks of the “autob­iog­rap­hical pact” – the reader’s implicit belief that the author, narrator and protag­onist of an autobi­ography are one and the same. Lejeune does see autobi­ography as fitting within litera­ture, and emphasises the importance of the language an author uses in order to represent (what he perceives as) reality.

Autobi­ogr­aphical Pact

"Is there not confusion, in most of the arguments concerning autobi­ogr­aphy, between the notion of identity and that of resemb­lan­ce?­"

Auto­bio­gra­phical pact: there is no real difference between the narrator, author and protag­onist in both autobi­ogr­aphies and autobi­ogr­aphical novels
Biog­rap­hy: "­ret­ros­pective prose narrative written by a real person concerning his own existence, where the focus is his individual life, in particular the story of his person­ali­ty"

Identity, Resemb­lance, Gramma­tical person, identity of the indivi­dual, Autodi­egetic, Hetero­die­getic, Homodi­egetic

Diagram Lejeune


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