Rewriting the detective novel: A study of "L'Emploi du temps," "Les Gommes," and "La Mise en scene"
The works of the French New Novelists which adapt elements from popular detective fiction illustrate the process of generic evolution and regeneration in which, according to Roman Jacobson, minor or extraliterary forms often provide the materials for renewing older, canonical genres. This study investigates the relation between traditional detective literature and the New Novel and then submits three novels to detective-fiction readings: Michel Butor's L'Emploi du temps, Alain Robbe-Grillet's Les Gommes, and Claude Ollier's La Mise en scene An examination of the works of Edgar Allan Poe and Golden Age detective writers such as Arthur Conan Doyle, Dorothy L. Sayers and Agatha Christie reveals an unusual approach to realism which expresses an awareness of its fictional nature, a strong emphasis on the contributing role of the reader, and a capacity for self-commentary. In their theoretical writings, Butor and Robbe-Grillet express particular interest in these aspects of fiction and often use terms associated with detective literature as a kind of metalanguage with which to discuss their aesthetic concerns The three New Novels which are treated show the way their authors alter the rules of the detective genre, transforming the roles of detectives, criminals, and victims, subverting the teleological flow of the text, innovatively using emblems of detective fiction such as the double and the labyrinth both formally and thematically to enhance the plurality of the texts, and calling attention to the participation of the reader. Thus, the lowly detective story makes important contributions to the New Novel and is itself remade in the process