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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 96 | volume XVII | May-June, 2014



                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 96May-June, 2014

The Literary Work does not have Its Own Logic

Through the Example of Salinger’s Novel The Catcher in the Rye

p. 1
Kalina Maleska


Literary theory and criticism have frequently attempted to separate literature from reality: literary works have been understood as self-sufficient organisms with their own structure and logic, independent from reality. Although such tendencies have existed before, they are established as principles especially in the beginning of the twentieth century among the modernists, and later in the context of structuralism. Thus, in his essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent”, T. S. Eliot claims that the existing artistic monuments “form an ideal order among themselves, which is modified by the introduction of the new (the really new) work of art among them” (Eliot, 2006: 2171). Similarly, according to Gérard Genette, the narrative text “is governed not by its relation to reality, but by its internal laws and logic (quot. in Jefferson, 1992: 103).
    What are these laws and logic which govern the narrative text – whether it be a novel or a story? It is true that many literary texts have their logic: if Elizabeth Bennet from Jane Austen’s realistic novel Pride and Prejudice, for example, suddenly decides to eat a dog, it would be against the logic of Austen’s novel, while if Saleem Sinai from Midnight’s Children suddenly begins to fly, this would not violate the logic of Rushdie’s novel, having in mind that it belongs to the genre of magic realism. If, however, it is always so, then how was it possible for Midnight’s Children to be written at all? Elizabeth Bennet could have eaten a dog if Austen had decided to introduce such an element it her novel. In other words, the logic and the internal laws that Genette talks about are not laws at all, but arbitrary rules produced not by the text, which Genette tries to convince us to see as a living organism that itself produces meanings, but by the author of the text, who can establish rules, and then violate them, and then establish other rules. When these, allegedly internal, rules would not be violated as often as it happens in practice, all novels would resemble Pride and Prejudice. The logic of the text is the logic that the author imposes – by his/her own will – and it may occasionally be illogical and inconsistent.
    There is a similar view of literature as an independent phenomenon in the Macedonian literary theory and criticism, although here it does not come from structuralism. According to Georgi Stardelov, “a literature

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