Coagulating an Aesthetics of Disjunction: A Semiological Reading of Anne Carson’s Decreation

Helena Van Praet
Mijn scriptie bestudeert hoe Anne Carsons "Decreation: Poetry, Essays, Opera" (2005) een gevoel van 'decreatie' opwekt bij de lezer. Met dit doel in het achterhoofd, focust mijn lezing op literaire strategieën die de lezer confronteren met zaken, zoals verschillende genres en stemmen, die op het eerste gezicht onverzoenbaar lijken. Op die manier stelt deze scriptie 'hokjesdenken' en categorisering in vraag.

Decreatie of recreatie? Voorbij de status quo

Hoe kunnen we anders tegen de wereld aankijken en onszelf op die manier stapsgewijs heruitvinden? De collectie Decreation: Poetry, Essays, Opera (2005) van de Canadese auteur Anne Carson maakt dit nobele, soms – onterecht – als naïef bestempelde doel van de literatuur concreet met behulp van verschillende literaire technieken. Op die manier biedt de experimentele collectie een remedie tegen de al te herkenbare, menselijke tendens om vastgeroest te raken in vertrouwde denkpatronen.

De lezer als minnaar

Betekenisgeving in het algemeen is een thema waar menig cognitief wetenschapper zich over gebogen heeft. Wat voor velen een ver-van-mijn-bedshow is, komt in Decreation echter expliciet aan bod als een vraag naar de essentie van ons mens-zijn. Wat zijn de limieten van de menselijke conditie en kunnen we die limieten overstijgen, zijn enkele vragen die in mijn scriptie aan bod komen. Volgens een befaamde filosoof zijn we immers omdat we denken, maar dit denken mondt vaak – en zeker in het huidige polariserende klimaat – uit in ‘hokjesdenken’ of categorisering. Mijn scriptie buigt zich over de vraag hoe Decreation dat ‘hokjesdenken’ uitdaagt.  

Om in dat opzet te slagen, moet er eerst een succesvolle communicatie tussen de lezer en het literaire werk tot stand gebracht worden. In meer wetenschappelijke termen, zou je kunnen stellen dat onze spiegelneuronen, die ervoor zorgen dat we ons in een andere belevingswereld kunnen verplaatsen, eerst geprikkeld moeten worden. Anne Carson brengt een soortgelijk inlevingsvermogen tot stand aan de hand van betekenisgevende strategieën die de lezer tegelijkertijd sturen én aanmoedigen om zelf na te denken. Met andere woorden: je wordt als lezer in een bepaalde richting ‘gemasseerd’ maar wordt tegelijkertijd verplicht om die richting deels zelf in te vullen. Het literaire werk is dus open en gesloten tegelijkertijd door de wisselwerking tussen de lezer en de tekst. Dit idee kan op het eerste gezicht erg vaag lijken, maar ligt volgens de literatuurwetenschapper Wolfgang Iser aan de basis van alle communicatie in literatuur. Denk maar aan thrillers waar je als lezer aangemoedigd wordt om de ‘gaten’ in het plot in te vullen, of simpelweg aan het bestaan van verschillende interpretaties van eenzelfde werk.

Gelijkenis ondanks – of dankzij – verschil

Aan de hand van dergelijke strategieën word je in Decreation continu geconfronteerd met de grens, die in feite een afgrond is, tussen twee dingen die op het eerste gezicht onverzoenbaar lijken. Net als de minnaar, verlangt de lezer immers naar een verzoening van twee verschillende realiteiten: datgene wat is, en datgene wat zou kunnen zijn. Deze illusoire vereniging van twee beelden, die je kan vergelijken met de werking van stereoscopie of dieptezicht waarbij een samengesteld beeld ontstaat door met beide ogen te kijken, impliceert met andere woorden het bestaan van een derde invalshoek die de verschillen tussen de twee realiteiten – de lezer en de fictieve wereld, of de minnaar en zijn geliefde – kan overbruggen. We kunnen dus stellen dat de ‘ongerijmdheid’ die aan de basis van Carsons werk ligt er tegelijkertijd voor zorgt dat de lezer gestimuleerd wordt om naar nieuwe verbanden op zoek te gaan. In een notendop, confronteert Decreation de lezer met de volgende vraag: hoe kunnen we gelijkenissen zien in deze constellatie van verschillen en op die manier het gevoel van ‘decreatie’ of destructie omzetten in een proces van recreatie?

Dit centrale idee van gelijkenis-in-verschil kan worden gelinkt aan analogieën. Volgens de kunsthistorica Barbara Maria Stafford verwijst een analogie immers naar de gelijkenis die bestaat tussen zaken die in eerste instantie ongelijksoortig lijken. Welnu, in Decreation maakt Anne Carson gebruik van verschillende hybride strategieën die de lezer confronteren met een gevoel van onsamenhangendheid en hem of haar zo eveneens aanmoedigen om naar analogieën te zoeken. De collectie ontneemt de lezer namelijk elke illusie van een stabiele leeservaring door het combineren van verschillende genres en media, de oppositie tussen het verbale en het visuele, een dynamisch palet aan echo’s en een scala van verschillende stemmen. Met andere woorden: deze strategieën prikkelen de lezer om wat aanvankelijk een esthetiek van onverenigbaarheid leek, om te zetten in een dialectiek van verzoening – of stereoscopie – door te werken op basis van analogieën. Let wel: de lezer blijft zelf verantwoordelijk voor het invullen van die gelijkenis, maar deze technieken liggen wel aan de basis van het systeem van literaire betekenisgeving.

Recreatie

Op die manier emancipeert Carsons Decreation en evoceert de collectie tegelijkertijd wat je een ‘synthetiserende disjunctie’ zou kunnen noemen, namelijk een nieuwe manier van kijken die openstaat voor gelijkenissen zonder de verschillen uit het oog te verliezen. Dit persoonlijke proces van recreatie impliceert ook dat de lezer vanzelfsprekendheden in vraag durft te stellen. Om het met de woorden van Anne Carson zelf te stellen, “What do ‘shelves’ accomplish, in stores or in the mind?”

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Universiteit of Hogeschool
Master of Arts in Linguistics and Literary Studies: Profile Literary Studies (Dutch-English)
Publicatiejaar
2018
Promotor(en)
Christophe Collard
Kernwoorden
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