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Stories For Children, Histories of Childhood. Volume II

Rosie Findlay
Sébastien Salbayre

Pip and Jim Hawkins: the Spontaneous generation of two mistakes of fiction

Nathalie Jaëck


Pip and Hawkins: the spontaneous generation of two mistakes of fiction.
Dans The Mill on the Floss (1860) le narrateur omniscient, très adulte, pose un diagnostic sur l’indomptable petite Maggie Tulliver: «a small mistake of nature», créature hybride entre l’animal et l’adulte, elle incame cet intérêt relativement récent de la littérature victorienne pour ces enfants jusque là non répertoriés par la fiction. Objet relativement inédit, Maggie fait pourtant dans le texte une irruption contrôlée, la ligne de fuite reste thématique, puisque Maggie n’accède pas à la voix narrative.
Il en va autrement dans Great Expectations (1860) et dans Treasure Island (1883) où les enfants, deux orphelins de père, antiœdipe littéraires, partent à l’abordage du récit réaliste. Stevenson fait de Jim le narrateur de droit de Treasure Island, tandis que Dickens insinue subrepticement la voix pirate de Pip dans ce texte ventriloque, en mode mineur, en concurrence active avec sa voix d’adulte, narratrice en titre. Je souhaiterais montrer que «ce que les enfants disent» (Deleuze, Critique et Clinique) dans ces deux romans ouvre une brèche dans la forme réaliste, et que Dickens et Stevenson décèlent dans la voix de l’enfant le modèle d’une forme littéraire à venir, une forme caractérisée notamment par l’indéfini, le parcours, et le bégaiement.

Texte intégral

« Inventer un usage mineur de la langue majeure »
Gilles Deleuze, Critique et clinique

  • 1 Dickens confessed to such preference in the second preface to David Copperfield, written in 1869: “ (...)
  • 2 In an 1884 letter to James, Stevenson claims that form should be the only aim of a work of art: “Pe (...)

1Both Great Expectations, published in 1860, and Treasure Island, published in 1881, are situated at a kind of literary crossroads, in a stimulating slack period of literary hesitation and generic indeterminacy, in between two authoritative tidal waves, realism and modernism. In these two canonical and rebellious novels, Dickens and Stevenson explicitly expose the deficiencies of the realist system of representation, and experiment on new literary forms. Great Expectations, written towards the end of Dickens’s career, reads as a metatextual rewriting, as a literary subversion of a previous first person autobiography, David Copperfield, as a kind of dissident fiction squared, questioning the formal postulates of Dickens’s now ten-year-old “favourite child”1, and inventing a modern kind of fiction, breaking free from the realist dogma. As for Treasure Island, it is a daring and dynamic illustration of Stevenson’s manifesto, a kind of innovative literary laboratory: in his groundbreaking debate with Henry James in the columns of The Longman’s Magazine in 1884, he insisted on the necessity to abandon the naturalist transitive and documentary use of language, and expressed his urge to find new literary ways, to explore and manipulate the materiality of language2.

  • 3 Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari, “What is a Minor Literature?” in Russell Ferguson (Ed.), Out There (...)

2In both novels, children prove to be not only a picturesque topic, but also a literary solution, an alternative tongue, in a minor key that eventually takes over and dissolves the major mode of narration. Pip and Jim become subversive literary messiahs, their “infant tongue” actively competes with the institutional mother tongue, undermines the realist system, and proposes a literary horizon. Indeed, the two boys go a step further than little Maggie Tulliver in The Mill on the Floss: Maggie actively jams the smooth functioning of the adult household, and she is introduced as “this small mistake of nature” (13) by the omniscient and censoring narrator, thus illustrating the literary exploitation of a fruitful new theme in late Victorian fiction. But although Pip is also defined by his endearing sister as a mistake of nature, as an unwelcome survivor (“If it wam’t for me you’d have been to the churchyard long ago, and stayed there.”, p. 14), Jim and himself prove to be above all mistakes of fiction, slips of the realistic tongue. Indeed, whereas the narrative standpoint in both cases is conventionally that of a composed adult narrator looking back on his childhood from a virtually omniscient and apical position, and intending to use the naive funny remarks of the child as a mere foil, as a comic device under control, the literary space is stealthily crackled and split by the irruption of Pip’s and Jim’s infant tongues. In each case, the narrator becomes a ventriloquist whose puppet takes control: the narrative voice is boarded and confiscated by these two little literary pirates, who outspeak the adult narrators, and impose their dissident voices. Both children thus stand as literary viruses, they open a breach in the text, and offer a literary proposal, a formal frenzy, characterised by immanence, opacity, horizontality, and mobility. They “open [the major language] to an intensive utilisation that makes it take flight along creative lines of escape which can now form an absolute deterritorialisation.”3 Entrusted to Pip and Jim, realism is thus played with, and given a rough ride.


3As opposed to David Copperfield, a linear text which conventionally begins with the beginning, with David’s birth, and gives the reader quite a inclusive picture of David’s genealogy, thus anchoring the little hero in a stable position and inserting him in a causal, determined system of relations – “To begin my life with the beginning of my life; I record that 1 was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o’clock at night.” (49) – Great Expectations and Treasure Island, two tales of linguistic rebellion and independence, adequately start with the death of the fathers, and thus with the uprooting of the cumbersome family tree, the sterile sedimentation of which Dickens had already mocked in the first chapter of Martin Chuzzlewit: “It is a great satisfaction to know that it undoubtedly descended in a direct line from Adam and Eve.” While Jim gets rid of symbolic authority in quite an offhand way as early as chapter two – “My poor father died quite suddenly that evening” (15) – Pip is symbolically bom in the churchyard, on his parents’tombstone, toying with his father’s name, manipulating the sacred words of the epitaph as if they were a game of cubes, emancipating from the literal meaning of words and inventing a mobile system of interpretation of his own. The disqualification of the norm opens up the linguistic possibilities, and turns a static system of reference into a playing field: “My first fancies regarding what [my parents] were like were unreasonably derived from their tombstones. The shape of the letters on my father’s, gave me an odd idea that he was a square, stout, dark man with curly black hair.” (9) Indeed, the first sentence of the novel marks Pip from the outset as a linguistic rebel, and makes it clear that two tongues are going to be in competition in the novel, the official mother tongue, and the unruly infant tongue: “My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.” (9). The outcome of the competition is already settled: Pip manages to short-circuit the system, to conjure up “Pip” as a shortcut from “Philip Pirrip”, thus erasing any form of determinism, any kind of belonging, and self-naming himself as a process, as a seed in the text, as an anarchic rhizome that will eventually colonise the major mode of narration. Pip’s faulty infant tongue actually becomes the rule, it proliferates within the mother tongue until it modifies the system: “I called myself Pip”, on the reflexive mode, could have remained a child’s mistake, but it turns out to be active, influential, it sidetracks the mother tongue: “and came to be called Pip”.

  • 4 Henry James, «Emile Zola», Atlantic Monthly, August 1903, in Roger Gard (ed.), Henry James, The Cri (...)
  • 5 Gilles Deleuze, Critique et clinique, Paris, Editions de Minuit, 1993, p. 11.

4The narrative stance is thus unbalanced from the beginning in the two novels, and the grown-up narrators, who are apparently at the controls of two conventional retrospective narrations, soon fade away behind their miniature versions. And yet, all the structural essentials of the realist novel are summoned. Dickens and Stevenson carefully rub out as much as possible the adult features of their narrators: no information is given as to the precise time of the narration, or as to their personal situation, so that they bear all the formal characteristics of the typical omniscient, third-person narrator, they are built as temporal, spatial, and emotional blanks. They are thus given enough distance with their intimate subjects, which enables them to belittle their younger versions, to treat them with sufficient ironic detachment, and to laugh at their own expense, as proves the dining scene in Great Expectations, when Herbert Pocket is compelled to repeatedly, though elegantly, interrupt his story to teach Pip the rudiments of fork-holding, or Hawkins’s tongue-incheek narration and smug judgement on his own gullibility during his first visit of Long John’s tavern in Treasure Island. They embody the typical realist overhanging position, a vertical, unquestionable vision, a static authoritative stance, a panoptic tool for linguistic control, and Pip makes it very clear that he feels not only the prisoner of his environment at the beginning of Great Expectations, but also the prisoner of a repressive text, whose lines are so many bars: “The marshes were just a long black horizontal line then, as I stopped to look after him; and the river was just another horizontal line, not nearly so broad nor yet so black; and the sky was just a row of long angry red lines and dense black lines intermixed.” (12) Pip reproaches the realist text with what James reproached Zola for, namely its lack of latitude, its linearity, its accumulation: “Vérité marks the rigid straightness of course from point to point. He [Zola] had seen his horizon and his fixed goal from the first, and no crossscent, no new distance, no blue gap in the hill ever tempted him to stray.”4. As much as a social way out, Pip thus endeavours to find a literary way out, and the beautiftil realist machinery soon proves to be a literary mirage: the two children break out of their embedded position, and oppose to their censoring and stationary adult doubles a dynamic, undefined, rebellious tongue-in-progress, in which nothing is stable, in which words are opaque, meaning undefined, and reality rather mobile. Cross-scents become the dissident rule, as Deleuze develops in Critique et Clinique: “Ecrire n’est certainement pas imposer une forme (d’expression) à une matière vécue. La littérature est plutôt du côté de l’informe ou de l’inachèvement. [...] Ecrire est une affaire de devenir, toujours inachevé, toujours en train de se faire, et qui déborde toute matière vivable ou vécue.”5 In his article, “Ce que les enfants disent”, he contends that the “minor language” of children is a valuable alternative to the major mode of language, since children are entirely concerned with becoming, with evolving, with exploring, and since their language is constantly in the making. Pip and Jim, drifting free in the text, are indeed apt to divert the original plan, namely to “impose a form of expression on to lived material”, to deliver static memories, and rather to lead the text into a sidetrack, to make it insecure, multiple, stammering. The two boys are indeed conceived by Dickens and Stevenson as explorers of form, as literary adventurers, and Dickens had already established the link between childhood and formal exploration in Bleak House, in 1853. In chapter 27, two little girls, the Bagnet daughters, are learning their alphabet, absorbed in the deciphering process, in a scene that is quite typical of Dickens’s novels (in Great Expectations, Pip is repeatedly seen learning to read with Biddy). Yet, what is new in Bleak House, is that the children of the family are not given their official names, each of them is nicknamed by their parents with the name of the place he was born in. Quebec, Malta and Woolwich are thus defined much more by journey and linguistic activity than by their set position in a lineage; they embody random progression and formal freedom: “These young ladies [Quebec and little Malta] – not supposed to have been actually christened by the names applied to them, though always so called in the family, from the places of their birth in barracks – are respectively employed on three-legged stools: the younger (some six or five years old), in learning her letters out of a penny primer: the elder (eight or nine perhaps), in teaching her, and sewing with great assiduity.” (440). The present tense, the hesitation as to their actual age, their geographic nature, and their struggling with language show that children constitute inventive grounds, literary hope. In the same way, in Treasure Island, more than a treasure, it is above all a logbook and a map that Jim Hawkins finds and interprets, it is above all on a literary journey that he embarks, as he is confronted to that virtually opaque, undecipherable pirate logbook. As his child’s vision takes over, the text is ready to try and resemble the mysterious logbook, to challenge the merely signifying function of language, and to become a materially intense form.


  • 6 Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari, “What is a Minor Literature?” in Russell Ferguson (ed.), Out There (...)

5The first bone of contention between Pip and Jim on the one hand and the grown-up Philip Pirrip and Jim Hawkins on the other is that whereas the adults are extremely well-spoken and learned, and manipulate language with a lot of expertise, the two boys are obviously in more trouble. Transparent and transitive in realist fiction, language becomes an opaque, resisting material in Pip’s and Jim’s experience, and the two boys achieve Deleuze’s literary ideal: “to be a stranger within one’s own language ”6. The opacity of language for both boys is made clear from the beginning: after reading, or rather randomly watching Captain Flint’s heterogeneous, infinite, dense logbook, Jim confesses to his own interpretative failure in front of this very multiple surface of a text, while Dr Livesey, the impeccably learned lawyer, immediately decodes and converts the opaque mass into one authoritative linear explanation: “That was all; but brief as it was, and, to me, incomprehensible, it filled the squire and Dr Livesey with delight.” (34) For the cultured man of letters, the book falls into a pre-existing set of references, and can thus be reduced to one probable meaning: the weird form to him is negligeable. To Jim on the contrary, the “scraps of writing”, “the curious series of entries”, “the crosses” and “a few bearings of places noted in the blank pages towards the end” (33) amount to a map to be explored, they open endless lines of interpretative escape, each word is swollen with mystery; “the snatches, mostly single words and unintelligible” (32) provide him with a literary puzzle, with an intense and fascinating form to manipulate, with a virtually endless intensification of meaning. Owing to Jim’s fascination, the dissident logbook is allowed to intrude and linger in the institutional library of the Doctor, and to register as an alternative literary stance. The same happens to Pip in the canonical opening scene of Great Expectations : offered to his unskilled eyes, the linear epitaph, which in the major mode of narration morbidly inscribes basic and laconic inescapable information, becomes attractive modelling clay, a neutral, virtual mass to be fingered, a dynamic line of escape that opens the possibilities and soothes the pain. “The shape of the letters on my father’s [grave], gave me an odd idea that he was a square, stout, dark man with curly black hair. From the character and turn of the inscription, “Also Georgiana Wife of the Above,” I drew a childish conclusion that my mother was freckled and sickly. To five little stone lozenges, each about a foot and a half long, which were arranged in a neat little row beside their grave, and were sacred to the memory of five little brothers of mine [...] I am indebted for a belief I religiously entertained that they had all been born on their backs with their hands in their trousers-pockets, and had never taken them out in this state of existence.” (9) In a very striking way, Pip’s illiteracy, his inability to relate a word to a specific meaning, as he himself confesses – “My construction even of their simple meaning was not very correct” (38) –, make language materially intense: one single line is travelled around, its form is explored, “its character and turn” transform it into playing material, into a came of cubes and a bit of modelling clay, that Pip can invent stories from. Reality thus yields to the power of fictive reconstruction, and Pip’s illiteracy is turned into an asset: while in the major mode of narration, the words soberly fix the tragic reality of death, their opaque meaning to Pip turns them into hopeful mobile toys, that animate reality. Language is thus an invitation to travel, as Pip notices: “the writing was rather hilly” (39): nothing is fixed any more, nothing is defined, and opacity leads to indeterminacy and mobility.

  • 7 Ibid, p. 64.
  • 8 Henry James. “Robert Louis Stevenson”, Century Magazine, April 1888, in Roger Gard (ed.), Henry Jam (...)

6Pip and Jim undoubtedly use language as a factor of deterritorialization, as a way for everything to become fluctuant and unstable: “there is no longer man or animal, since each deterritorializes the other in a conjunction of flux, in a continuum of reversible intensities”7. In their horizontal world, for the achievement of which James praised Treasure Island so much (“the view of life from the level of a nursery-fender”8) there is no hierarchy, no separation: instead of defining and classifying the world, the children use language as an accelerator and as a solvent, they bully reality into constant becoming. The pirates trigger Jim’s imagination so much that they travel across the different reigns, they become everything at the same time – “I would see him in a thousand forms” (3), “Mostly he would not speak when spoken to; only look up sudden, sudden and fierce, and blow through his nose like a fog-horn.” (2) or “Now he was a monstrous kind of a creature who had never had but the one leg, and that in the middle of his body.” (3), “that filthy, heavy, bleared scarecrow of a pirate of ours.” (5) “with a face as big as a ham” (43). In exactly the same way, Pip’s reality runs a constant risk of mutation and dissolution: in his dynamic vision, the principal clauses that are devoted to reality grow shorter and shorter in the text, they are gradually gnawed at, colonised by a proliferation of shoots in “as if”, and the safe preterit of the adult gives way to the fictive present of the child: “I had seen the damp lying on the outside of my little window, as if some goblin had been crying there all night and using the window for a pocket handkerchief” (19) or “Something clicked in his throat, as if he had works in him like a clock, and was going to strike.” (21) Both quotes inscribe the linguistic trench warfare between the major mode and the minor mode, on either side of the commas: information, reality, vertical vision in the principal, major clause, and fictive present, escape, becoming in the subordinate, minor clause. Yet, Great Expectations stages the live defeat of the major mode, what we could call the becoming-modern of realism, as these minor clauses intrude upon the major ones, reduce them to the smallest share, and finally expel reality from the text: “Mr Trabb had sliced his hot roll into three feather beds, and was slipping butter in between the blankets, and covering it up.” (117) Here, Pip becomes a furtive invader, he insinuates the minor mode within, and no longer beside, the major clause: the derisory formal barrier that could contain the textwreck has yielded, the coma and the “as if” are missing and reality has lost the game, the major mode has become minor. Throughout the novel, the reader can witness an acceleration of such becoming process, until reality becomes absolutely fluctuant, until the function of language is certainly no more to ascertain, to determine reality, but on the contrary to make it iridescent. In Pip’s mode, the floor speaks and a dead hare winks at him – “I got up and went downstairs; every board upon the way, and every crack in every board, calling after me, ‘Stop thief!’ and ‘Get up, Mrs Joe!’”(18): here again, the minor mode occupies the front of the text, it is not under text arrest in any dependent clause – cows think (12), boots laugh (155), and statues give themselves airs in Jaggers’s office.

7But it is not reality only that children deterritorialize: the very form of language itself becomes transitory and arbitrary, and it is to “a grown-up sort of a child” (41), namely illiterate Joe Gargery, that we owe the most radical formal experiments. Joe is introduced by Pip as becoming matter – “[He had] eyes of such a very undecided blue that they seemed to have somehow got mixed with their own whites.” (12) – and indeed Joe transforms language into a personal means of resistance, he imposes his own faulty use as a constant dynamic breach into official codes. He generates his own everevolving dictionary, he endlessly extends vocabulary. The very sonorous adjective “which I meantersay as it is there drawd too architectooralooral” (171) stresses Joe’s endless and vibrant inflation of language – “I really believe Joe would have prolonged this word into a perfect chorus” (172) –, but the mistake according to the major mode becomes an benefit in the minor mode, it achieves a formal short-cut for a condensed architectural lecture, as the form of the word adequately mimics the convolutions of the building Joe describes, it is “mightily expressive of some architecture that I know” Pip comments (172). In the same way, Joe’s approximate use of the words “purple leptic fit” – instead of accurate “apoplectic fit” – to describe his father’s death, presents the same linguistic proliferation, and the same profitability of the mistake: Joe’s “gargerism”, as the Norton edition of the novel adequately labels Joe’s vocabulary irregularities, is much more telling that the proper form, as it immediately conjures up the alarming picture of a twitchy purple-in the-face man. But Joe does not only take liberties with vocabulary: he also gives quite a rough ride to grammar. There are abundant examples of his very personal use of grammar: he dislocates the linguistic units, changes the nature and function of words – “you have that gentlefolked”, he compliments Pip on page 170 – and basically he speaks a totally a-grammatical language: “And all friends is no backerder, if no forwarder.” (170) As often, the verb does not agree with the subject and the comparative form is distributed at random on invented words: language is a constant process for Jo, nothing is set, as his extensive declension of the verb “to Bolt” shows. The verb in turns becomes a noun, a transitive verb, an intransitive verb, an adjective, an adverb in Joe’s stammering tongue-in-progress: he has managed to introduce a minor resisting mode within the homogeneous positional realist system, and to propose a dynamic way out of the prison text Pip deplored at the beginning of the novel.

8There remains to flush out the two superlative literary intruders that Great Expectations and Treasure Island conjure up, the two most radical UTOs – unidentified textual objects – that Pip and Jim oppose to the dominant mode, and that could very well be inserted in any anthology of the experimental novel, alongside Sterne, Joyce, or E.E. Cummings. Jim finds and treasures the pirate travelling logbook, and Pip babbles a modernist letter: both texts open up a literary alternative, a formal horizon.

9What is first remarkable about the first letter Pip writes to Jo is that it is totally useless and supernumerary, since first, Jo stands right in front of Pip, and since, as an aggravating circumstance, he cannot read. The letter has thus no function whatsoever apart from exposing its form, its materiality to Joe’s endless interpretation: as he can recognize only his own name in it, the rest becomes the pretext for endless digressions, the message becomes a drawing, a map, an opaque surface to explore in all directions, and to endow with an infinite meaning potential. Indeed, even to a reader a little more learned than Jo, the letter proposes a essentially dense and intensive form that extends meaning virtually endlessly: “MI DEER JO I OPE U R KRWITE WELL I OPE I SHAL SON Β HABELL 4 2 TEEDGE U JO AN THEN WE SHORL Β SO GLODD AN WEN I M PRENGTD 2 U JO WOT LARX AN BLEVE ME INF XN PIP.” (39) Becoming-animal, as dear Jo is turned into a deer, or as luck homophonically glides to larks, movingly becoming-son, with the soon/son shortcut, Pip’s language is “not quite good writing” (“krWitE wEll”), but it intensifies, it concentrates the power of words by exploiting to the full their materiality, their graphic and sonorous dimensions, by dismantling the official segmentation and turning language into a potential for infinite lines of escape. Remarkably enough, and whereas for the apprentice little writer, capital letters are easier to form, and indeed invade the letter – here again, form adds meaning, and makes Pip’s message capital indeed, a love declaration to the man who stood up by him against the sisterly ennemy – there is one notable exception. The “i” stands out, it is the only small letter, it asserts the minor mode.

  • 9 Gilles Dclcuze & Félix Guattari, Mille plateaux, Paris, Editions de Minuit, 1980, p. 11.

10Jim’s logbook is to some extent a twin text to Pip’s letter. Both logbook and letter equate writing to travelling, their very nature makes them journeying texts, thus getting close to the Deleuzian ideal: “Ecrire n’a rien à voir avec signifier, mais avec arpenter, carthographier, même des contrées à venir.”9 Indeed, Jim’s treasured text, Captain Flint’s logbook and the trigger of the whole adventure, is a written transcription of the map that is at the origin of the text – as Stevenson’s stepson, Lloyd Osbourne, asked for a story to match a map he was drawing – an attempt to turn the text into a neutral surface to be explored, and to disrupt sacrosanct linearity.

On the first page there were only some scraps of writing, such as a man with a pen in his hand might make for idleness or practise. One was the same as the tattoo mark, ‘Billy Bones his fancy;’ then there was ‘Mr William Bones, mate.’ ‘No more rum.’ ‘Off Palm Key he got itt;’ and some other snatches, mostly single words and unintelligible. [...]
The next ten or twelve pages were filled with a curious series of entries. There was a date at one end of the line and at the other a sum of money, as in common account-books; but instead of explanatory writing, only a varying number of crosses between the two.
There was little else in the volume but a few bearings of places noted in the blank leaves towards the end.” (32-33)

  • 10 Janet Adam Smith (ed.) Henry James and Robert Louis Stevenson: A Record of Friendship and Criticism (...)
  • 11 Ibid., p. 62.
  • 12 «L’aventure, c’est la forme de l’œuvre plutôt que sa matière», in Jacques Riviere, Le roman d’avent (...)

11In this anachronistic logbook, a flash forward in the history of literature, chronological chapters are replaced by random sections, to be read in any order. The course through the logbook is utterly free, there is no beginning and no ending, none of the traditional narrative compasses: no chronology, no identifiable system of narration or narrative structure or referenced narrator, and an extreme opacity of language. All the utterances are fragmentary and incomplete, ‘No more rum’, ‘Off Palm Key he got itt’ (33), and the reader progresses by mere random juxtaposition until the uncompromising final section, “a few bearings of places noted in the blank leaves towards the end” (33), the most radical of these children’s literary proposals. There, the text becomes like a colouring book, an open work that merely disperses a few lines of escape, that both concentrates and dissolves meaning. Like Pip’s letter, Jim’s bedside logbook is an intra-textual prototype, a concentrate of Stevenson’s and Dickens’s ideal literary form. They are the ultimate aims of the texts, their embedded solution and literary aspiration, their undermining minor mode. Children provide the text with its solution, and they illustrate Stevenson’s claim in the Gossip on Romance that “fiction is to the grown man what play is to the child” as well as James’s answer about Treasure Island: “It is all as perfect as a well-played boy’s game.”10 Pip and Jim manage to “become nomads in their own language”11, to assault the realist stronghold with their infant tongue: for Dickens and Stevenson, children become the form of the book, rather than its material, to paraphrase a famous definition of adventure by Jacques Rivière12. They dis-locate the text, and show the literary way.



DELEUZE Gilles & GUATTARI Félix, Mille plateaux, Paris, Editions de Minuit, 1980

DELEUZE Gilles, Critique et clinique, Paris, Editions de Minuit, 1993.

DICKENS Charles, David Copperfield, 1850, London, Penguin Books, 1986.

———, Bleak House, London, 1853, Penguin Books, 2003.

———, Great Expectations, 1860, New York and London, Norton, 1999.

ELIOT George, The Mill on the Floss, 1860, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1998.

GARD Roger (Ed.), Henry James, The Critical Muse: Selected Literary Criticism, London, Penguin Books, 1986.

RIVIERE Jacques, Le Roman d’aventure, Paris, Editions des Syrtes, 2000.

FERGUSON Russell (Ed.), Out There: Marginalization and Contemporary Cultures, New York, The New Museum of contemporary art, 1990.

STEVENSON Robert Louis, Treasure Island, London, Cassell, 1883, reissued, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1998.


1 Dickens confessed to such preference in the second preface to David Copperfield, written in 1869: “It will be easily believed that I am a fond parent to every child of my fancy, and that no one can never love that family as dearly as I love them. But, like many fond parents, I have in my heart of hearts a favourite child. And his name is David Copperfield.” (Charles Dickens, David Copperfield, London, Penguin Books, 1986, p. 47)

2 In an 1884 letter to James, Stevenson claims that form should be the only aim of a work of art: “People suppose it is the’stuff that interests them, [...] not understanding that the unpolished diamond is but a stone.” (in Robert Louis Stevenson: The Critical Heritage, p. 144). The same idea is developed in “A Humble Remonstrance”: “No art can compete with life. [...] A proposition of geometry does not compete with life; and a proposition of geometry is a fair and luminous parallel for a work of art.” (in Emma Letley, Introduction to Treasure Island, Oxford, O.U.Ρ 1998, p. XXIII).

3 Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari, “What is a Minor Literature?” in Russell Ferguson (Ed.), Out There: Marginalization and Contemporary Cultures, New York, The New Museum of Contemporary Art, 1990, p. 67.

4 Henry James, «Emile Zola», Atlantic Monthly, August 1903, in Roger Gard (ed.), Henry James, The Critical Muse: Selected Literary Criticism, London, Penguin Books, 1987, p. 405.

5 Gilles Deleuze, Critique et clinique, Paris, Editions de Minuit, 1993, p. 11.

6 Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari, “What is a Minor Literature?” in Russell Ferguson (ed.), Out There: Marginalization and Contemporary Cultures, New York, The New Museum of Contemporary Art, 1990, p. 67.

7 Ibid, p. 64.

8 Henry James. “Robert Louis Stevenson”, Century Magazine, April 1888, in Roger Gard (ed.), Henry James, The Critical Muse: Selected Literary Criticism, London, Penguin Books, 1987, p. 259.

9 Gilles Dclcuze & Félix Guattari, Mille plateaux, Paris, Editions de Minuit, 1980, p. 11.

10 Janet Adam Smith (ed.) Henry James and Robert Louis Stevenson: A Record of Friendship and Criticism, in Emma Letley, Introduction to Treasure Island, Oxford O.U.P., 1998, p. XX

11 Ibid., p. 62.

12 «L’aventure, c’est la forme de l’œuvre plutôt que sa matière», in Jacques Riviere, Le roman d’aventure, 1913, Paris, Editions des Syrtes, 2000, p. 69.


Agrégée, Maître de conférences at Bordeaux III University. She wrote her PhD on The Sherlock Holmes Stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. She specialises in late XIXth century British fiction, and has written articles on Dickens, Doyle, Stevenson, Conrad, among others. A book will soon be published entitled: Dickens, l'écriture comme travail, l’écriture comme résistance.

© Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 2007

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