A space in time: The experience of difference in Segalen's Stèles

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In his elegant study of lyric address, Poetry's Touch, William Waters suggests that when speakers in poems call out to you, they achieve a real atemporal interlocking of the moment when the poem was written and the moment when the poem is being read. In effect, through the directness of its address, the poem brings together the reader who reads and the poet who has written into a single moment of mutually shared experience. This essay argues that certain poems of Victor Segalen's collection Stèles bring about something very like Waters atemporal interlocking, but by surprisingly different means. Rather than relying on direct address to facilitate this sharing of experience, these poems dispense with address altogether and instead open themselves to the reader, paradoxically, through the force of their own speaking je. Understanding how such an opening occurs proves significant, because in showing that these poems do in fact establish an intimate connection with the reader by means of their je, this essay reveals one of the most deliberate rhetorical expressions of the otherwise purely theoretical notions of interpersonal and cultural space sketched out in Segalen's esthetique du Divers. © 2011 Taylor & Francis.

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Contemporary French and Francophone Studies

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