Michela Canepari-Labib

This paper was suggested by the need I felt, in this postmodern era in which "theory" often seems an extension of "narrative", to examine the metaphors that writers use in literature within the wider context of the critical discourses surrounding them. In particular, I wanted to explore the degree of their interaction with those critical discourses in order to determine the nature of their "newness." I therefore decided to rethink, in this light, the relationship between literary and critical metaphors in terms of influence and circularity, asking basilar questions such as "are the metaphors used in literature influenced by the ones critics employ?" And, in turn, "are the metaphors employed in criticism influenced by those writers use?", considering finally whether these metaphors are then primarily contagious.
In order to do this, I decided to refer to the work of one of the structuralists who also became one of the main exponents of poststructuralism, that is Roland Barthes, and a contemporary novelist who has all too often been accused of writing "theoretical novels", namely Christine Brooke-Rose.

Brooke-Rose and Theory
Because of her privileged situation of being born of an English father and a Swiss mother, and of being brought up in Belgium, educated in London, just to move to France in her middle age, Brooke-Rose has always enjoyed a position on the border of different cultures, countries and languages, and throughout her life has been able to take advantage of the best each country had to offer to her. This, of course, includes many of the theories elaborated in France during the second half of the twentieth century. This position on the borders, actually led to the paradox that, while in Britain she is considered as the one who attempted to introduce the French nouveau roman and structuralist/post-structuralist theory to this country, in France she is seen principally as a teacher and critic of British and American narrative, which she taught in Paris from 1968 to 1988, before retiring to Provence in order to concentrate on writing her novels.
One cannot deny the influence that the nouveau roman and structuralism had on her work, but even though until very recently she has been dismissed by critics as an author who has been over-influenced by French culture, one should always remember that Brooke-Rose made a clear choice regarding the language and, consequently, the nationality of the readers she addresses1, and that she didn't read any theory until 1968 when, after the publication of her third experimental novel (Between), she moved to France and plunged into the structuralist and post-structuralist debate.
We cannot therefore read her novels of the 1960s as a simple narrativization of the theories formulated in France during the same period, because these same theories were still unknown to her when she started to write experimentally, and were approached by the author only later whereupon she welcomed them as a confirmation of what she had been trying to do with her first experimental texts. One might be therefore tempted to see the path that Brooke-Rose took from 1964, when she turned experimental and published Out, as a parallel and independent investigation of the same issues that were the focus of much theoretical discussion, and though the general intellectual atmosphere obviously stimulated her development, the change of perspective in her works was brought about by personal reasons 2.
It is however undeniable that after moving to France and plunging into the theoretical debates of structuralism and post-structuralism, her attitude towards (and knowledge of) theory underwent a radical change.
What remains constant in the novels Brooke-Rose produced before and after moving to France, is a different conception of narrative which results in a questioning of the very notion of reality on which 19th century realism had relied, resulting in the refusal of the notion of the vraisemblable and of the idea that the author is simply transcribing the world.
After the first four conventional novels she published during the 1950s, in fact, Brooke-Rose begins to see the real in all its social, political and historical aspects as conventionally determined and, more profoundly, as a concrete effect of language. This notion of reality as constructed through and through by language, is therefore at the heart of Brooke-Rose's new conception of the novel, whose ambition was then to make the reader aware of the fact that what s/he has been led to believe to be real is actually a non-original product.
The experimentalism Brooke-Rose exhibits in her novels, together with the defamiliarisation her texts enact, thus come close to achieving what was the aim of structuralism, that is to bring to consciousness what is taken as natural and reveal it as a construct.
We should however specify that to say that Brooke-Rose assimilated some of the concepts of the structuralists does not mean that she accepted their theories in toto, and this is what rendered her attitude towards literary theory after 1968 so fresh and new, and which, beginning with Thru, led her to question these theories more openly than she had done in the novels prior to 1975. By moving to Paris, Brooke-Rose finally realised she was not alone in what she had been trying to do with her work since she turned experimental. This, of course, does not mean that Brooke-Rose, since arriving in Paris, had grown obsessed with theory, and automatically subordinated her narrative to it, but it is quite unarguable that since discovering theory she had grown more conversant with it, and that her interest resulted in a fundamental concern with theory in both her critical works and her novels. Hence, if some of her early experimental novels appear a bit tentative and not completely convincing in terms of their theoretical apparatus, in her later novels (in particular Thru and Amalgamemnon, on which this paper focuses), she shows not only an extraordinary mastery of theoretical notions, but also an unparalleled ability to integrate "theory" into her "narrative".
Consequently, although Brooke-Rose has often used her narratives to expose the inconsistencies of the theories approached, she has equally demonstrated to rely abundantly on theory and the images created by certain critics such as Barthes, and to be working, in her novels, precisely to render some of these theories more intelligible for the general public.
As my title suggests, this article focuses on the image of the spiral which underlies many of Brooke-Rose's novels and which has equally played a fundamental role in Barthes' criticism. Amongst the many novels in which we find the image of the spiral, I have chosen to focus my discussion on Amalgamemnon, where the spiral determines the narrative on both thematic and structural levels, and Thru, trying to clarify the relationship between the use that Barthes in his critical work and Brooke-Rose in her novels make not only of the image of the spiral, but also of other critical notions such as "the death of the author" and the linguistic nature of identity.

The Spiral Structure of Amalgamemnon
In an attempt to make her readers realise that identity is not a natural given but a construction of the language the individual is exposed to, after the publication of her first experimental tetralogy, Brooke-Rose begins to play more overtly with the ontological status of her characters and increasingly blurs the boundary between the first degree fictionality of the world she creates and the second degree fictionality of the worlds to which her narrators give birth in their narrative. By so doing, she more openly foregrounds the impossibility of escaping from the fictionality which, stemming from the effects language has on reality, envelops our world and our notions of identity.
Amalgamemnon, which is entirely focused on the opposition between the past and the future in different areas of society, is perhaps the novel which more strongly foregrounds this notion of the fictionality of the real (as everything described is the result of the narrators' efforts of imagination), and is characterised by the parodic tone with which various preconceived notions derived from Western history are treated, by the rhythm created by the tense used (predominantly future), by the mythological imagery her novel evokes and by the rhetoric of classical history which Brooke-Rose's text reproduces both by inserting into her narrative passages from Herodotus' Histories as translations or paraphrases, and by assigning names of Latin and Greek origin to her characters, thus demonstrating how the past cannot be washed away.
The narrative material is constituted by the thoughts of the central character (a teacher of the humanities who risks being made redundant) her memories and some fragments of her classical knowledge mixed (or rather amalgamated) with both the situations, fairy-tales, love-affairs and dialogues with students, friends, and relatives she creates in her mind (who often desert the roles she assigns to them and enter the first degree fictional world that she inhabits), and with extracts from the news, advertisements, quiz-games and talk-shows that the radio broadcasts and which often function as a trigger for her imagination, displacing the discourse to another time, space and narrative situation.
Although everything can therefore be assumed to be filtered through the same consciousness, which is clearly imagining all that described and which is apparently easily identifiable, in the first passage, the "I" we find in the opening line (reminiscent of Beckett's Malone Dies) remains anonymous and assumes a name only later: "I shall soon be quite redundant at last despite of all, as redundant as you after queue and as totally predictable, information-content zero" (Brooke-Rose: 1984, 5)3.
On the following page, the narrator is identified by the surname "Enketei", a term composed of the Greek forms for "inside" and "whale"4 which determines the narrator's choice of a first name and the astronomical imagery the novel exploits. However, before the reader gets to know what we must assume to be her first name (namely Mira, finally introduced on page 32), the narrator already assumes a second identity, that of Cassandra, the prophetess doomed never to be believed by her fellow Trojan citizens (Brooke-Rose: 1984, 7). The mechanics of this primal split, which leads the narrator to be identified in the text primarily as Sandra, is repeated throughout the novel and opens up a series of further identifications through which the narrator empathises with the figments of her imagination, perpetually assuming several, shifting identities.
The continual transgression of narrative levels by the narrator and by the doubly fictional characters she imagines thus assumes a fundamental role, as it is through these metalepses that Brooke-Rose can propose the problematicity of any exact definition of the ontological status of the characters and the worlds the novel constructs.
In fact, because in astronomy Mira has connotations of variability - it being the name of a variable star in the constellation of Cetus which, in Latin meaning whale, also recalls the mythical image of Jonah, with whom Mira at times identifies (Brooke-Rose: 1984, 17) - the name the narrator assumes, becomes an indication of her shifting identity, the astral body's magnitude being metaphorically exploited to represent the individual's identity.
However, if the interest in astronomy Brooke-Rose shows in Amalgamemnon is related to the interest in scientific discourse she developed during the 1960s, here it is more relevantly connected to her desire to demonstrate the extraordinary weight that the past necessarily has on our present and the impossibility, in all areas of society, of deleting our heritage from the way we think and talk about the world.
We can therefore see how Brooke-Rose, one the one hand, urges the reader to find new ways to approach reality other than those inherited from past tradition and strives to demonstrate the untenability of many conventions, while on the other she acknowledges the substantial presence of this heritage in our modern society, and emphasises the necessity of maintaining this legacy alive.
In fact, Brooke-Rose does not believe in burning all the theoretical systems on which our civilisation relies to ashes, nor does she believe that the past could and should be swept away in so far as, sooner or later, it will return. What she does believe in, is a more critical attitude towards this past. Consequently she urges the reader to be attentive to this past, an in order to do so, she exploits the etymology of the words she uses and she intertextually introduces many classical allusions which, by inflecting the modernity she wants to express through her experimentalism, stimulate the reader to acknowledge the history in language and the fact that words stem from an undeletable past.
Hence, since astronomy is closely related (on a linguistic level) to mythology and classical history, this science is proposed in the novel as a counterpart or extension of Herodotus' Histories. In addition, by exploiting the imagery suggested by astronomy (which pertains to pure science, that is science which deals with supposedly natural products), and by positing it on the same level as classical history (which pertains to human science and deals with cultural products), Brooke-Rose not only emphasises the classical heritage of a modern science like astronomy, but also effectively blurs the distinction between the two.
Consequently, by obfuscating the dividing line between the cultural and the natural, she shows how a "pure" science such as astronomy must adopt the same metaphorical language that literature (and other human sciences) use, thus demonstrating how all descriptions of the world fundamentally correspond to metaphorical constructions through which human beings try to make sense of their surrounding reality.
Thanks to Brooke-Rose's exploitation of the metaphoricality of the denomination of stars and constellations, they become in fact a source for stories, in so far as, just like the narrator's, the name of most of the characters present in the narrative derive from the names of stars, and it is their name which determines the role and personality that Mira creates for them.
It must be noted, however, that even though the narrator refers to herself as "Mira" more often than by any other name, and that she will return in the following novels of the tetralogy under this name, Brooke-Rose renders her ontological status more indefinite than ever, since the narrator's identity in Amalgamemnon as Mira Enketei appears simply as one identity among many.
In my opinion, a doubt is in fact raised whether what readers have assumed to be the cause of her identification with a constellation (her name) might be the effect of that identification, which might have occurred independently from, and previous to, her assumption of a name. Mira Enketei, in fact, could be simply one of the many stars in this novel which come to life as doubly fictional characters, merely another projection of an unidentified first narrator who remains hidden.
Even though it is easier to recognise the double fictionality of the characters present in the novel when the names designating them are different (as in the case of Sandra), on closer reading we realise that the various "Miras" we find in the novel as the characters of the various subplots of the text do not coincide with the Mira that we assume to be the first narrator, as most of these "Miras" are fictional Miras who coincide with the projection of a narrator who remains on a superior narrative level.
In the case of the "Usury" suplot, for example (in which a group of terrorists kidnap the concept of "Usury"), strictly speaking, this narrator does not directly coincide with the first narrator, but with Sandra who, in her turn, is a projection of the "real" fictional Mira of the first degree fictional world of the novel. It is precisely in this confusion of narrative levels that the determination of the narrator's ontological status - and consequently her identity - is lost, and the reader is left with a series of "Miras" to whom s/he cannot assign a precise place in the novel's universe.
Contrary to what critics have suggested until now, I therefore think we should look at this novel in terms of its different narrative levels, as from the start most of the narrators of the various narratives are narrators on the third degree, since they are created by Sandra, who inhabits the second degree reality of the novel which the first narrator Mira begins to shape as early as the first page, when she projects herself as queuing at the Labour Exchange and meeting a man called Willy.
Hence, it would appear that, while the first doubly fictional world of the novel is created during a night when Mira is unable to sleep because of her feared redundancy, all the other stories are created during the nights when Mira-as-Sandra leaves the bed where Willy is sleeping and finds refuge in Herodotus and her transistor-radio.
Because Sandra maintains all the essential properties of the first narrator (that is a woman teacher of the humanities who is possibly going to be made redundant), she becomes what Umberto Eco calls a "variante potenziale" of the first narrator (Eco: 1979, 142), and as such she becomes an example of transworld identity. They in fact share the same identity to such a point that it is at times difficult to distinguish one from the other, and probaby this is what leads readers to identify Mira as the name of the first narrator. In accordance with the second page of the novel, we must assume that Enketei is the "actual" surname of the narrator, which is passed onto her projection in the doubly fictional world she creates. In this second degree world, Sandra decides to project herself as Mira Enketei (Brooke-Rose: 1984, 32), thus reversing their roles and attaching this name onto the first narrator who has never introduced herself as Mira, but simply as Miss Enketei.
This Mira2 is another transworld identity who shares with Mira her "necessary properties" (Eco: 1979, 135) such as being a teacher of the humanities who receives letters from an annoying student called Ethel Thuban (another transworld identity), but who also acquires the accidental properties characteristic of Sandra, such as living on a pigfarm, and who finally gains distinctive characteristics when, during the "Usury subplot", she declares she has a daughter. The woman who imagines herself receiving the letter of redundancy and who meets Wally (Brooke-Rose: 1984, 124), should therefore be identified not with a projection of the first narrator, but with a projection of this Mira2 (Sandra2), who decides to retire to a pigfarm, and who in her turn hints at the possibility of letting herself be abducted by a band of terrorists (Brooke-Rose: 1984, 138).
Hence, although Amalgamemnon seems to be a circular novel which ends where it first began, in reality, the best representation for this text is a spiral.
The image of the spiral - which is introduced in the text as the "spiral of repression - terrorism - repression - terrorism" (Brooke-Rose: 1984, 41) - recalls on one level the image used by Giambattista Vico to represent the notion of the repetition of history delineated in his La scienza nuova (1725), and is therefore closely connected to one of the main notions behind Brooke-Rose's text, namely the fact that the past perpetually returns in our present.
At the same time, it can be used to illustrate, as Barthes did, the continuous shifts in narrative levels which become an important feature of what Barthes calls plural and "writerly texts", that is texts where text and criticism are confounded. These are texts which resist the imposition of defined meanings, oppose the reader's attempts to compose these meanings into a stable hierarchy, and by constructing themselves as a web where new meanings do not develop vertically / hierarchically, but are created by associations which develop horizontally, deny readers the power to arrest the play of meaning5. As we read in Barthes:
In a spiral, as in Brooke-Rose's Amalgamemnon, the reader cannot go back exactly to the point of departure, as even though the point of arrival seems to coincide with the point of departure, it is on a different narrative level. Consequently, the structure of the novel should in my opinion be represented as follows:
Here, we start at the very centre of the spiral with Brooke-Rose, who creates Mira, who creates Willy, imagining her life on the pigfarm as Sandra, who in her turn creates Mira2 and so on.
Hence, even though one could argue that the various transworld identities projected fundamentally coincide with the first narrator, this structure is in my opinion justified by the fact that the many transwolrd identities present in the text are also characterised by different accidental properties according to the doubly fictional world they belong to, which makes them precisely into potential variants of the first narrator, characterised by their transworld identity, as opposed to absolute identity (in which both necessary and accidental properties coincide).
The various worlds that Mira creates are therefore not only different (even though interrelated) from one another, but also consequential, in so far as, for example, Mira wouldn't have been able to imagine herself as held hostage by terrorists on her pigfarm if she hadn't already projected herself as having retired to that pigfarm.
In the novel, it appears clear that the various characters created by the narrator accomplish ontological jumps and, even though the world inhabited by Mira shouldn't be accessible to their doubly fictional worlds, they are yet able to access it and contact her. Furthermore, they seem to be clearly conscious of being creatures of someone else, and (going beyond the transworld identities of the various narrators) they identify their creator as the first narrator who lies behind Sandra and Mira2 (Brooke-Rose: 1984, 58, 61, 71).
Consequently, on the one hand, the various narrators have access, in virtue of their "transworldliness", to the information stored in the first narrator, who passes her thoughts, fears, and knowledge along the spiral of narrative levels to the various transworld identities she chooses to assume. On the other, the various characters also seem to be able to travel freely from one narrative level to the other, making their text coincide with the metatext they create each time they address their creator.
The dividing line between one level and another is therefore blurred, and adumbrates the identification of who the narrator and the narrated are, in so far as the narrators of each level accomplish various ontological jumps through which they reverse the role between themselves and the characters they create, whom they feel more "real" than themselves (Brooke-Rose: 1984, 32, 48).
These ontological jumps are actually the consequence of the first inversion between character and narrator which took place when Mira decided to project herself as a character, and while they should be read as an acknowledgement of Brooke-Rose's narrator's fictionality in relation to the extra-diegetic world, they also should be read as Mira's acknowledgement of her lack of concreteness in the world of the novel.
In the world of Amalgamemnon, the narrator is in fact deprived of her identity, and has to substitute the "real" fictional Mira with the conception that the novel's society has of her. It is precisely to prevent this idea from becoming more solid and concrete than herself - like the characters she creates out of her imagination - that Mira struggles throughout the text by identifying with other characters and shifting identity continually, thus becoming unrecognisable and, consequently, uncategorisable.
Throughout the novel, Mira has in fact to resist the imposition of the "feminine" identity which the phallocratic society she inhabits tries to impose upon her obliterating her individuality and silencing her being. In Amalgamemnon, however, the feminine is able to find an expression within the discourse spoken by the society Mira inhabits, and thanks to her technique of mimicry, she is able to denounce the phallocratic approach that Herodotus assumed in his Histories, which spread the prejudices and clichés that still dominate society's attitude towards women, albeit unconsciously, determining the double standard which is so universally applied that it has come to be regarded as the norm (Brooke-Rose: 1984, 23, 40, 135).
It is precisely this repetitive, brain-washing discourse that Mira is exposed to throughout Amalgamemnon, and because the whole novel is centred on the pseudo-future the Media, and the computerised technology they use, create by speculating endlessly on every piece of information they can gather, redundancy (one of the central concerns of this text) must be understood both in its social and in its informational sense not only because in her technological society the humanities are, as such, redundant, but also because, as a woman, the narrator is relegated to be the redundant sign in relation to the male.
Hence, in this novel Brooke-Rose suggests that woman has been transformed by our phallocentric society into a compensatory of man: woman must feed on the male discourse and simply re-represent it, for, should she dare to dissent and carry different information, man would immediately silence her.
We can therefore see how by continually shifting identities Mira opposes the attempt that society and her lovers make to impose an identity on her, and her loss of a fixed identity along the spiral of the many narrative levels the novel consists of, coincides with her victory over the system. True, the identities Mira creates for herself must be deconstructed in the morning and replaced by the identity of the "semidiotic" woman which will meet the expectations of society (Brooke-Rose: 1984, 15), but even though the man "dissembles" her, Mira can "quietly and secretly reassemble" herself later (Brooke-Rose: 1984, 48), and is able to assert that "sooner or later the future will explode into the present despite the double standard at breaking points" (Brooke-Rose: 1984, 16).
Consequently, although she acknowledges that woman has always been turned into the "unconscious" and the "Other", Brooke-Rose leaves hope for her final affirmation, that is for the "return of the repressed prodigal" to which the novel repeatedly refers to (Brooke-Rose: 1984, 13), the return of that which has been repressed and which, according to Freud, sooner or later finds a voice in the language of symptoms, dreams and parapraxes.
The numerous metalepses that Brooke-Rose inserts in Amalgamemnon and the peculiar structure of this text, then, correspond not only to the way she unsettles her readers in order to stimulate their reading capacities and demonstrate the fictionality of the world of the novel, but they also become the tool through which the narrator can oppose society's coercive imposition of a fixed identity. Through the many shifts and variations it has to endure throughout the text, in fact, this identity is demonstrated to be non-existent and to be only a construction of the words spoken by the society Mira inhabits and of the words that she utters, magically creating for herself different identities, variable genealogies and alternative ontological statuses.
This is the reason why, contrary to what some critics have suggested (see for example Lecercle: 1991), I really think we should consider the world constructed in this novel as one of the most admirable examples of what Umberto Eco called "possible world".
In Amalgamemnon, the characters' ontology renders all definition of reality dubious (therefore identifying the worlds of the novel as "possible"), in so far as the double fictionality of everything described in the text is openly asserted from the very beginning. The text is entirely written using non-constative, non-realised verbs, and the imposition of this grammatical constraint puts all that is described in the text under the sign of (double) fictionality, enabling her to create a proleptic novel (Brooke-Rose: 1989, in UOD, 33).
As a consequence, nothing actually happens in Amalgamemnon, and contrary to what reviewers said on publication, its subject is not "a woman humanities lecturer who is suddenly made redundant" (Morton: 1984, 10), for Mira's redundancy is presented from the very beginning as a future possibility and is never confirmed, thus openly making the world of the novel "possible".

The Writerly Text par excellence: the case of Thru
As I hope the previous section has suggested, Brooke-Rose's fiction is therefore heavily influenced by various theories (structuralist, post-structuralist, feminist and so on), and although when she began her career as an experimental writer she hadn't read any theory, after moving to Paris in 1968, she began to use her novels to investigate the same problematics that were the focus of much theoretical discussion developed on the continent during the same years.
In particular, as we have seen, Barthes' writing often seems behind Brooke-Rose's texts, which could be easily identified as Barthes' "wtriterly" and "plural" texts. As we have seen, fundamental to Barthes' notion of the writerly and plural text is the image of the spiral, which opposes the staticity of the circle and replaces its closed course with a more open and dialectic structure.
In an attempt to challenge the reader's models of intelligibility and reveal that which readers assume to be natural is actually a product, the writerly text therefore resists interpretative reduction, showing how the naturalisation readers pursue is an arbitrary imposition of meaning.
Although the creation of a "world" is, generally speaking, in opposition to the idea of the writerly (as any conception of "writerly" relies on the linguistic nature of the text), because the worlds constructed by Brooke-Rose's novels are, precisely, "possible", they overtly posit themselves as a construction of words, and since they continually resist naturalisation and, through the profound ambiguity that permeates them, the imposition of an unambiguous meaning, they can be defined as writerly.
Brooke-Rose's elimination of the narrator (whom she replaces with an anonymous character who remains throughout completely undramatised), and the spiral structure she imposes onto her texts, thus become the primary sources of resistance, from which derive all other aspects that make these into writerly texts. In fact, since the identification of a narrator and the possibility of designating him/her a proper name are the principal ways of naturalising fiction, the elimination of the narrator impedes the text's complete naturalisation, preventing the reader from recuperating other fundamentals: often the discourse of the central character does not enable readers to determine which events occurred in the text (the true / false opposition Barthes mentions when describing the writerly text), which characters are "actual" in the possible world of the novel, which words have been spoken and by whom (the Barthesian origin of the enunciation), and so on.
Furthermore, the novels' spiral structure and the characters' discourse itself - in which different parts of other people's and their past speeches are brought together, extracted from their postulated original context and put into a new context - enable the creation of new connections, thus expanding, just as in Barthes' plural text, the web of meanings.
If Amalgamemnon can be described as "writerly" in virtue of its structure, however, the work by Brooke-Rose which represents her finest example of writerly text is undoubtedly Thru, where she tries to overcome the split between the two people she had then become - "teacher and scholar and critic on the one hand, creative writer on the other" (Brooke-Rose: 1977, 135) - by attempting to bring them together in one textual act.
The result is a very demanding text in which the reader encounters textual blocks on several levels: the many theories to which the text refers (often anonymously), the ontological ambiguity enfolding the characters and the novel's world, and many typographical devices, in particular various verbal icons which are exploited by the author to suggest that everything is language, and whose decipherment brings additional meanings to the narrative and renders, as with the best writerly texts, the practical participation of the reader essential.
Further to this, Brooke-Rose centres her entire novel on one of the main features of the plural text as described by Barthes, namely the impossibility to answer the question "Who speaks?" (Barthes: 1968, in Oeuvres Complètes, vol. II, 491; 1970, in Oeuvres Complètes, vol. II, 582), and this inability is closely connected to the Barthesian notion of "the death of the author" which is explicitly introduced in the novel (Brooke-Rose: 1975, 693). Just as in Barthes as soon as the author begins to write s/he loses his/her identity and simply becomes the one who says "I", the subject who only exists in the speech-act that defines him/her and who exists as such only in so far as s/he speaks (Barthes: 1966b, in 1984, 191), so in Thru, in which the notion of character as a discrete individual is dismantled, the authors/narrators introduced in the text are, from the very beginning, simply linguistic subjects. However, their linguistic nature is justified not only by the fact that they posit themselves as the subjects of the enunciation, but also because they are the linguistic constructions of someone else.
Consequently, the lack which in Barthes lies behind the "I" is asserted more strongly in Brooke-Rose, in so far as behind the various "I"s present in the text there is both the emptiness idiosyncratic to each subject and the emptiness characteristic of a character as such, behind which, s/he being fictional, there cannot be a person but a mere construction of words.
The various narrators of Thru being mere linguistic signs, what speaks is therefore language itself, and just as for Barthes "by deleting the writer's signature, death founds the truth of the work, which is enigma" (Barthes: 1966, in Oeuvres Complètes, vol. II, 42), in Thru the mystery of the narrator's identity remains unsolved. The following diagram, in fact - where added to Derrida's "trace" and "architrace" (1967, 142) we can reconstruct "story", "mystery", "text", and the Barthesian "enigma" - openly re-proposes the problematic identification of the narrator as the "Mystery of the Eye" (i.e. of the 'I'), and concludes by asserting the fictional nature of these characters who are here identified with 'PapYrus eye's':
(Brooke-Rose, 1975, 584).
Thanks to the hermeneutic delay Barthes would describe in 1970, then, the enigma of the text will be maintained throughout the novel. Just as in the best plural texts, in fact, in Thru the reader is confronted with an ever-increasing number of voices whose origins remain ambiguous: not only is the reader unable to identify the narrator who is speaking at any particular time, but, more fundamentally, the novel plays with many theories whose sources are not always identified. Hence, just like the plural text, Brooke-Rose's novel becomes a multivalent text constituted by a series of "quotations without quotation marks", in which property is transgressed (Barthes: 1970, in Oeuvres Complètes, vol. II, 584).
Consequently, the notion of intertextuality becomes here fundamental, and is therefore given an iconic representation in the central image of the driving mirror, which represents the idea that the author is simply re-handling preceding texts and that, just as the driver has to check in the mirror what is happening behind the car in order to proceed safely forward, so the author, to advance, has to check and internalise his/her past.
The image of the mirror is actually fundamental in this novel: it is evoked in the title (reminiscent of Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass), it opens and closes the novel, and is at the basis of the whole play with the characters' ontological instability.
The alternation and reversal between the role of author and that of character could in fact be read as a game of mirrors which perpetuates the creation both of the meaning and of the text. In Thru, language creates in fact more language, and the deconstructive force of the novel (namely the fact that the text constructs itself just to destroy itself as it develops), becomes its generative force, leading not to the destruction of the text but to the creation of a different text.
However, in Thru not only does the driving mirror reflect, as usual, the reverse of the original, but also, because of the anti-glare device we must assume it is provided with, it has the peculiarity of displacing and distorting the image it reflects7. Hence, Brooke-Rose's mirror offers a displaced and decentred reflection, and it is precisely because of this displacement effect that the icons miming the "desegmentation" discussed during a faculty meeting should also be read as a mirror image in which the left side is mirrored, and slightly displaced, on the right:

(Brooke-Rose: 1975, 615, 734)
It is in consideration of these mirror images that this novel, which just like Amalgamemnon has been until this moment analysed in terms of circularity, should in my opinion really be read in relation to a spiral, as this figure best represents the imperfect coincidence of the object and its reflection which is fundamental to Thru. The spiral therefore best represents the structure at the heart of Thru as well as of Amalgamemnon, not only because both meaning and text are continually created thanks to the many shifts in narrative levels which make it impossible for the text to go back exactly to where it began, thereby leaving the work open, but also because even though the text seems to repeat itself, the paradigms of the original are slightly altered.
In this light, then, I would submit that the visual arrangements of the text such as this:

(Brooke-Rose: 1975, 618/9),
according to which the letters floating on the page are not ordered in circles as it initially seems, but in spirals, and typographical devices such as printing of parts of the text from right to left (Brooke-Rose: 1975, 599, 669, 741) or upside down (Brooke-Rose: 1975, 605), not only stand for Brooke-Rose's insistence on the book's materiality, but also (and more importantly) function as the reflected images in which the original gets displaced and subverted.

We can therefore see how Brooke-Rose seems to proceed along a sort of circular path according to which she first begins with a critical notion borrowed from Barthes, using it as a metaphor in her narrative, just to end by going back to criticism in order to refer to other critical notions such as "the death of the author" (which she applies, in a sort of mise en abîme, to her central characters) and the linguistic nature of all forms of identity.
Both in Amalgamemnon and in Thru, in fact, Brooke-Rose's characters hint at the fact that language does not simply represent, but actually creates the Reality it supposedly describes, pushing into problematic status the notion of a fixed identity that Western philosophical tradition has proposed over the centuries.
This is actually the main thematic on which much theory has focussed during the second half of the twentieth century, and considering the fact that Brooke-Rose's novels, as I have suggested above, heavily rely upon theory, her attacks against those same theories (for example in her critical articles), and her harsh attitude towards virtually all her critics (whom, she maintains, rather than bringing her texts alive through what she calls "old fashioned" criticism, most of the time do nothing else but submerge her texts by learned references to a multitude of theories), actually comes as a surprise.
In fact, although on some level Brooke-Rose's work is characterised by a general attitude of demystification which, after her move to France, became increasingly directed towards a number of theories whose dogmatism and over-systematization she wanted to expose, her aesthetic attraction towards theory and her interest in beautiful systems, which she can use and play against one another, cannot (and should not) be denied.
Hence, if theoretically Brooke-Rose, together with other postmodernists, questions the legitimacy of criticism's reliance on "theory", implicitly positing once again the question of whether literary criticism is doomed to be permanently a sort of "servant" of literature (the creative writer enjoying privileges which are denied to the critic), practically it is indubitable that her (as well as others') texts themselves justify the critic's reference to theory.
Obviously, these references cannot and should not be used simply as "references", that is something which remains outside the text. In this case, in fact, rather than throw some light onto the text itself, these references simply become useless and irrelevant pieces of information which are left to float in midair, above (or maybe underneath) the text and not, as it should be, in the text. A competent textual analysis is generally the product of the whole encyclopaedia of the critic, which means that theoretical notions should find their place within the punctual analysis of the text under examination8.
If this is so, it is because (to answer some of the questions I raised at the beginning of this paper) the metaphors used in literature (at least in a certain kind of literary texts such as Brooke-Rose's) are definitely influenced by the ones employed by critics, in the same way that the metaphors employed in criticism are influenced by those writers use. I think in fact that there is no doubt that these metaphors and images are contagious: images of spirals, towers of Babel, labyrinths... all these have become part of the imaginary exploited by both creative writers and critics.
If on the one hand criticism characterises itself as a response to literature and its metaphors9, on the other literature (in particular the experimental novels of authors such as Anthony Burgess, Alasdair Gray, Gabriel Josipovici, Rayner Heppenstall and, obviously, Christine Brooke-Rose herself), becomes a means to explore critical and theoretical notions, while making the general public partake, at least in part, of that knowledge which was originally only open to academics.
This phenomenon - literature penetrating criticism and, conversely, criticism penetrating literature - should therefore be seen as part of the popularisation of culture which, contrary to the more pessimistic views, in the hands of our most capable writers can actually revive (just as the technological revolution) literature itself.
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