The Postmodern Treatment of Myth in the Writings of Michel Tournier
The Postmodern Treatment of Myth in the Writings of Michel TournierMelissa Barchi Panek, Ph.D.Director: Jean-Michel Heimonet, Ph.D.Michel Tournier defines his supreme mission of a writer to be the creation of a mythology which allows for interaction with his readers, who seem to be losing their critical faculties in our contemporary, postmodern world dominated by consumption. Our contemporary society has changed due to the end of the modern era with its reigning ideologies. Collapsing after the atrocities of the Second World War, modernity and the artistic and literary reactions referred to as modernism, have likewise been transformed. Myth continues to represent the collectivity of human existence, yet, in the short stories and the novels of Michel Tournier, myth represents the collapse of over-reaching ideologies inherent to the modern era. The grand narratives of modernity such as Christianity and Man's reason have been deconstructed in the postmodern era. The mythology of Michel Tournier expresses these trends towards the dissolution of modernity and creates individual, mini narratives which emphasize the particularity of individual existence.Tournier takes established mythical models rooted in Christianity, fables and legends of Western Civilization and re-contextualizes them. Through a semiotic reworking of core binary pairs of a myth, Tournier creates a third order level of representation which modifies the mythical model. The works of le Roi des Aulnes, Gilles et Jeanne, and Vendredi are illustrious of this third order level of signification. According to Ferdinand de Saussure, Roland Barthes and Claude Lévi-Strauss, the structural make-up of myth transforms established meanings according to the dominant cultural code. Barthes' semiological study of myth reveals the levels of representation through which myth creates meaning. Myth builds upon the denotative first orderlevel of language and through a connotative process, creates a second order level. This connotative process does not end on this second order, for in the writings of Tournier, this semiological process is continued to a third order which re-contextualizes the myth again. Tournier adapts myth to the unique traits of the postmodern era including deconstruction and playfulness by allowing the reader to provide the context of the story. As such we, the reader, take the place as author of our own individual mythology.
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