Embedded narrative and the treatment of boundaries in The Manuscript Found in Saragossa (1797-1815)
This chapter isolates two major points of focus in the complex and encyclopedic text of Jan Potocki's The Manuscript Found in Saragossa. They are the formal feature of narrative embedding, and the cultural theme of the monstrous, uncanny or evil other. The chapter shows how the formal feature of narrative embedding focuses the relation between the two traditions of orientalism and the English Gothic, put side-by-side in Potocki's text. Potocki's idea of otherness touches not only the thematic boundaries of morality and education, but also the formal frontiers of textual/social hierarchy. The right time, place and people seem to have collaborated to ignite Potocki's intellectual curiosity in the Gothic. Orientalist societies that Potocki frequented were celebrating William Beckford's Gothic work that analogically rewrites the structure of the Arabian Nights and which provided Potocki with both Gothic and Arabesque mises en abime influences.
The essays in this book demonstrate the importance of translation and European writing in the development of the Gothic novel. Cross-cultural exchanges occurred with the translation of novels by English writers into French. The book first situates works by British writers and American writers within a European context and legacy. Next, it offers readings of less-known works by Gothic authors. The book introduces the reader to a range of neglected, albeit influential, European Gothic texts which originated in Russian, Spanish, French and German. It argues that the level of ideological manipulation, which occurred as texts were translated, mistranslated, appropriated, misappropriated, altered and adapted from one language to another, was so considerable and so systematic that generic mutations were occasioned. The book suggests that Matthew Lewis's The Monk offers a few models of femininity, all deriving from and intended to disrupt, previous literary representations. It focuses on the automatic and the systematic in Charles Maturin's work in relation to Denis Diderot's contemporary philosophical conceptualizations of consciousness and identity. Gothic treacheries are dealt with through Samuel Coleridge's analysis of misappropriation of Friedrich Schiller's Die Rauber. The book also discusses the representations of ritual violence, as sanctioned by the Catholic Church, in English and Spanish pictorial and literary texts between 1796 and 1834. It talks about the Arabesque narrative technique of embedding tales within tales to create a maze in which even the storyteller becomes lost, reflecting the Eastern notion that the created is more important than the creator.
Nihilism and the sublime, as evoked by the constant deferral of
meaning, are important elements in Ahlam Alaki’s essay,
‘Potocki’s GothicArabesque: embedded narrative and the
treatment of boundaries in The Manuscript Found in Saragossa
(1797–1815)’. Alaki here examines the narrative technique
of embedding and the representation of the Other in this complex work