“In Your Own Words”: Intertextuality and Erasure in Jacques Roubaud’s Quelque chose noir

‘“In Your Own Words”: Intertextuality and Erasure in Jacques Roubaud’s Quelque chose noir’. Formes Poétiques Contemporaines (2019), Vol. 14: 105-120. 

This article considers the poetry of Jacques Roubaud, a member of the Oulipo whose constraint-based writing techniques often involve the revision and deformation of source texts. Focusing on his collection of poems Quelque chose noir (1986), it traces how the notion of erasure penetrates the text’s thematic concerns, as well as its formal properties and compositional techniques. The collection is a ‘livre de deuil’ (work of mourning), written after the death of the poet’s young wife, Alix Cléo Roubaud; the diary that Alix kept in the years leading up to her death constitutes an important hypotext. Roubaud’s collection reprises passages from her diary, transforming them, deleting pronouns, altering tenses, and replacing certain words with his own. Throughout Quelque chose noir, the language, themes and images of Alix’s journal constitute a form of transformative syntax, shaping the possibilities of the collection. The formal idiosyncrasies of Alix’s writing also reappear – her unusual use of punctuation, the intra-sentential lacunae that leave blank spaces on the page – at once signalling her presence in the subsequent text, and evoking the absence left behind after her death […]

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