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A Changing Idea of Literature: The Bibliothque de la Pliade

Author(s): Alice Kaplan and Philippe Roussin

Source: Yale French Studies, No. 89, Drafts (1996), pp. 237-262
Published by: Yale University Press
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A Changing Idea of Literature: the

Bibliotheque de la Pleiade


A collection of literary texts, packaged in "stout and stubby tome[s],'

the Pleiade books are printed on bible paper, their leather bindings
coded in dramatically named colors- "Havana" for the twentieth cen-

tury; emerald green for the nineteenth; Venetian red for the seventeenth. The garamond font and layout have remained basically unchanged since volume one was produced in 1931. As of spring 1994,
there were 403 books-some 600,000 pages of text-in the series that
is called the Bibliotheque de la Pleiade, the Pleiade library.2 The study
of this vast collection-its evolution, its geography, the appearances
and reappearances of various authors and genres (from novels and poetry to philosophy and religion)-illuminates the very idea of literature in France during the-past sixty years. The Pleiade also illuminates
a specific instance of what critics in the United States have called
"canon formation" or, perhaps more accurately in the French context,
the "consecration" of a set of authors and texts.3
1. Lester G. Crocker reviewing the first volume of the Rousseau P16iade in Modern

Language Notes 75 (June 1960): 529-33.

2. Approximately one new Pleiade volume appears each month from the tditions
Gallimard; each new year sees ten new works and two reeditions. As of June 1994, four
hundred contracts for additional volumes have been signed and three hundred books are
currently in preparation. These statistics are based on the text of a lecture by Jacques

Cotin, director of the Pleiade at the tditions Gallimard, delivered at Montpellier, 22 May
1992 (typescript courtesy Jacques Cotin). All translations in this essay are the authors'
unless otherwise noted.

3. For very different approaches to these issues in France and the United States, see
Paul Benichou, Le sacre de 1'6crivain, 1750-1830. Essai sur 1'avenement d'un pouvoir

spirituel laique dans la France modeme (Paris: Jose Corti, 1973), and John Guillory,
YFS 89, Drafts, ed. Contat, Hollier, Neefs, C 1996 by Yale University.


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238 Yale French Studies

Although "Pleiade" immediately conjures up the French Renaissance school of poets and the defense of the French language, the
name-and the series-actually has more cosmopolitan roots. Jacques
Schiffrin, a Russian Jew who had emigrated to Paris by way of Geneva,
founded an independent publishing house called the Editions de la

Pleiade in the early 1920s.4 Schiffrin's "Pleiade" was from the Russian,
"pleiada," and according to oral tradition at Gallimard, it meant "to
package up" [empaqueter]: the books would be beautifully produced.5

Among the editors in the original publishing house, along with Schiffrin, were Boris de Schloezer, a specialist of Russian literature, and

Charles du Bos, an influential critic of Baudelaire and a comparatist

with links to Curtius and T. S. Eliot and a great affinity for
Hoffmansthal, whose work he introduced in France.6 Schiffrin's Editions de la Pleiade group was part of the vital cosmopolitanism of the

1920s, through its links to the Franco-Russian intellectuals, to Andre

Gide and his Nouvelle revue fran~aise group at Gallimard, and to the
series of artistic and literary seminars and concerts held at Pontigny,
where du Bos was especially active.
In 1926, when he first stepped in as literary director for the Editions

de la Pleiade, du Bos planned a collection of Russian texts (Mirsky,

Leskov, Aksakov, Pushkin) as well as a series called "Ecrits intimes,"
autobiographical and confessional writing, beginning with Stendhal's
Vie d'Henry Brulard and Nerval's Aurdlia, and designed to include
texts by Rosanoff, Fenelon's Ecrits intimes, and Saint Augustine's Soliloquia. Each volume was to be introduced by a major French writerMaurois, Jaloux, Giraudoux.7 Du Bos also envisaged a series called
"Collection des classiques de la Pleiade," first mentioned in his diary
in 1926, which was to include Shakespeare's sonnets, Dostoevsky,

Cultural Capital: The Problem of Literary Canon Formation (Chicago: University of

Chicago Press, 1993).

4. When, exactly, the tditions de la Pleiade began is unclear; one of the earliest texts
published was certainly Schiffrin's 1923 translation of Pushkin's Dame de pique, pref-

aced by Andre Gide (Paris: tditions de la Pliade, J. Schiffrin et Cie., 1923), 95 pages.
5. As told to Cotin and attributed to Brice Parain, Gallimard author and Slavicist. In
fact, Russian dictionaries give the meaning of "pleiada" as "group or movementetymology: French."
6. On du Bos, see Charles D6d&yan, Le cosmospolitisme litteraire de Charles du

Bos, vol. 2 (Paris: Sedes, 1966), 631ff, and Charles du Bos, ed. Dominique Bourel and
Hubert Juin, Entretiens de France Culture (Paris: Fac tditions, 1985).
7. Charles du Bos, Journal, vol. 3, 1926-1927, entry for 5 January 1926 (Paris: Correa, 1949), 14ff.

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Cervantes, Goethe, and Manzoni. His affinity for confessional literature remained a hallmark of the Bibliotheque de la Pleiade, which
eventually published Baudelaire ("Mon coeur mis a nu"), Montaigne,

Rousseau, and Chateaubriand among many other memoirists. The first

Pleiade publication of work by a living author was, not coincidentally,

also that of memoirist Andre Gide (Journal 1889-1939, 1939, no. 54).
In 1931, the Editions de la Pleiade launched the leather-bound collection called the "Bibliotheque de la Pleiade": number one, Baudelaire. It was Gide, as the primary shaper and visionary of literary
policy at Gallimard, who negotiated for the transfer of the Bibliotheque de la Pleiade collection to the Editions Gallimard, presumably

when financial independence for the small Editions de la Pleiade firm

was no longer feasible. Recalling the acquisition of the Pleiade in his
1943 journal entry (which he published in the Bibliotheque de la
Pleiade itself), Gide recalled the trouble that he and Jean Schumberger
had had in proposing the Pleiade to Gallimard:
It's this collection, created and directed so intelligently by Schiffrin,
that Jean Schumberger and I had so much trouble getting adapted. We

had to insist and fight for nearly two years before reaching an agreement. "I don't see what you find so remarkable in it," X insisted

"X" (Gaston Gallimard) finally acquiesced, and the Pleiade moved

to Gallimard in 1933. Schiffrin followed his creation to the big publishing house, where he remained close to Gide (he accompanied the writer

on his 1936 trip to the Soviet Union). While Schiffrin has gone down in
Gallimard legend as the originator of the series, du Bos's early links to
the Editions de la Pleiade have been forgotten; this is perhaps because
du Bos broke dramatically with Gide and his Gallimard/Nouvelle re-

vue fran~aise cohorts at the moment of his conversion to Catholicism

and didn't follow Schiffrin to Gallimard. (Instead he turned his energies to Catholic intellectual periodicals. He died in 1939 of tuber-

culosis.) But in concert with Schiffrin, du Bos had set an agenda for the
Pleiade series: the presence of the great Russian novels of the nineteenth century, the importance given to intimate and confessional
8. Andre Gide, Journal 1939-1949, Souvenirs, entry for 16 March 1943 (Paris: Gallimard, Pkiade no. 104, 1954). Edition cited, 1966, 212. Pierre Assouline, Gallimard's

biographer, identifies X as none other than Gallimard himself (Gaston Gallimard. Un

demi-siecle d'6dition francaise [Paris: Balland, 1984, rpt. Editions du Seuil/ Points,
19851, 189).

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240 Yale French Studies

literature, and the production of beautiful books and editions at reasonable cost.
Legend at the Editions Gallimard tells how, in the late 1920s, Schiffrin had been struck upon his arrival in Paris by the beauty and utility
of the "missal," the liturgical volumes printed on fine "bible paper"
that parishioners carried in their pockets to mass. These small books

were passed down through generations.9 Initially working for an art

editor, and attuned to the visual and tactile quality of books as objects,
Schiffrin took from those sacred volumes his inspiration for a series of
literary works on bible paper in a pocket format-books that would
last, and that, like the "missal," would be passed down. The founding
trope of the Pleiade-"livre de poche de luxe": a luxurious pocket

book- was based on this affinity to the missal. Not only authors and
titles were being canonized, but so were the objects-the books themselves. Or perhaps the canonical metaphor is inexact, as the spirit of
the early Pleiade was not so much about making literature sacred in an
official sense as it was about making it concrete and available.
Along with the idea of the library shelf contained in the name of the

collection-the Bibliotheque de la Pleiade-another thread remained

strong from the beginning. This was the idea of a traveling masterpiece
that Gide evoked in his Journal. On 8 January 1932, he wrote: "Between
Carcassonne and Marseille, I reread Andromaque ... in the charming

little Racine that Schiffrin gave me before leaving."'10 The Pleiade was
not "litterature de gare" (junk reading), but train reading. The advantage of the bible paper (actually obtained from cigarette paper manufacturers!) was that you could fit many, many pages of print in a volume
small enough to take in a suitcase. (There are other precedents, such as
the British anthologies of inspirational verse that the World War I
soldiers fit into their knapsacks to take to the front, which embodied
the corresponding notion of essential, life sustaining reading.)" Ini9. Philippe Roussin, interview with Cotin, 2 June 1994.

10. Gide, Journal 1889-1939, Pleiade no. 54, 1939 (edition cited, 1965, 1099-100).
Fittingly, Gide's Journal itself would be the first volume in the Pleiade collection by a
living author. One wonders if Gide weren't writing for the Pliade, given the number of

times he mentions it: 11 February 1934: "I'm soaking up Voltaire's Tales, little and big, in
the charming Schiffrin edition" (1197); 18 July 1934: "Lucien Leuwen in the Schiffrin
edition" (1207); 13 September 1938: Gide goes over the galleys for his Journal with
Schiffrin and spends two weeks on his translation of Shakespeare's Antony and

Cleopatra (1319); 22 September 1938: he rereads the galleys of his Journal for the Edition
de la Pliade; works on the Shakespeare preface, anxiously (1322).
11. Cotin used the expression "une bibliotheque necessaire" in his Montpellier

lecture (typescript, 3), doubtless echoing Malraux's famous phrase, "tout homme a qui
un art est necessaire" [every man for whom an art is necessaryl.

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tially the books were considered economical, assembling texts, in one

volume, that would have cost far more if purchased separately. In a

1966 advertisement, the Pleiade insisted on its double claim to luxury

and economy, a reconciliation of opposites worthy of Levi-Strauss's

definition of myth: "the most complete, the most elegant, the least
encumbering and the least costly."'12

These key features of the early Pleiade concept-the liturgical overtones, the idea of the pocket book and the travelling book, plus an
unproblematic view of the text itself (about which more below)-were
all explicit in this 1934 introduction to Montaigne's Essays by Albert
This edition is the first pocket edition of the Essays in one volume. The
essays have been called a breviary a hundred times. If they have, in
effect, the soul of a breviary, what remained was to give them the body
of one. And now, along with Cicero, the walker can say about them:

nobiscum rusticantur [go out in the country with us]. The establishment of their text has been uncontested for thirty years. [7]
The work itself was established; notes and commentary were mini-

mal; the book was portable and affordable and durable, like the Good
Book. It had just the right body for its soul.
If you walk into the library of anyone who reads in French, chances

are strong that the Pleiades will not be mixed with the other books but
displayed together on the shortest shelves, their leather bindings
touching one another, perhaps alphabetically by author, or perhaps
chronologically, according to their color. A 1934 poster for the series
insisted on the link between the Pleiade and the bookshelf: ["All the
classics on one shelf."] A 1960 advertisement vaunted the fact that 100
ordinary volumes of 250 pages took up two meters on the bookshelf,
whereas one single Pleiade represented six to ten ordinary volumes,
and the entire Pleiade collection of 178 volumes would take up a mere
5.5 meters.13 There were any number of American equivalents to the
12. Advertisement for the Album Stendhal de la Pliade, La quinzainelitteraire (115 October 1966): 30.

13. From the 1960 advertisement, tditions Gallimard archives: "Its formula, founded essentially on the use of extremely thin bible paper, opaque and inalterable, permit-

ted bringing together in one leather-bound volume, its spine decorated with real gold,
texts that until now were published on ordinary paper in six to ten volumes.... A
double savings: 100 ordinary 250 page volumes would take up 2 meters on the shelves of

your library. The texts they contain, published in the P1kiade, represent no more than 15
volumes and use only 50 centimeters. The complete collection, currently amounting to
178 volumes, occupies exactly 5.5 meters."

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242 Yale French Studies

Pleiade concept, also dating from the nineteen teens and twenties.'4
The Everyman Library, the Harvard Five Foot Shelf, Haldeman-Julius's
Little Blue Books, and the Little Leather Library all variously employed
a democratic rhetoric of self improvement. The Pleiade rhetoric did
not focus so much on self-improvement (the target audience was cultured amateurs of literature) as much as it did on an appreciation of a

literature rendered approachable, and available.'5

As for the notion of the "classics" employed in the 1934 advertisement, it corresponded to no standard sense of that word.'6 Baudelaire

and Poe make up volumes 1 and 2 in the collection; then the collection
zigzagged from the eighteenth to the nineteenth century, followed by a

few seventeenth century titles (the "classic" period for French literature, in literary historical terms). Voltaire, Stendhal, Racine, Laclos,
Moliere, and La Fontaine had their Pleiades by 1933. No Greek or Latin
classic existed for forty-three volumes, when Plutarch's Les vies des

hommes illustres appeared (numbers 43 and 44, 1937) on the heels of

Balzac. 17 Homer waited until 1955 for his Pleiade, number 115.
Thus the Pleiade "pantheon" of the thirties never corresponded to a

linear or even canonical history of literature. Homer, who would have

been first and foremost in any American "pleiade" of great books,
belonged to the University and to scholarly editions and therefore had
14. See Joan Shelley Rubin, The Making of Middle Brow Culture (Chapel Hill:
University of North Carolina Press, 1992), 165ff, on John Erskine's "great books" move-

ment for American university curricula, which, in a spirit similar to that of the Pleiade
project, "dismissed historical exegesis and philology as irrelevant ... cut across time

and place, and accommodated translations" (166). For a history of specific publishing
ventures making classics available in pocket format, see John Tebbel, A History of Book
Publishing in the United States, vol.2, The Golden Age Between Two Wars, 1920-1940

(New York: R. R. Bowker Company, 1972).

15. The early Pleiade idea of making literature available ("la diffusion") reflected a
preoccupation of both Gide and Malraux, who, as politically committed writers of the
1930s, were starting to think about these issues in connection with the onset of mass
media in Europe. Later, in 1958, when Malraux became French minister of culture,

public access to culture became a theme of his policy-making.

16. The specific question of the place of philosophical works in the Bibliotheque de
la Pleiade is outside the bounds of our study. We note, however, that the Pleiade project
was not identified uniquely with works of literature and that philosophy made a strong

showing from the beginning: Descartes (no. 40), Plato (nos. 58 and 64), Machiavelli (no.
92), Spinoza (no. 108), Alain (nos. 116 and 217), Kant (nos. 286,317, and 332), Marx (nos.
164, 204, and 298), the Stoics (no. 156) and the Presocratics (no. 345) figure in the catalog.
As for the term "classics, " it was used in France in the 1 930s much as it was in the United
States-as an umbrella concept for great cultural monuments, with no differentiation
between literature and philosophy.
17. See note 19, below.

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to wait his turn, in sharp contrast to the inaugural Pleiade author,

Charles Baudelaire, who belonged to the freer world of art and literature unbounded by the academy, whose scholarly manuals had condemned him for moral reasons and demoted him to the rank of "minor

poet."''8 Now, as the incarnation of poetic modernity, Baudelaire corresponded to the taste first imagined for the Pleiade volumes.'9
So although it has come to be identified for its Frenchness-a "lieu
de memoire," to echo the current phrase-the Pleiade was not con-

ceived as a national project. Baudelaire was followed by Poe, the American writer he had translated: the Pleiade began with a marked affinity
for the modern. Commercial considerations and questions of turf may
also have dictated early choices. The works published in the early years

were previously edited, no doubt available without copyright fee; the

texts were established and unquestioned; the notes were minimal. The
1934 Cervantes, for example, simply reprinted a French edition of the

Don Quixote dated 1614 and 1618;20 a short preface vaunted the fact
that only the slightest alterations had been done on the centuries-old
translation. On the other hand, there is a reason that the Pleiade came
ultimately to be identified with a national literature and with a traditional notion of literary canon. Among the first hundred volumes,

there were only seven foreign authors,2' and only five percent of the
first hundred writers were twentieth-century authors. As in any tradi18. See Antoine Compagnon's account of Lanson and Doumic's denigration of Bau-

delaire (as well as Rimbaud, Huysmans, Verlaine, and Mallarm6) in their literary man-

uals, in La Troisieme Republique des lettres. De Flaubert a Proust (Paris: tditions du

Seuil, 1983), 92.

19. Daniel Milo, in his study of the history of literary translations based on the
Index translationum, concludes that the 1930s mark a clear detachment from the classical canon: Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Balzac, and Dickens replace the Greeks and Latins in

popularity. See Milo, "La Traduction, un barometre culturel," Annales, ESC (JanuaryFebruary 1984): 92-115. Milo's argument doesn't apply perfectly to the Pliade, since his
notion of the receding "classics" includes not only Latins and Greeks, but also French

authors well-represented in the early Pleiade volumes: Corneille (nos. 19 and 20, 1934);
Moliere (nos. 8 and 9, 1933), Rabelais (no. 15, 1934), and Racine (no. 5, 1931).
On Malraux's recognition of Baudelaire's changing fortune in the 1920s, see his

L'homme precaire et la litterature (Paris: Gallimard/NRF 1977), 9-10: "The glory of

Baudelaire marks the fall of the authors of the literary manuals into the abyss," discussed by Henri Godard in L'autre face de la littgrature. Essai sur Andre Malraux et la

littgrature (Paris: Gallimard, 1990), 68.

20. For parts one and two, respectively. Similarly, Les vies des hommes illustres

(nos. 43 and 44, ed. G. Walter, 1937) reproduced Amyot's sixteenth-century translation,
known and beloved by French writers from Montaigne to Stendhal. See Andre Maurois,

"Le 'Plutarque' d'Amyot," in D'Aragon a Montherlant (Paris: Perrin, 1967), 153-67.

21. Poe, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Goethe, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Machiavelli.

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244 Yale French Studies

tional canon of great works, women were underrepresented: only Co-

lette, Sand, Sevigne, and Yourcenar had their Pleiade as of 1994.22


The Pleiade has an eccentric relationship to its own publication chronology and to chronologies in general. When an author is given a new
treatment in the Pleiade collection, the previous edition is rendered
obsolete. There is simply no more mention of it in the catalog. MartinChauffier exists no more, in the Pleiade catalog, as the 1933 editor of

Rousseau's Confessions; Gide is gone as the writer who introduced

Goethe in 1942. The only mark of that editorial history is in the disjunction between printing dates and the volumes' numbering system.
When an author is reissued under different editorship twenty or thirty
years later, the old editor's name disappears but the new edition retains
its previous number: the 1933 Moliere edited by Maurice Rat was the
eighth volume in the series; reedited in 1971 by Georges Couton, it is

still number 8. This number is carefully indicated on a page facing the

title page, part of the standard printer's note one usually finds on the
last page of French books: "This volume, the tenth of the "Pleiade
Library" published by the Editions Gallimard, was printed on bible
paper on the [date] on the presses of the X printing house." Each volume announces, at its very beginning, the fact that it is printed on bible
paper, a fact central to the founding identity of the object. As for the
careful numbering system, it is a recognition that the Pleiade series

contains a literary history in its own right. It is also, implicitly, a

ranking: Baudelaire will always be the first in this history.
The initial conception of the Pleiade collection, with Baudelaire at
the front, offered an alternative to the then-reigning conception of
literary history identified with the methodologies of the Sorbonne
professor Gustave Lanson, for whom the study of literature was scientific, context-bound, and chronological to the point of meticulous attention to sources: authors were to be read in light of their antecedents.
22. Although no Pleiade volumes bear their name on the cover, Marie de France,
Christine de Pisan, Pernette du Guillet, Louise Lab6, and Madame de Lafayette's La

Princesse de Clkves are included in Plkiade anthologies devoted to medieval poets,

sixteenth-century poets, and seventeenth-century novelists. See Poetes et romanciers
du moyen age (Plkiade, no. 52, 1939), ed. Albert Pauphilet; Poetes du XVIeme sihle

(Plkiade, no. 96, 1953), ed. Albert-Marie Schmidt; and Romanciers du XVIkhme sihle
(Plkiade, no. 131, 1958), ed. Antoine Adam.

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The Pleiade approached literary classics by way of the moderns, and

opposed to Lanson's idea of literary history an appreciation of literature at once intimate and writerly.

In the late 1920s, Andre Malraux conceived and developed an ambitious literary project to be published under the Nouvelle revue franSaise imprint, entitled Tableau de la litterature fran~aise, and which
might be thought of as the critical corollary to the editorial project of
the Pleiade. It was designed as a series of essays on French literature by
the leading contemporary French writers (not, we notice, by academic
historians of literature), many of whom were publishing their own
work at Gallimard. A decade later, Gide, founding editor of Gallimard's

flagship literary magazine, the Nouvelle revue fran~aise, and the person who had brought the Pleiade series to Gallimard, penned an introduction to the first volume of the Tableau, "From Corneille to Chenier." This brief text described the attitude toward the literary object
that distinguished the neighboring Pleiade enterprise from traditional
literary history:

It is not at all a History of Literature that the Nouvelle revue fran!aise

presents today to readers. Rather than reattach works to political, economic, or social movements, to spiritual or geographic climate, the

only reattachment we have sought, in the gallery of portraits you see

here, is that of painter to model: the effect of a predilection.23

If Gide played an important material role in the formation of the

Pleiade by his shepherding of Schiffrin's Pleiade series to Gallimard,

Malraux, having conceived of the Tableau de la litterature fran~aise

before the Pleiade existed, also holds the distinction of having conceptualized the Bibliotheque de la Pleiade apres coup. Throughout the
1930s and 1940s, Malraux was writing about culture and the mass
diffusion of art and literature. In his 1947 Musee imaginaire, Malraux
made an analogy between the art museum and the library that was
close to Gide's sense of literature in the Tableau: when great works of
art are assembled in a museum space, they reverberate, they speak to
one another. Great books enter into the library as a literary space, the
same way that works of art enter into the museum as an artistic space,
torn from their original context. In the museum, in the library, they
23. Andre Gide, "Avant-Propos," Tableau de la litterature franpaise, vol. 2 (seventeenth and eighteenth centuries) (Paris: Gallimard/NRF, 1939), "De Corneille a Ch&nier," 7.

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246 Yale French Studies

escape the limits of history to speak for themselves, unencumbered by

the weight of context.24

A literature of the past, in this view, was best presented by presentday writers. Contrary to the standard chronological understanding of
literature, works of the past could just as easily be illuminated by what
came after them as by what came before. Literary history was replaced

in this view by literary affinity, or, as the title, Tableau de la litterature

francaise would indicate, scholarship was replaced by a tableau-a
kind of artful display, akin to a museum display, where works of literature entered into conversation with one another. Such a relationship
among works might be considered the distant precursor to what would

come, many decades later, to be called "intertexts," rather than

sources or influences.
Malraux insisted, in L'homme precaire et la litterature, his 1977
reflection on literary esthetics, that the Pleiade collection was not

meant to be an accumulation of works, added on to one another over

time, but a space like the museum space, where works would meet
across time:
The analogy of the library revolution with that of the museum begins
with the works' availability. On the one hand, the Imaginary Museum,

with its color reproductions; on the other, the PlMiade Libraries, the
pocket classics, in each great language of culture. This availability

takes place, once again, in a "forward" direction: La Princesse de

Cleves finds echoes in La porte etroite, as Villon does in Verlaine, as the

primitives do in Gauguin.25

Malraux articulated a modern attitude toward a kind of reading

whose earlier spokesperson had been Proust, the Proust of Contre
Sainte-Beuve, for whom the true reader was the writer, not the scholar:
To read a poet or prose writer well, one must be oneself, not a scholar,

but a poet or a prose writer.... It's not rhetoric professors who have led
us to the beautiful verse of Boileau, it's Victor Hugo.... Rodin is the
true commentator on Greek statuary.26

This was the Proust who had no interest in conventional critical

chronology, who had the narrator of A la recherche talk about "the

24. On the connections between Malraux's Musee imaginaire, the Tableau de la
litterature francaise, and the P16iade concept, see Godard, L'autre face de la litterature.

25. Malraux, L'homme precaire et la litterature, 231-32.

26. Marcel Proust, "Journmes de lecture" in "Pastiches et melanges," in Contre

Sainte-Beuve (Pleiade, no. 129, 1971) ed. Pierre Clarac et Yves Sandre, 190.

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Dostoevsky side of Mme. de Sevigne."27 Albert Thibaudet, an editor of

several early Pleiade volumes, would later coin the phrase "la critique

des maitres," to describe the kind of literary criticism practiced by

working writers, which he distinguished in kind from a "critique des
professeurs. "28

It made sense, then, that writers and nonacademic critics wrote the
introductions to a number of the early Pleiade volumes, inviting the

reader into a literary, rather than a historical space. The introduction to

the Baudelaire volume was written by a scholar, Yves Le Dantec, but

Andre Billy wrote the introduction to Diderot (no. 25, 1935); Gide to
Shakespeare (no. 50, 1938) and to Goethe (no. 63, 1942); Jean Giono to
Machiavelli (no. 92, 1952); Albert Camus to Martin du Gard (no. 113,
1955); Roger Caillois to Montesquieu (no. 81, 1949) and to SaintExupery (no. 98, 1953).
The early volumes followed a certain model. More often than not,
prefaces indicated that the text was well established and that critical
apparatus was confined to a minimum:
Corneille (Lievre, no. 19, 1934): "The Corneille variants form such a

huge mass that, not wanting to make choices that certainly wouldn't
satisfy anyone, we have decided to renounce publishing them."
Diderot (Billy, no. 25, 1935): "The Diderot variants, or rather those of
his editors, are generally without interest. We haven't attached any
importance to them."

Cervantes (Cassou, no. 18, 1934): "Notes have been kept to a

minimum. "

Montaigne, Essais (Thibaudet, no. 14, 1934): "For thirty years, the text
has been established without any contestation."

In addition, the idea of chronological influence so central to Lansonian literary history was not obeyed. Lievre, editor of the 1934 Corneille, would read the seventeenth-century dramaturge by way of Bau-

delaire's modernity. In a note on M6lite, act 4, scene 9 ("J'irai d'entre ses

bras enlever Proserpine"), Lievre's annotation refers the reader to Bau-

delaire's "Dans l'enfer de son lit devenir Proserpine":

27. Proust, A la recherche du temps perdu, ed. Pierre Clarac and Andre Ferr6
(PMiade, no. 102, 1954), 378. In English: Remembrance of Things Past, trans. C. K. Scott
Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin, vol. 3, The Captive (New York: Random House,
Vintage, 1981), 385.

28. Albert Thibaudet, "La critique des maitres," in Physiologie dela critique (Paris:
Editions de la Nouvelle revue critique, 1930), 104-47.

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248 Yale French Studies

Perhaps it is a bit artificial to juxtapose this magnificent line with this

line of Baudelaire's verse.... [The former] resembles [the latter] only

by the way in which the name of the goddess is presented in the rhyme.

We do it, however, to call attention to the Baudelairian nature of a great

number of Corneille's verses. [1028, n12]

With respect to a line in Corneille's Polyeucte, Lievre noted that Voltaire judged it harshly, and reacting in the intimate first person, Lievre
Voltaire judges this line severely. He considers its tone burlesque.... I
must say that not only can I see nothing burlesque in it . .. but that it
seems to me on the contrary to be of a particular and melancholy

beauty. [1044, n4]

The 1930s Pleiades preferred a walk amidst the centuries, with an

eye to rhetoric and "le beau parler, " to the source-hunt ("la chasse aux
so(u)rcieres") of the literary historians. This is a radically different
editorial practice from that of Gustave Lanson, who wrote in his ex-

haustive edition to Voltaire's Lettres philosophiques: "I have wanted

to present a commentary on sources, nothing more. The ideal would
be to have managed to discover for each sentence the fact, the text,
or the idea that stimulated the intelligence or the imagination of
Voltaire. "29

Malraux later spoke about a "metamorphosis" of works in the library into the present, a space where works would be in a "horizontal"
relationship, a space of equality with one another, unlike the "vertical

exchange" (chronological-past to present) that French culture had

once had with ancient texts.30 Indifferent to historical, linguistic, or
national differences, a living spirit of the work across the ages would
emerge from the Pleiade library. It was the experience of literature in
the present that counted. In that sense one could say that the desire to
"translate" past literature into the present was fundamental to the
spirit of the 1930s Pleiade. Le Dantec compared Baudelaire to James
Joyce, and Cassou put Cervantes in the company of Shakespeare and
Dostoevsky; finally, it was Don Quixote's "living" quality that
counted: "Of all the works that have emerged from the spirit of man, it

is this one that remains the most marvelously living [vivant]. Writers
29. Voltaire, Lettres philosophiques, ed. Gustave Lanson (Paris: Hachette, 1924), L.
30. Malraux, Le musee imaginaire, (1947, rpt. Paris: Gallimard, 1965), 231; and

L'homme precaire, 236.

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distant in time and language were thus meant to come alive and to
come close to a large public, in concert with other writers.31


Pleiade founder Jacques Schiffrin left Gallimard for exile in the United

States in 1940, where in 1943 he republished the great text of resistance, Le silence de la mer, under a new imprint called "Pantheon

Books."32 Although he maintained a close relationship to Gide (he

published several Gide volumes in the United States between 1944 and
1946), he did not return to Gallimard.33 In Schiffrin's absence, Jean

Paulhan took charge of the Pleiade as of December, 1940; his wartime

correspondence shows an ongoing concern with the preparation of new
Pleiade production slowed dramatically during the German occu-

pation of France. Plato, Chateaubriand, and Montesquieu were an31. This spirit of "translation" in the large sense can be understood against a background of interest in foreign literatures on the part of Gallimard authors, beginning in
the 1920s: Gide translated Conrad's Typhoon in 1918, Shakespeare's Antony and

Cleopatra in 1920, Hamlet in 1929; he was deeply interested in Russian literature,

especially Dostoevsky. Larbaud worked on the first French translation of Joyce's Ulysses,
published in 1929. Malraux prefaced Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover in 1932 and
Faulkner's Sanctuary in 1933.

32. Schiffrin left the Editions Gallimard and France in the wake of an "aryanisation" of French publishing undertaken by the Germans as early as August 1940. In

October 1940, the Paris Propaganda Staffel wrote to the German military authorities

requesting that four publishing houses-Fernand Nathan, Calman-Levy, the tditions de

la Nouvelle revue critique, and the tditions de la Nouvelle revue franqaise (published

under the Gallimard imprint)-be temporarily shut down, in an effort to "purge" them.

Their letter specifically names Schiffrin as one of two Jewish editors still active at

Gallimard at that time. (Letter of 9 October 1940 from the Paris Propaganda Staffel,
reprinted in Pascal Fouch6, L'6dition fran~aise sous l'Occupation, 1940-1944 [Paris:

Bibliotheque de Litterature Franqaise Contemporaine de l'Universit6 Paris VII, 19871,


33. Gide, Pages de journal 1939-1942, ed. Schiffrin (New York: Books, Inc., 1944), at
head of title: "premiere edition." The Journal would also be published in Algeria, in
September 1944, and in Switzerland, in April 1945, before appearing in France; Thes~e

(New York: Pantheon Books/French Pantheon Book 7, 1946), also marked "premiere
edition"; and William Shakespeare, Hamlet, bilingual edition, trans. Gide, ed. Schiffrin
(New York: Pantheon Books, 1945). Gide's translation of Hamlet was published by Gallimard in 1946.

34. Jean Paulhan, Choix de lettres II, 1937-1945, Trait6 des jours sombres, ed.
Dominique Aury and Jean-Claude Zylberstein, revised and annotated by Bernard Leulliot (Paris: Gallimard, 1992). On the Pliade, see Paulhan's no. 164 (203-04), no. 198
(238-39), no. 217 (260-61), and no. 267 (309).

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250 Yale French Studies

nounced for 1940: instead, Peguy appeared in 1941, Plato and Goethe
in 1942, the latter with an introduction by Gide assuring readers that
the best of German culture could be found in this writer.35 In February
1943, no more volumes could be printed due to lack of paper. But all
things considered, it was an excellent year for the Pleiade. Gide noted
in his March 1943 journal that after slow beginnings and considerable
resistance on the part of booksellers, Pleiade editions had become
highly sought after internationally; there was now a veritable black
market for them, with individual volumes being priced at 2,000 francs
in Rome and 4,000 or 5,000 francs in New York.36 In the spring of 1943,
with actual Pleiade production at a halt, Gaston Gallimard used the
"Pleiade" label to launch the "Concerts de la Pleiade," which would

become a house tradition. The year 1943 also saw the founding of the
Prix de la Pleiade, Gallimard's in-house literary prize named for the
prestigious series, whose selection committee included Nouvelle re-

vue franqaise writers Sartre, Queneau, Malraux, Blanchot, and Paulhan. The Pleiade symbol thus stood in for the books that were missing.

After the liberation of Paris, the prestigious collection even played a

role in the events of the purge: collaborationist writer and journalist
Robert Brasillach, awaiting his treason trial in the cold winter of 1944,
was much concerned with the disappearance of his "precious" Pleiade

35. Gide contrasts the present moment (the Goethe Pleiade appears in May, 1942) to
the horror the French felt for Goethe after the Franco-Prussian war: "Today we think,
following Goethe's example, that it is better to understand than to deny; that it would
have been worth more, that it is still more worthwhile, to seek and find in Goethe what
he brings to the world: the highest teaching that Germany is capable of receiving and
giving, that of a welcoming wisdom, respectful of others, likeable, harmonious, and at
ease" ("Introduction," Pleiade no. 63, xiv).

36. Gide, Journal 1939-1949. Souvenirs (Paris: P16iade no. 104, 1954, [rpt. 1966],
entry of 16 March 1943: "The very likeable young German officer, who was studying art
history, and who was also a friend of Ernst Robert Curtius ... told me that in Rome
where he started his military service and spent over a year, the Pleiade books are so
sought after that the few booksellers who still have any in their possession are asking up
to 2,000 francs (in our currency) for them; (they are valued at up to 4 and 5 thousand
francs in New York, Keeler Faus wrote me at the beginning of the war) .... I remember a
conversation with the principal book dealer (might as well say the only one) in Dakar,
during my first A.O.F. visit, who told me, speaking of the Pleiade books: 'No sir, our
clients don't like those books; there is no chance they'll succeed. No, the French living

here [colons] don't want any part of them.' Then, taking out a hideous huge illustrated
edition of I can't remember which author then in vogue: 'Look, here's what they like.' If I

saw him again today, he'd no doubt insist that he never made such a statement, or even
that he was one of the first booksellers to sell and recommend the Pleiades to his
customers; but I swear that my memory here is accurate" (212-13). See also note 8 above.

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collection from his seized apartment. "Alas! poor Pleiade," he wrote

to his sister from his prison cell at Fresnes-his second letter mentioning the missing volumes. "Let us offer it as a sacrifice to the Gods."37

Free France's first Pleiade was an edition of Mallarme, introduced by

the eminent surgeon and homme de lettres Henri Mondor in 1945.

At the request of Gallimard, Paulhan called upon the good name of

the Pleiade in 1946 to launch the Cahiers de la Pleiade, a literary

journal that filled the void left by the Nouvelle Revue Franqaise,
which, having been dishonored by the collaborationist stance of war-

time editor Drieu la Rochelle, was discontinued under Paulhan's moral

leadership. When the Nouvelle Revue Franqaise finally reemerged as

the Nouvelle Nouvelle Revue Franqaise in 1953, one found in its pages
any number of ads offering to let readers exchange the "faux cuir" of
their wartime Pleiades for real leather. The Pleiade, in the 1950s, was

very much an object linked to recovery and affluence. It was marketed

for doctors' and dentists' offices, for a public of cultured, but not professional, readers. One finds in a 1960 advertisement the emphasis on
American-style consumption that was so much a sign of the times38:
"Your library is as indispensable as a television or a car." The same
advertisement stressed industry and new technique. The object
itself-bible paper bound in pocket-book size-took on a scientistic
aura, due to its amazing properties of strength and economy:
The creation of the Bibliotheque de la PlMiade in 1931 brought to the
publishing world a revolution comparable to that which the invention
of the microgroove represented in the recording industry much later.

It was an age of credit: in 1960, according to Pleiade advertisements,

you could buy the whole collection of French poetry from the middle
ages to the present for 829.65 francs; and, if you purchased a minimum
of twenty volumes or 650 francs worth of Pleiade, you could pay on an
eighteen-month installment plan. The Bibliotheque's desire to reach a

mass audience had reached an all-time high (immortality on the in-

stallment plan . .. ).
37. Robert Brasillach, Oeuvres completes, ed. Maurice Bardeche (Paris: Club de
l'Homme, 1963-64), vol. 9, "Textes 6crits en prison," letter 25 to his sister (Fresnes, 22
December 1944), 248-49, for the passage quoted. See also letter 34 to Bardeche (Fresnes,
21 December 1944), 246: "We will have thrown to the gods not a ring, but things more
precious still: it seems that the Pliade, in particular, has disappeared. Too bad! We'll get

it back in gifts, piece by piece. Or we'll buy it back at the Rive Gauche bookstore."
38. See Kristin Ross, Fast Cars, Clean Bodies: Decolonization and the Re-Ordering
of French Culture (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1994.)

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252 Yale French Studies


At the apex of this era of conspicuous consumption, a dramatic turn in

the preparation and presentation of the volumes occurred. In spite of

the move away from literary history and toward the literary tableau
represented in the early Pleiade volumes, the series had never entirely
abandoned the world of scholarship. A 1935 advertisement had called
the Pleiade an "ideal working tool": this phrase was used through the

1960s. Scholarship, however, took on a whole new weight during the

1960s. One suspects this was in part because the Pleiade was looking
for new readers in the growing university domain-the subscriptions
by doctors and dentists were not enough to ensure the prestige, nor the

sales, of the collection. (Several eminent scholars remembered the

1950s Pleiades as books for doctors' and dentists' offices, an idea that
made them embarrassing for a scholar to own-medical professionals

being, mysteriously, the ultimate example of "bad readers.") Demographically, France was entering a period of growth; the baby boom

children reached college-age in 1960, and the university was expanding. At Gallimard, Pierre Buge, formerly the director of the Classiques
Garnier, classics for the schools, was brought in by Gaston Gallimard
as director of the Pleiade collection in 1965; his training had prepared
him well to reorient the books toward a university public.39 At the
moment when the Pleiade was turning to this public, other publishers

were staking out competitive market claims by publishing anthologies

or "morceaux choisis" of classical texts whose ads in Le monde asked,
"Why read all of Madame de Sevigne?"40

As current director of the series Jacques Cotin understands it, the

Pleiade has always faced the problem of two reading publics, two types
of consumers: a cultivated general public who wants to read great
works of literature, who has little interest in notes and variants; and a
university and student public looking for a reference work. This double
readership was nowhere better dramatized than in a review of the 1958
Rousseau Pleiade by the Voltaire scholar Theodor Besterman:
I cannot but dislike many of the external features of this long-awaited
edition. It must be remembered that this is not only a bedside book, but
also the standard edition of a great writer. Over 2,000 pages on very thin
paper constitute a volume ideal for the former purpose, but by no
39. Cotin, interview.

40. Cotin, ibid.

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means so for the latter.... The process of turning back and forth thousands of times becomes very wearisome in a book whose paper is so
difficult to handle. Why should not the publishers have had at least
enough regard for the needs of the scholar (and their own interests) to
produce a "library edition" on more manageable paper, the text in one

volume, the notes in another? There are other outward and visible
aspects of this edition unlikely to give much satisfaction to the bibliographer and the librarian. However, it is after all the contents that

count, and here a very different account can be given.4'

Indifferent to the charm of the bible paper, and to the bedside inti-

macy of the compact pocket book that was so much part of the 1930s
Pleiade ideal, Besterman was interested in the scholarly content. He

was marking a new demand, identifying a new readership (not lovers of

literature but savants), and expressing a doubt: was the Pleiade the

right venue for serious scholarship?

In terms of scholarship, the new edition of Rousseau's complete

works, whose first volume appeared in the Pleiade in 1959 (replacing

Martin Chauffier's edition of the Confessions and Reveries of 1933,
no. 11), was indeed a departure. As Besterman notes, the edition had
been long awaited by specialists in the field. The support of the Fonds

National Suisse pour la Recherche Scientifique (the Swiss equivalent

of the CNRS) was noted on the back of the title page. Each specific text
was established and annotated by a different scholar. There were notes,
variants, prefaces, a series of introductions covering the history and
interpretation of each text presented, and a special note on the establishment of the text.

The Rousseau volume marked a shift in the Pleiade readership.

Academics who had once been ashamed of the volumes now used them
as reference works. Equally significant, the Rousseau Pleiade marked a
change in the conception of the literary object, from oeuvre to text. By

oeuvre or "work," we mean that ideal, meaningful entity ("l'homme et

l'oeuvre") incarnated by the text, the words on the page. The early
Pleiade did not question the concept of the work/oeuvre; as the dis-

course in the Tableau de la litterature franqaise indicates, the work's

cultural value was sure, its integrity unquestioned. Without much in
the way of preface, explanation, or notes, the early Pleiade made the
work available; whatever problems the text might have posed were
41. Theodor Besterman, review of Rousseau, Oeuvres completes, vol. 1 (Plkiade,

1959), in Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century 10 (1959): 519-21.

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254 Yale French Studies

hidden behind the solidity of the oeuvre and the certainty of its being.
The period of "text"-oriented Pleiades began to open up immediately

after the war, when, faced with such writers as Chateaubriand (Pleiade
no. 67, 1947)42 and Rimbaud (no. 68, 1946) who, for various historical
reasons, did not publish their oeuvre during their lifetime, the Pleiade
editors had to establish a corpus out of unpublished manuscript material; there was no given oeuvre available, in the traditional sense. The
text emerged from the empirical necessity of turning to the manuscript
and constructing the words on the page-the text-from the manuscript or manuscripts. In historical terms, the move from work to text
did not take place in a vacuum. Postwar advances in structural linguistics and esthetics, questioning the unity and integrity of the literary object, meant that the concept of ready-made oeuvre corresponded
less and less to the dominant vision of literature. "Text" was the term
that came to be given to this more problematic linguistic entity. The
1959 Rousseau formalized the sea change within the literary tidal pool
that was the Bibliotheque de la Pleiade.
In the case of Rousseau, recourse to manuscripts was necessary
because Rousseau himself was unable and unwilling to publish his
confessional work during his lifetime, for fear of reprisal by his adversaries. Rousseau's own relationship to his writing was obsessively "autographic." This copiste de musique had a highly artisinal sense of his

own manuscripts; he hand-copied his final version of Julie four times

(one copy was for himself, one for his publisher, and two were for his
patrons). Moreover, he was constantly worried that corrupt versions of
his texts would be used to discredit him after his death. He hoped to

guarantee the posthumous fate of his manuscripts by entrusting them

to protectors to prepare for publication at the proper moment, and, in
1774, made a "Declaration regarding different reprints of his work,"
anticipating and disavowing editions that would falsify, alter, disfigure, or mutilate his work.43 No author could have been more inter-

ested, indeed, obsessed, with the fate of his manuscripts than JeanJacques Rousseau, who in this sense was a most fitting author to usher
manuscript study into the Pleiade editorial apparatus.

42. The Chateaubriand P16iade project had been in the works since 1938 and was
delayed by the war.

43. Quoted in Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Confessions, vol. 1, ed. Bernard Gagnebin and
Marcel Raymond (Pleiade, no. 11, 1959), 1186-87.

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The scholars who prepared the first new edition of Switzerland's

greatest writer in over one hundred years were themselves Swiss, affiliated with the University of Geneva. The endeavor

was financed by the Swiss government. Bernard Gagnebin was the

librarian of Geneva; Marcel Raymond, the best known interpreter of
Rousseau from a literary point of view; Jean Starobinski, a phenomenological critic trained at Johns Hopkins by Leo Spitzer, the important German philologist who had sought exile from the Nazis in the

United States. (The Pleiade project coincided with the publication

of Starobinski's ground-breaking Jean-Jacques Rousseau. La transpar-

ence et l'obstacle.)44 As Swiss scholars situated between France and

Germany, the Rousseau team brought to the Pleiade methods of reading indebted to the German philological tradition and to German

hermeneutics-methods that were not a part of traditional French

literary history.

The resulting critical volumes, for their fidelity to Rousseau's spelling, their careful variants, their phenomenological reading of the texts
in combination with a philological perspective, brought this writer's

work close to the reader. However, this was not the conversational
intimacy of the imaginary-museum phase of the Pleiade; it was an
intimacy in which the reader came to know the text through the mediation of the editorial expert.

In a review article on the second Rousseau volume (La nouvelle

H61oise), Georges May underlined the significance of this publication
event. May made a distinction between traditional literary historical

"source studies" and what would come to be known twenty years later
as genetic criticism, using the phrase "genetic study" as well as the

word "genesis" in the course of his review45:

44. Jean Starobinski, Jean-Jacques Rousseau. La transparence et 1'obstacle (Paris:
Plon, 1957).

45. The actual practice of genetic criticism in France can be dated back to the
Heinrich Heine manuscript project of the 1960s, conducted by a group of researchers at
the CNRS. The phrase "critique genetique" didn't become common in French literary
studies until the 1980s. The idea of the genesis of a text turns up much earlier, however:
Goethe referred to "the genetic evolution" of the text; Baudelaire to the "genesis of a

poem." On Goethe, see Louis Hay, "La critique genetique, origines et perspectives" in
Essais de critique genetique (Paris: Flammarion, 1979), 227-336; on Baudelaire, see
Almuth Gresillon, "Ralentir: Travaux," Genesis (Paris: J. M. Place, 1992), vol. 1, 9-13.
For a discussion of nineteenth-century German precursors, see Gresillon, Elements de
critique genetique. Lire les manuscrits modernes (Paris: Presses Universitaire de

France, 1994), 178-81.

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256 Yale French Studies

The single problem to which this introduction addresses itself is the

often studied problem of the novel's genesis: not that of Rousseau's

literary sources of inspiration about which disappointingly little is to
be learned here, but that of the various phases through which the novel

passed between the initial spark of inspiration and the mailing of the
final batch of corrected proofs.46

What was demarcated so clearly here in May's review was nothing less
than a whole new direction for literary study, distinct from both the

esthete school of literary appreciation we associate with the

Gide/NRF years, and from the older literary history concerned with
authorial context, influence, and artistic school. The claim was ambitious: only by studying the manuscript did one learn about the critical
process of a given author.47 The new conception of a literary text was
dynamic; the text was in process, the process becoming visible through

the juxtaposition of manuscripts.

The preoccupation with the manuscript soon extended in the Bibliotheque de la Pleiade from those specific cases such as Rimbaud, Chateaubriand, and Rousseau-authors whose manuscripts were of inter-

est precisely because, for historic reasons, their work was only pub-

lished posthumously48-to other major writers (Balzac, Proust, Celine, to name the most obvious) whose work had a complicated

publication or manuscript history, or who, as in the case of twentieth46. Georges May, "Rousseau's Literary Writings: An Important New Edition," review of Rousseau's Oeuvres completes, vol. 2: La nouvelle H61oise, Theatre, Poesie,

Essais litteraires, ed. Gagnebin and Raymond (Paris: Gallimard, 1961), Modern Language Notes 77 (1962): 519-38. Also: "In fact this genetic study is such a fine model of
what sound methods of literary history can achieve, that one may well regret that it

could not be somewhat longer" (527).

47. The Rousseau P16iade, whose fifth volume has just appeared (1995, no. 416) has
succeeded in surpassing other editions. Indeed, it has set such a gold standard in Rousseau scholarship that a new American edition being edited at the University Press of
New England by Christopher Kelly and Roger D. Masters will carry the P16iade page

numbers at the top of each page. "It would be peculiar," according to Kelly, "to cite any
other edition" (phone interview with Alice Kaplan, June 1993).

48. The use of materials not published during a given author's lifetime moved the
postwar Pleiade in the direction of increased editorial involvement, since it necessitated
a vital role for the editor in the establishment of the text. The 1958 Rousseau makes a
funny slip, referring to this material as "posthumous texts": "This volume, containing

only posthumous texts, was established entirely according to Rousseau's autograph

manuscripts" (Note on the establishment of the text, XVI). Although no one is likely to
misunderstand "posthumous texts" as a form of text production beyond the grave, the
phrase does signal a shift in the balance of authority between editor and author.

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century writers such as Sartre, had as yet no available reference edition

of their work. Along with this new focus on the shaping and presenting
of the text came a dramatic change in the process of editing. Since the

work/oeuvre was no longer a fait accompli, rigorous scholarship was

needed to establish a text; where an individual editor or presenter had
once been sufficient, a team of scholars was now frequently needed.

The juxtaposition of introductory material from any one of the reedited volumes gives a fascinating sense of this editorial shift. Here, for
example, we see what occurred with Balzac, edited at the Pleiade in
1935 and in 1976 respectively:
Balzac, no. 26, 1935, ed. Boutem: Our edition has been established

according to the last text revised and corrected by Balzac himself, on his

own copy of the Fume edition, kept today in the Lovenjoul collection.


In this instance, the editor carried out Balzac's own wishes by reproducing the last published text Balzac had corrected, as was the practice
at that time.49 It was a very different matter in 1976, when seven

specialists assembled to work on a vast array of manuscripts, and

where the touchstone was no longer Balzac's final intention ("the last
text revised"), but the entire creative process over time.
Balzac, no. 26, 1976, reed. Castex with Pierre Barb6ris, Madeleine Gar-

geaud, Anne-Marie Meininger, Roger Pierrot, Maurice Regard, Jean-

Louis Tritter: The team is so large because over the past several de-

cades, Balzac studies have benefited from an extraordinary vitality...

Our collaborators have had access, except in very rare instances, to
information from all the manuscripts known to this day. Most of them

are kept at Chantilly, in the de Spoelberch de Lovenjoul collection

administered by the Institute; others belong to French or foreign libraries, or to private collections; many were made available for the first
time in support of our enterprise.... We were also able to consult all
the page proofs accessible today and all the editions corrected by Balzac,
which, from the manuscript to the preoriginal text, published in the
periodical or daily press, or to the original text appearing in a volume,
49. As described and theorized by G. Thomas Tanselle, "The Editorial Problem of

Final Authorial Intention" (1976), reprinted in Textual Criticism and Scholarly Editing
(Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1990), 27-71. For debates around these
issues, see Steven Mailloux, "Textual Scholarship and the Author's Final Intention," in

Interpretive Conventions (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1982), 93-125.

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258 Yale French Studies

then from one printed state to another, help to reconstitute, all the way

to the definitive text, the successive stages of the creation. [cix]

Once manuscripts are consulted, the conception of the literary object
changes: rather than one intended version-the work-we now have
manuscript, page proofs, corrected editions, printed stages, and even

"preoriginal text. " The work-the work of art, that sure esthetic entity
produced by an author-gives way to a series of texts.50 Even when the
new version of a reedited Pleiade varied rather little from the previously known work, the supporting material put it in an entirely different context.

As the identity of the editor was changing, favoring university

critics over writers and amateurs of literature, and as oeuvre gave way
to texts, the Pleiade fattened. The 1934 Corneille has twenty pages of

notes; the 1980 reedition has 625 pages. Proust's A la recherche du

temps perdu goes from three to four volumes; Celine's Fgerie pour une

autre fois, published in 1993 as Pleiade no. 403 and the fourth volume
to appear in the Pleiade was advertised for its "580 never-before-

published pages." Now with the amalgam of previously published material, previously unpublished pages, documentary notes, and schol-

arly commentary, the oeuvre is no longer sufficient unto itself, no

longer capable, as before, of speaking for itself with the artistic guarantee of a contemporary writer's affinity: the editor must speak along
with it.

Gide's Journal (1939) and Malraux's Romans (1947), published in

the Pleiade while these writers were still living, contained no notes, no
introduction, gave no editor's name on the title page, and consisted
solely in the body of these works. Perhaps the most important change
in this latest Pleiade phase-the "text" phase-is that the editor or
editors take on a new authority and presence, shaping the textual material, establishing the text out of manuscript, organizing the presentation of the work by chronology or genre and, finally, justifying those
choices with copious presentations and notes. One could say that after
the 1960s, Pleiade editors "sign" their texts. This is especially striking
in the case of Proust and even more so in the case of CUline, whose texts
50. One notes, in addition to the labor intensity of the new enterprise, the fact that
the manuscripts offered a chance at newness and originality with respect to the best-

known authors. Manuscript study allowed the Pk6iade series a chance to renew itself on
the oldest territory: even at the current rate of twelve new Pkiade volumes a year, it
could take at least another fifty years to redo "the greats" according to these new manuscript variant standards.

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(especially the postwar novels) are riddled with microscopic historical

referents and whose very vocabulary calls for the aid of a specialized
dictionary. Would these texts be readable to a contemporary public

without the editorial apparatus supplied by Henri Godard in his fourvolume Pleiade (no. 157, 1986; no. 252, 1974; no. 348, 1988; no. 403,
1993)? For each text, there is introductory material on its genesis and

composition, and an analysis of the critical reception and the historical givens. Appendices contain previous versions. There is a lexicon for
vocabulary. Celine is a good argument against the "imaginary museum" phase, since such a complicated corpus as his could hardly be
said to speak for itself. One might even go as far as to say that, for the
reader of such new Pleiade volumes, the editors' historical reconstructions are as vital a part of the reading experience as the literary texts

themselves; annotation is no longer subordinate to literary material

but, rather, the key to a mystery of literature in the making.51 As the
Wizard of Oz famously quipped, "Pay no attention to the man behind
the curtain!" The editor, formerly a ventriloquist in hiding, now perceives the need to make the apparatus visible.

Establishing a text is not merely a technical act: it is an act of reading, a

fundamental gesture of criticism. Every edition, consciously or not, is

founded on an implicit definition of the work of art; the method of

editing is always a praxis of a theory of literature. Bernard Cerquiglini

demonstrated in his Aloge de la variante-an essay that opens a large

window onto all the problems that concern us here-how traditional
philology had hoped, in its approach to the medieval manuscript, to

find a sure text, a fantasized original.52 It was unable to take into

account the fact that the medieval text was not the singular production
of a sole author, but a multiplicity of scribal texts. Modern editing
practice operates with similar assumptions: an author's intention is
51. There is an interesting analogy to be made between the growing authority and
presence of the P16iade editor and the changing role of both the theatrical director and
the museum curator, who, increasingly, are recognized as "authors" of their shows. See
Nathalie Heinich and Michael Pollak, "Du conservateur de mus6e a l'auteur d'expositions. L'invention d'une position singuliere," Sociologie du travail 1 (1989): 29-49
(especially the contrasting descriptions of the two Bonnard exhibits in 1966 and 1986).
See, also, "L'oeuvre et son accrochage," special issue of the Cahiers du MNAM 17/18

52. Bernard Cerquiglini, Eloge de la variante. Histoire critique de la philologie

(Paris: tditions du Seuil, 1989).

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260 Yale French Studies

the imagined and implicit "source" toward which the editor works;

the editor's goal is to reconstitute the text in a definitive, finished


In a theoretical essay, Starobinski describes the intellectual consequences of the labor of editing and thus takes issue with the possibility of ever "finishing" a work. Traditional text editors thought
they were doing the equivalent of restoring an old painting: once the
layers of disfiguring varnish were removed, one would "see" the text
in its true light. Why, he asked, do we assume that text editing "finishes" the work, when what an editor learns in the process of doing
this work is just as likely to point the way toward doubts about the
work's identity?
A laborious form of reading, restoration had no other goal than to free
the work from everything that was preventing it from reaching us in its
integrity. It was assumed that once the various obstacles were eliminated, the true work would emerge, offered up for our pleasure, our

questioning. As soon as the idea of a finished work was posited, gathered in its original bounds, questions and uncertainties rose to the

surface. With the restorative research, the historian's curiosity would

see the entire discernible past, the previous versions, the drafts, the

avowed or nonavowed models, all transpiring through the finished

work.... One would be faced with that researcher's reflex, with dissatisfaction, then refusal, which would come to duplicate the positive
presence of the "final" version in a subwork.53

The vocabulary here is visceral. Starobinski's understanding of editorial work bears little resemblance to positivism. The editor pushes

on, not out of a belief in solutions, but on the contrary, with a sense of
dissatisfaction and the recognition of a ghostly "subwork" disturbing
the smooth contours of the positive "final version." The work of annotation leads to doubt, not certainty. But all is not lost. If what can be
known about a text leads to doubting its integrity as a work of art, what
comes in the stead of the oeuvre is a new equality among text, sub-text,

pre-text, and document-a thickening of the soup of literature. Starobinski speaks here for an entire generation of genetic text editors, for
whom the experience of literature is no longer one of a product, but an
unending process of discovery.
Radically altered, in this vision, is the idea of the author and of the
53. Starobinski, "La litterature, le texte et l'interprete," in Faire de 1'histoire. Ap-

proches, ed. Jacques Le Goff and Pierre Nora (Paris: Gallimard/NRF, 1974), 169-70.

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very notion of writing. No longer the divine creator, giving birth to a

completed work in all its certain glory the writer of the text (as opposed to the author of the oeuvre) is a laborer who struggles with

various stages and phases in writing, and whose hard work is revisited
by the editor. What seemed the last sure element of the Pleiade
formula-the supremely unchangeable proper name that appears in
gold on the spine of every book-is also subject to change.

We have seen, in this introduction to a history of the Bibliotheque de la

Pleiade, that these books have undergone a brain transplant in the
course of their sixty-year existence: a preoccupation with the diffusion
of literary works in an imaginary museum gave way, in midlife, to a
preoccupation with the manuscript and with the establishment of
literary texts, which put the identity of the work of literature in ques-

tion and opened up the work of editing texts to questions of process.

The history of the Bibliotheque de la Pleiade, inasmuch as it is a
history of the way a given set of authors' texts are shaped and presented
as works, raises theoretical and pragmatic questions about the identity
and meaning of literature. It was Maurice Blanchot, writing in the
1950s in L'espace litteraire, who, with his acute sense of Mallarmean

poetics, raised the question of "l'oeuvre infinie"-the infinite workand described an author's uncanny sense of his or her own absence or

loss from that work, once it was out of his or her hands.54 The writer, he
claimed, is finally removed from the work. Blanchot was not interested
in the making of the book, and even less in the role of editors, and yet
his notions of a literary text infinite in its meaning surfaces in the
enthusiasm for literary genetics-in a literary genetic ideology-that
plays such an important role in today's Pleiade. In another tradition,
that of Anglo-American philosophy, Nelson Goodman had defined the
"allographic" work of art, such as literature, that maintains its identity no matter how often it is reproduced, versus the autograph work of
art, such as the painting, where no copy can be the work itself. A
discourse within the Pleiade on the importance of the manuscript
would seem to return us to an idea of literature more autograph than
allographic: the genetic study of manuscripts in the interest of presenting a given writer's complete works seems to insist that each manuscript is a unique expression, different from each subsequent manu54. Maurice Blanchot, The Space of Literature (Lincoln: University of Nebraska
Press, 1982).

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262 Yale French Studies

script, and that taken together, these various manuscripts tell a story of
the creation of a whole. This is a cultural, rather than metaphysical,

claim about the identity of the work of literature, although its consequences for an understanding of literature must be subject to interpretation and debate.55

55. Philippe Roussin acknowledges the importance of Gerard Genette's seminars,

published as L'oeuvre de Part, (Paris: tditions du Seuil, 1994) for this study and thanks
Dominique Bourel and Jean-Marie Schaeffer for their comments. We are grateful to Jean-

Pierre Dauphin, archivist at the tditions Gallimard, his assistant Liliane Phan, and
especially to Jacques Cotin, director of the tditions de la P1kiade, for generous assistance
at the Editions Gallimard, Paris. Philippe Roussin thanks Lawrence D. Kritzman
and Richard Stamelman for the opportunity to deliver a working version of this essay in
the form of two seminars at the Edouard Morot-Sir Institute of French Cultural Studies,
Dartmouth College, 25-27 July 1994. Alice Kaplan thanks Christopher Kelly, coeditor of
the University Press of New England translation of the complete Rousseau, for his
perspective on the history of Rousseau editions; Bernard Cerquiglini, Linda Orr, Ann
Smock, Jan Radway, and Philip Stewart were her valued interlocutors; and Alden
Bumstead contributed careful and thorough research assistance. Finally, we thank Cathy
Davidson, Jan Radway, Marianna Torgovnick, and David Auerbach for their readings of
rough drafts of this text.

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