The Trial at the Front: the Eye and the Flesh

  • Denis Bertrand


Fabrice, the hero of Stendhal’s La Chartreuse de Parme, and Ferdinand, the narrator of Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s Guerre, bear witness to battle in the immediate proximity of the body: on one side, the wandering eye, on the other, the suffering flesh. They tell two distinct versions of Victor Hugo’s “Quid obscurum des batailles” in Les Misérables, that “obscure interval”. To paint a battle,” writes Hugo “you need powerful painters who have chaos in their brushes”, because “no narrator, however conscientious, can absolutely fix the shape of this horrible cloud called a battle”. Yet two narrators fix this moving shape, one in cognitive disorder, the other in the chaos of the wound. We seek to draw from these extreme figurative positions the semiotic lesson of hypotyposis: the preliminary condition of the battle as seen from the body, the condition for a renewal of the concept of figurativity with the support of the semiotics of enunciating instances (Coquet). The battle narrative becomes a real laboratory for the relationship between phusis and logos. It raises new issues for semiotics, because here, in a universe that is at the limit of language, the problem of “representation” to be integrated into the theory of meaning arises.

How to Cite
Bertrand, D. (2024). The Trial at the Front: the Eye and the Flesh. E|C, (40), 129-137. Retrieved from
Narrazioni somatiche dello scontro