Australian Journal of French Studies

Constraints, Poetry and Play in Jacques Roubaud's Parc sauvage

Australian Journal of French Studies (2012), 49, (2), 142–152.

Abstract

The Oulipo has often presented its constraints as no more artificial than grammatical or generic conventions. This "naturalization" has been strategically useful, but it has also obscured certain aspects of the constraints' functioning and blocked the way to a deeper understanding of its productivity and limits. Jacques Roubaud has recently recognized certain differences between Oulipian constraints and what he calls "traditional constraints" (i.e. generic conventions). Distinguishing between constraints and conventions can help to explain the reception and uptake of the Oulipo's work since the 1960s. The constraint is a powerful instrument for redirecting the writer's attention, but perhaps it is time, as Roubaud has suggested, to qualify its importance. A reading of Roubaud's Parc sauvage (2008), focussing on the "eodermdromes" it contains, shows how strict conformity to a constraint is often sacrificed to poetic or narrative effect. This is not necessarily a betrayal of Oulipian principles, for according to Roubaud the essence of the Oulipian project is not the constraint but potentiality, which may be realized by forms as well as by constraints.

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Author details

Andrews, Chris