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The Home, the Map and the Garden: Literary Space as Monumental Space in Kofman, Perec and Rodoreda


This dissertation explores how three authors, Sarah Kofman, Georges Perec and Mercè Rodoreda, create textual monuments to divisive historical events. I look most closely at Kofman's Rue Ordener, rue Labat, Perec's W ou le souvenir d'enfance and Rodoreda's El carrer de les Camèlies. We can think of these texts as textual monuments because they emphasize the spatial aspect of their narratives and because they are concerned with memory.

The first chapter of the dissertation considers how, in Rue Ordener rue Labat, Sarah Kofman is able to write a memoir that recognizes the specificity of her experience while at the same time letting the reader into the story. I employ Emmanuel Levinas' concept of the intersubjective space of the home to understand how Kofman, at both the level of content and structure, allows the reader to co-create the textual space.

In the second chapter I turn to Georges Perec's W ou le souvenir d'enfance. Perec, unable to recall his childhood memories, instead creates a memoir structured by the "fragile intersection" of several texts. The textual monument he creates is not monolithic, but rather takes its form from the multiple paths between nodes of meaning.

The third chapter considers Mercè Rodoreda's novella, El carrer de les Camèlies. Rodoreda uses the motifs of the garden and the cemetery to advocate for a textual monument that valorizes what Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari would call "rhizomatic" connections between people and symbols, rather than a monument that concentrates on roots and the past.

The Conclusion considers the important common features of the three texts, namely the idea that memory is constructed by a person in the present and that this construction, while it can be experienced as tragic for the person remembering, can also be liberating. Future work in this area would seek to establish a relationship between poststructuralist theory, narratology and the emphasis on space common to both textual and physical monuments in the twentieth century.

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