If we look back to the 1960s we observe a radical reconfiguration of the
idea of the text, resulting from the rapid expansion of general linguistics
and literary semiology. This idea was detached from the ‘philosophy of truth’; it defined a ‘new object’ that was described as a ‘translinguistic device’ and considered as a signifying practice that never ceases to work and is irreducible to objective signification. While retaining the theoretical concepts implicit within this idea, sociocriticism is essentially concerned
with what the text transcribes; that is to say, with the modalities of the
incorporation of history, not at the level of content but at the level of forms. For sociocriticism, this plurality is the product of the dynamic and dialectical process of history. It is because it incorporates history in a way
that is specific to it that the text presents itself as a translinguistic device. In the present article I seek to map out these paths of complex, heterogeneous and contradictory meaning and to identify both their nature and their effects. Sociocriticism aims to bring out the relations existing between the structures of literary (or cultural) work and the structures of the society in which this work is deeply rooted. This theory claims that the encounter
with ideological traces and with antagonistic tensions between social classes is central to any reading of texts. However, unlike most sociological approaches to literature, which leave the structures of text untouched, it assumes that the social nature of the literary work must be located and investigated within the text and not outside it. A patient and exact reconstruction of the semiotico-ideological elements must therefore be elaborated in order to show how the historical process is deeply involved in the
writing process. Indeed, it is necessary to consider the different ways of
incorporating history in the text. On this point, a series of questions must
be emphasized: Which kind of historical material is required? How should the text incorporate this historical material? Which theoretical and methodological approach can enable the critic to bring into view the process of the history’s incorporation? Before attempting to answer these questions I shall recall that every theory is founded on two points:
1. a philosophical conception implying an view of history which questions
the nature of the historical process;
2. a poetic conception referring to the function of the text.
So, what is the process of history? What is the text? How does the text work? To elucidate the first point I refer to Marxism, which links the discursive formation to the ideological and social formations. There is indeed a relation between the infrastructure and the superstructure but this relation is neither automatic nor direct. Between the two levels (and within them) a series of various instances must be distinguished, each belonging to a specific historical time. At any given moment of history, some instances seem advanced, ahead of their time, whilst others seem delayed, behind the times. Insofar as the delayed is always attracted by the advanced, the gap between the two instances and the series of gaps existing in the totality of the system produce the dynamism of the process. These historical gaps produce semiotico-ideological traces and various kinds of effects in the literary work, observable especially in the textual spaces of the contradictions. That is why in my critical reading I start from the intratextual microsemiotics organized by these contradictions, which enable us to reconstruct the social and ideological formations. Now, how does the text function? At its start the text establishes its rules of repetition: it repeats a short series of messages, but not in a monotonous (or identical) way, through the different levels or categories of the texts (i.e. time, space, discursive material, myth, topics etc., depending on the nature of the text). These messages are generated in an abstract intratextual space that I name the ‘Genotext’.