This article uses the writings of Erving Goffman, M. M. Bakhtin, and Edward Sapir to pose some questions about what is happening when spoken language is produced. In particular, it looks at certain complexities of the partial roles of “animator,” “author,” and “principal,” into which Goffman proposed breaking down the role of speaker. It suggests that implicit in Goffman’s essay “Footing” is the possibility that even the analytic roles of animator, author, and principal will not be fine-grained enough to capture what happens through language use. This possibility is then pursued through a look at three scenes from Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu in which the event of someone talking to themselves is represented and then analyzed, notably to reveal that it is not so easy to assume that the speech authored within any single mind-space is owned by the person associated with that mind.
On Proust and Talking to Yourself
michael lucey is professor of comparative literature and French at the University of California, Berkeley. His publications include The Misfit of the Family: Balzac and the Social Forms of Sexuality (2003) and Never Say I: Sexuality and the First Person in Colette, Gide, and Proust (2006), among other works. He is also translator of Didier Eribon’s Returning to Reims (2013) and Édouard Louis’s End of Eddy (2017).