« Tant de choses qui ne s’expriment pas » : tentatives de description du paysage alpestre dans la littérature des XVIIIe et XIXe siècles
- travel literature,
- figures of speech
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The poetic unspoken is sometimes interpreted as ‘what hides behind the spoken word’. Poets, however, may also choose silence to show the limits of language itself in front of the ineffable. This is particularly true in alpine literature: throughout its history until at least the 19th century, the recurrence of lexical and descriptive choices which many authors could have considered approximative or vague, is a powerful witness to their own intense emotional encounter with mountains. This setting, in fact, was perceived as outlandish and beyond description. The present study aims to analyze some representative examples of descriptions of mountain landscapes in order to identify their analogies and limits. Through the examination of a selection of passages drawn from alpine travel accounts, I will shed light on the value of the rarefaction of language in these descriptions, as well as in the elaboration of a specific aesthetics of the Alps. I will show that silence manifests itself within a constant dialectic between a desire to speak out and the very emptiness that challenges it. In this case, silence appears not a negative gesture, but as both a fictional and concrete impossibility. This approach is translated into more or less effective attempts to express, in various ways, a topic considered as “é-norme” (enormous but also ‘beyond’ any norm), because of its form and its content.