Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Selma A. Zebouni


The Roman bourgeois is a text which has resisted traditional modes of criticism, and thus it has confounded critics who simply did not know what to make of this hybrid work. It has been generally considered to be a novel which lacks coherence and literary merit, and spells the end of the cycle of seventeenth-century comic novels. This study proposes that the Roman bourgeois be considered as a metafictional text, where textual "anomalies" could be considered as "positive" attributes since they draw attention to the fictional framework and the fiction-making process of the novel. The novel operates according to the guiding principle that language is an imperfect conduit for representing "reality." Subversion, which runs rampant in the text, is one of the most important strategies which emphasize the problematics of representation. This is effectuated, for example, through intertextual references, as well as the multiple identities of the narrator. The following topics are analyzed in light of this problematic: The novel's prefaces, which problematize the notions of beginnings and authorship; the narrator, who presents himself as the central force of both organization and disorganization; the narratee, who functions as a device of the narrator; the bourgeoisie, whose identity and function mirror its nature as fictional construct; and the female characters, who act as authors of their own life stories. The arbitrariness of social and legal codes in the novel function as a mise en abyme of the arbitrariness of literary and linguistic codes. Through its overt manipulation and commentary on literary conventions in the Roman bourgeois, the mechanics of creating fiction are laid bare, not masked by the illusion that they represent anything other than fiction itself.