The bell jar, the maze and the mural
The practices and processes by which various forms of signs are generated, for example, the cartographical procedure by which maps are drawn, more generally, the diagrammatic ones by which networks of relationships are iconically represented, are themselves <i>performances</i> (maps are always both the result of mappings and the impetus for re-mappings). Literary texts provide us with unique resources for exploring, among other matters, the performative dimensions of these complex procedures, turning them into stages on which subjectivity is played out. Looking at texts by John Banville (<i>The Sea</i>), Carole Shields (<i>Larry’s Party</i>) and Michael Ondaatje (<i>In the Skin of a Lion</i>), I will argue that diagrammatic figurations in narrative texts involve not only performance and performativity but also strongly enhance the complex interaction between narrativity and visuality as they transform the text into a stage on which textual activity is performed, (1) as a dramatic dialogue between writer, text and reader and (2) in the dramatic and visual positionings of agents within the text itself. Three kinds of textual performance of subjectivity can be discerned in the diagrammatic figurations in these three novels: on the diegetic level, as the subjectivity performed by the characters and, especially, the narrators as instances of performativity that is established and maintained in relation to both author and reader; on the level of the author, whose subjectivity is textually performed as self-expression; finally, on the level of reception, as the subjectivity of the reader is itself established performatively in the act of reading.