A Poetics of Detail

‘The detail discloses hidden elements within a diegesis – a formulation that applies to psychoanalysis as much as it applies to the interpretation of narrative generally. Freud creates an interpretive pradagim in which details function as clues, distractions or unarticulated dimensions of diegesis. […] Details need only suggest in their effects of authenticity or usualness that they belong to a possible world. Framing that world, which can be entirely made up, ‘details provide an important aesthetic function when their concreteness, historical accuracy, or presicision captures and sustains the readers attention or conveys to him the illusion of immediacy’. That immediacy need not spring from the coherence of details. They can exist independent of each other, like so many curiosities in a cabinet.  For this reason details resemble material goods; the precise captures the essential qualities of an object.’

Perceived and interpreted, details offer counter narratives within narratives, they supplement stories with extra diegectical importance. In The Pleasure of the Text, Roland Barthes reflects on details as narrative information: ‘Why this curiosity for tiny details, schedules, meals, habits, clothes and so on. Is this the fantasmic taste of reality [‘the materiality of this once existed’]?. Is it not a fantasy itself which summons the detail, the minutiae, private scene in which I might find my place at last’?. Fantasy stakes its claim in the kingdom of the detail. Whereas the realist text purports to offer historical veracity through a grisaille of details, details admit speculation, fantasy, even the fantasmic. The detail in this sense is not available for public scrutiny or sharing. The detail re-fetishizes ownership through particularity.’

Enchanted Objects: visual art in contemporary fiction, 2010:pp64/65