•  
  •  
 

Abstract

In this essay, I investigate the materialism of Francis Ponge from an epistemological perspective using “La Cruche” (“The Carafe”), a poem that appears in Ponge’s Pièces(1962). The following question guides the analysis: how does Ponge use an ordinary object—a carafe in this case—to examine the role of language as a mediating device in man’s quest for knowledge of the material world? In the first section, I identify the object as a metaphor for the word (parole). Next, I use this metaphor to argue that Ponge sees language as an intermediary between man and his material environment. Much like the carafe, which mediates the relationship between man and water, the word acts as a mediating device in man’s acquisition of knowledge of a given material object. For Ponge, language does not refer to a material reality, but rather to a concept or idea of that reality. In semiotic terms, the word is a signifier that refers to a signified. It follows that language can produce only a partial and heavily mediated knowledge of the material object. In this light, it is the object, and not our knowledge of it, that is absolute. In the final section of the essay, I relate my discussion of “La Cruche” to three famous poems from Ponge’s Le Parti Pris des Choses (1942): “L’Huître,” “Le Galet,” and “De l’eau.”

Share

COinS