Bourdieu, Flaubert, and the Sociology of Literature

Sociological Theory 25 (2):149 - 169 (2007)
In "The Field of Cultural Production" and "The Rules of Art," Pierre Bourdieu offered a highly suggestive reading and analysis of Gustave Flaubert's "Sentimental Education". Bourdieu's approach has been extraordinarily influential in recent years in both the sociology of culture and, increasingly, literary criticism. Yet, his treatment of Flaubert's work, this article argues, despite its indisputable insight is problematic in several ways. This article has two objectives in this connection: to show how the weaknesses in Bourdieu's treatment of the novel point to certain key weaknesses in his broader social theory, and to use a parallel reading of the same novel both to demonstrate said weaknesses and to embark on a discussion of the future possibilities of the sociology of literature, arguing that though we should not simply engage in Bourdieuian readings of literary texts, a consideration of the late sociologist's work could inspire a renewed, vigorous research program in this area
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