While debates about the relations to fascism exhibited in de Man’s newspaper articles will no doubt continue , the important question is what value his critical and theoretical writings have for us, the productivity of his critical and theoretical work for our thinking. The wartime writings give a new dimension to much of de Man’s work in America, helping one to understand more plainly what is implied by his critique of the aesthetic ideology, as in late essays on Kleist and (...) on Kant and Schiller. Walter Benjamin called fascism the introduction of aesthetics into politics. De Man’s critique of the aesthetic ideology now resonates also as a critique of the fascist tendencies he had known. Jonathan Culler, Class of 1916 Professor of English and comparative literature at Cornell University, is the author of Framing the Sign: Criticism and Its Institutions. (shrink)
Roland Barthes was the leading figure of French Structuralism, the theoretical movement of the 1960s which revolutionized the study of literature and culture, as well as history and psychoanalysis. But Barthes was a man who disliked orthodoxies. His shifting positions and theoretical interests make him hard to grasp and assess. This book surveys Barthes' work in clear, accessible prose, highlighting what is most interesting and important in his work today.
Madame Bovary, which was scandalous in its own day for its focus on the adultery of a provincial woman, has had a strange, complex fate. Flaubert remade the image of the novelist, as pure artist, for whom style was all that mattered, and disrupted novelistic technique, in ways that critics and writers have found exemplary, treating this as the novel novelists cannot overlook; yet for readers Madame Bovary is not a “book about nothing” but provides a searing portrait of provincial (...) life and of the condition of women. The vividness and complexity of the character Flaubert created here made Emma a type: a sufferer of “Bovarysme.” Flaubert’s revolutionary notion that a trivial subject was as good as a noble subject for a serious novel was taken to be connected to the democratic notion that every human subject is as worthy as another and allowed to have desires. Yet, while promoting Emma as a valid subject of literature, equal to others, Flaubert writes against the attempt to democratize art, to make it enter every life, and renders trivial the manifestations of this subject’s desires, while making her an exemplary figure. (shrink)
La Préparation du roman, Barthes's course at the Collège de France which was interrupted by his death in 1980, announces a change of life: not giving up analysing literature and culture to write a novel but `preparing the novel', working as if he were going to write a novel. Barthes's approach to the novel is quite singular. With no interest in narrative, nor in extracting the meaning from experience, he treats the novel as a sort of notation, and perversely takes (...) Haiku as a model. This new project constitutes in many respects a regression to literary and cultural ideas Barthes had previously rejected. Most seriously, it involves a turn away from reflection on language, which had been crucial to Barthes's work. But there are other ways in which the change in approach brings new insights to a thinking of the novel and of literature. (shrink)
Organized thematically, this four-volume collection explores the key areas of structuralism - and with a new introduction by the editor to guide the reader through the work, this is an essential collection of secondary sources that provides a valuable tool for research. Taking as their methodological model the successes of the structural linguistics inaugurated by Ferdinand de Saussure, a group of thinkers in such fields as anthropology, literary and cultural studies, sociology and philosophy developed ambitious programs for the interdisciplinary study (...) of the systems by which human beings make the world intelligible. (shrink)