- Discourse/Counter-Discourse: The Theory and Practice of Symbolic Resistance in Nineteenth-Century France, and: Breaking the Chain: Women, Theory , and French Realist Fiction, and: Literature and the Left in France: Society, Politics, and the Novel Since the Late Nineteenth Century (review)
- Minnesota Review
- Duke University Press
- Number 29, Fall 1987 (New Series)
- pp. 131-137
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Reviews 131 the bounds of French society was absolutely essential; it allowed them to dismiss the fear of rejection, the weight of inhibition, the constraint of traditional attitudes and roles" (78). As Stein commented: "It was not what France gave you but what it did not take away that was important" (13). Benstock ultimately demonstrates how women created female-centered worlds outside a heterosexual dialectic and how they remapped the city, the Left Bank displacing the power and prestige of the Right Bank. Women ofthe Left Bank embodies concerns raised by current feminist practice, embracing complexity and introducing a unique, sophisticated approach to Modernism. Beyond her presentation of women whose names and accomplishments are becoming more widely known, Benstock has provided an exceptionally fine model of feminist criticism and literary analysis grounded in culture and history as well as biography. NOTES 'See "Beyond the Reaches of Feminist Criticism: A Letter from Paris," Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature 3 (1984-1985); reprinted in Feminist Issues in Literary Scholarship, ed. Shari Benstock (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1987), pp. 7-29. 2In particular, Benstock refers to Noel Riley Fitch's Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation. The stories of Joyce's exploitation of Beach's sincere efforts on his behalf can be found in Fitch's and in other studies; Benstock, however, spares Joyce the brunt of her criticism. JOHANNA X.K. GARVEY Discourse/Counter-Discourse: The Theory and Practice ofSymbolic Resistance in NineteenthCentury France by Richard Terdiman. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1985. pp. 362. $29.95 (cloth). Breaking the Chain: Women, Theory , and French Realist Fiction by Naomi Schor. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985. pp. 203 + xiv. $25 (cloth). Literature and the Left in France: Society, Politics, and the Novel Since the Late Nineteenth Century by J.E. Flower. New York: Methuen, 1985. pp. 216 + xvü. $11.95 (paper). Two of these books address themselves to rather specialized audiences. Flower's study of the working-class novel, somewhat misleadingly titled Literature and the Left in France, explores the historical development of literature as a cultural arm of left-wing poUtics from the liberal reformism of bourgeois naturalism toward the end of the 19th century, through the doctrinaire militancy of socialist realism, up to the French Communist Party debates on literature and politics of the 1960s. Although thoroughly researched and clearly written, this work does not address the traditional canon, and may attract only those interested in the history of debates over and attempts at creating an authentic and politically effective left/working-class novel. It lacks a theoretical perspective that could extend its concern or conclusions beyond the confines of this subject matter itself. Virtually the opposite combination of traits characterizes Schor's Breaking the Chain. Although it examines many of the canonical writers of 19th-century France, this study is a contribution to critical theory rather than to Uterary history. The readings of literary texts (discussed out of chronological order) in effect serve as the basis for elaborating a feminist criticism that would "break the chains" binding female libido within the dominant forms of French realist fiction. To the extent that the Uterature itself is subordinated to this theoretical endeavor, Schor's readership is likely to be limited to those familiar and content with the procedures of feminist deconstruction and "Lacanianism" pursued pretty much for their own sake. Terdiman's Discourse/Counter-Discourse contributes both to the development of poststructuralist critical theory and to the study of 19th-century French Uterary and cultural 132 the minnesota review history. It is a work that will appeal to those interested in the major figures of 19th-century French literature and the socio-cultural context in which they wrote, as well as to those interested in a poststructuralism that pushes deconstruction beyond linguistic and philosophical quandaries to grapple with the conflict of social forces as it plays itself out in discursive forms. Not the least of its virtues is that its theoretical apparatus derives dialectially from the very historical material it examines, instead of being "appüed" from some Archimedean position outside of history. As Terdiman shows, discourse itself takes on new social weight in the nascent democratic...