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The Bad Taste of Others

Judging Literary Value in Eighteenth-Century France

By Jennifer Tsien

An act of bad taste was more than a faux pas to French philosophers of the Enlightenment. To Montesquieu, Voltaire, Diderot, and others, bad taste in the arts could be a sign of the decline of a civilization. These intellectuals, faced with the potential chaos of an expanding literary market, created seals of disapproval in order to shape the literary and cultural heritage of France in their image. In The Bad Taste of Others Jennifer Tsien examines the power of ridicule and exclusion to shape the period's aesthetics.

Tsien reveals how the philosophes consecrated themselves as the protectors of true French culture modeled on the classical, the rational, and the orderly. Their anxiety over the invasion of the Republic of Letters by hordes of hacks caused them to devise standards that justified the marginalization of worldy women, "barbarians," and plebeians. While critics avoided strict definitions of good taste, they wielded the term "bad taste" against all popular works they wished to erase from the canon of French literature, including Renaissance poetry, biblical drama, the burlesque theater of the previous century, the essays of Montaigne, and genres associated with the so-called précieuses. Tsien's study draws attention to long-disregarded works of salon culture, such as the énigmes, and offers a new perspective on the critical legacy of Voltaire. The philosophes' open disdain for the undiscerning reading public challenges the belief that the rise of aesthetics went hand in hand with Enlightenment ideas of equality and relativism.

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Balzac's Comedy of Words

Martin Kanes

Although Balzac's work has been much studied, practically nothing has been written on his use of linguistic concepts. Applying a new approach, this perceptive book demonstrates that the theme and theory of language were central to Balzac's fiction. In considering how the novelist was influenced by eighteenth- and nineteenth-century speculation on language, Martin Kanes traces the development of Balzac's own linguistic ideas from his early to his later writings.

Originally published in 1976.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

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Beckett's Critical Complicity

Carnival, Contestation, and Tradition

Sylvie Debevic Henning

Samuel Beckett's work harbors an inevitable complicity with traditional modes and values. His idealist and even nihilist inclinations, for example, are closely related to the abstracting and systematizing tendencies that have predominated in Western thinking. His drama and fiction, in reproducing these tendencies, also help to reinforce and legitimate them. Beckett's work can thus be said to encourage an attitude of stoic resignation or life-denying withdrawal.

Sylvie Debevec Henning's study reveals an important countertendency. In examining Beckett's art and literary criticism, his novel Murphy, plays Krapp's Last Tape and Endgame, his only film venture, and the late story "The Lost Ones," she shows that through a variety of double-voiced techniques -- irony, parody, and satire -- Beckett also brings a powerful critical light to bear upon our culture's repeated attempts to reduce or eliminate the more problematic aspects of existence and even mocks our desire to do so. His disquieting and occasionally uproarious interweaving of contradictory perspectives -- somber and carnivalized, established and contestory -- suggests that suffering and anguish are fundamental to life, while it affirms their relation to laughter and creative vigor within a richer, if less settled, cultural context.

Drawing upon the work of Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault, Derrida, and particularly Bakhtin, Henning argues that Beckett's profound critique of Western intellectual tradition does not necessarily entail the loss of all positive values and beliefs. On the contrary, his use of carnivalesque and dialogized modes signals a revitalizing capacity that has not been fully appreciated.

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Becoming French

Mapping the Geographies of French Identity, 1871-1914

Becoming French explores the geographical shift that occurs in French society during the first four decades of France's Third Republic government. Dana Kristofor Lindaman provides the historical context that led to the explosion of geographic interest at the end of the nineteenth century, exploring the ways that the work of the geographers Paul Vidal de la Blache and Élisée Reclus served as a conceptual basis for abstract notions of the nation such as la Patrie. Lindaman then uses Reclus's formulation of the earth as "une organisme terrestre" (terrestrial organism) to read Jules Verne's Voyage au centre de la terre (Journey to the Center of the Earth) as a journey to the center of the individual self. Finally, he traces the geographic narrative of G. Bruno's Tour de la France par deux enfants, in particular the way that Bruno's work incorporates the geographic thought of Vidal de la Blache, to discover the organic ties that bind readers through the shared experience of reading the text.

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Before Fiction

The Ancien Regime of the Novel

By Nicholas D. Paige

Fiction has become nearly synonymous with literature itself, as if Homer and Dante and Pynchon were all engaged in the same basic activity. But one difficulty with this view is simply that a literature trafficking in openly invented characters is a quite recent development. Novelists before the nineteenth century ceaselessly asserted that their novels were true stories, and before that, poets routinely took their basic plots and heroes from the past. We have grown accustomed to thinking of the history of literature and the novel as a progression from the ideal to the real. Yet paradoxically, the modern triumph of realism is also the triumph of a literature that has shed all pretense to literalness.

Before Fiction: The Ancien Régime of the Novel offers a new understanding of the early history of the genre in England and France, one in which writers were not slowly discovering a type of fictionality we now take for granted but rather following a distinct set of practices and rationales. Nicholas D. Paige reinterprets Lafayette's La Princesse de Clèves, Rousseau's Julie, ou la Nouvelle Héloïse, Diderot's La Religieuse, and other French texts of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in light of the period's preoccupation with literal truth. Paige argues that novels like these occupied a place before fiction, a pseudofactual realm that in no way leads to modern realism. The book provides an alternate way of looking at a familiar history, and in its very idiom and methodology charts a new course for how we should study the novel and think about the evolution of cultural forms.

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The Begum's Millions

Jules Verne

When two European scientists unexpectedly inherit an Indian rajah's fortune, each builds an experimental city of his dreams in the wilds of the American Northwest. France-Ville is a harmonious urban community devoted to health and hygiene, the specialty of its French founder, Dr. Francois Sarrasin. Stahlstadt, or City of Steel, is a fortress-like factory town devoted to the manufacture of high-tech weapons of war. Its German creator, the fanatically pro-Aryan Herr Schultze, is Verne's first truly evil scientist. In his quest for world domination and racial supremacy, Schultze decides to showcase his deadly wares by destroying France-Ville and all its inhabitants. Both prescient and cautionary, The Begum's Millions is a masterpiece of scientific and political speculation and constitutes one of the earliest technological utopia/dystopias in Western literature. This Wesleyan edition features notes, appendices, and a critical introduction as well as all the illustrations from the original French edition.

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Bonaventure des Périers's Novel Pastimes and Merry Tales

Bonaventure des Périers. translated by Raymond C. La Charité and Virginia A. La Charité

The Nouvelles Récréations et Joyeaux Devis of Bonaventure des Périers are here translated for the first time into modern English. The translators have been successful in retaining the vitality of this important French Renaissance satirist, turning his colloquial sixteenth-century French into equally colloquial and lively American. The translation of the 129 tales is prefaced by a biographical study of des Périers both as man and artist, and a critical bibliography is also included.

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Brutal Intimacy

Analyzing Contemporary French Cinema

Tim Palmer

Brutal Intimacy is the first book to explore the fascinating films of contemporary France, ranging from mainstream genre spectaculars to arthouse experiments, and from wildly popular hits to films that deliberately alienate the viewer. Twenty-first-century France is a major source of international cinema--diverse and dynamic, embattled yet prosperous--a national cinema offering something for everyone. Tim Palmer investigates France's growing population of women filmmakers, its buoyant vanguard of first-time filmmakers, the rise of the controversial cinema du corps, and France's cinema icons: auteurs like Olivier Assayas, Claire Denis, Bruno Dumont, Gaspar Noe, and stars such as Vincent Cassel and Jean Dujardin. Analyzing dozens of breakthrough films, Brutal Intimacy situates infamous titles alongside many yet to be studied in the English language. Drawing on interviews and the testimony of leading film artists, Brutal Intimacy promises to be an influential treatment of French cinema today, its evolving rivalry with Hollywood, and its ambitious pursuits of audiences in Europe, North America, and around the world.

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Character and Meaning in the Novels of Victor Hugo

by Isabel Roche

While Victor Hugo's lasting appeal as a novelist can in large part be attributed to the unforgettable characters that he created, character has been paradoxically the most criticized and least understood element of his fiction. Character and Meaning in the Novels of Victor Hugo provides readers with a deeper understanding of the complexities and nuances that characterize both Hugo's novel writing and the nineteenth-century French novel, and will thus appeal to the specialist and non-specialist alike.

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