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Ethics, Poetics, and Politics
In 2007 the French newspaper Le Monde published a manifesto titled “Toward a ‘World Literature’ in French,” signed by forty-four writers, many from France’s former colonies. Proclaiming that the francophone label encompassed people who had little in common besides the fact that they all spoke French, the manifesto’s proponents, the so-called francophone writers themselves, sought to energize a battle cry against the discriminatory effects and prescriptive claims of francophonie.
In one of the first books to study the movement away from the term “francophone” to “world literature in French,” Thérèse Migraine-George engages a literary analysis of contemporary works in exploring the tensions and theoretical debates surrounding world literature in French. She focuses on works by a diverse group of contemporary French-speaking writers who straddle continents—Nina Bouraoui, Hélène Cixous, Maryse Condé, Marie NDiaye, Tierno Monénembo, and Lyonel Trouillot. What these writers have in common beyond their use of French is their resistance to the centralizing power of a language, their rejection of exclusive definitions, and their claim for creative autonomy.
French Romanticism and the Cultural Politics of Archaeology
In the early nineteenth century, as amateur archaeologists excavated Pompeii, Egypt, Assyria, and the first prehistoric sites, a myth arose of archaeology as a magical science capable of unearthing and reconstructing worlds thought to be irretrievably lost. This timely myth provided an urgent antidote to the French anxiety of amnesia that undermined faith in progress, and it armed writers from Chateaubriand and Hugo to Michelet and Renan with the intellectual tools needed to affirm the indestructible character of the past.
From Paris to Pompeii reveals how the nascent science of archaeology lay at the core of the romantic experience of history and shaped the way historians, novelists, artists, and the public at large sought to cope with the relentless change that relegated every new present to history.
In postrevolutionary France, the widespread desire to claim that no being, city, culture, or language was ever definitively erased ran much deeper than mere nostalgic and reactionary impulses. Göran Blix contends that this desire was the cornerstone of the substitution of a weak secular form of immortality for the lost certainties of the Christian afterlife. Taking the iconic city of Pompeii as its central example, and ranging widely across French romantic culture, this book examines the formation of a modern archaeological gaze and analyzes its historical ontology, rhetoric of retrieval, and secular theology of memory, before turning to its broader political implications.
Lermontov, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy
Letters of Two Lovers Who Live in a Small Town at the Foot of the Alps
An elegant translation of one of the most popular novels of its time.
Rousseau's great epistolary novel, Julie, or the New Heloise, has been virtually unavailable in English since 1810. In it, Rousseau reconceptualized the relationship of the individual to the collective and articulated a new moral paradigm. The story follows the fates and smoldering passions of Julie d'Etange and St. Preux, a one-time lover who re-enters Julie's life at the invitation of her unsuspecting husband, M. de Wolmar.
The complex tones of this work made it a commercial success and a continental sensation when it first appeared in 1761, and its embodiment of Rousseau's system of thought, in which feelings and intellect are intertwined, redefined the function and form of fiction for decades. As the characters negotiate a complex maze of passion and virtue, their purity of soul and honest morality reveal, as Rousseau writes in his preface, "the subtleties of heart of which this work is full."
A comprehensive introduction and careful annotations make this novel accessible to contemporary readers, both as an embodiment of Rousseau's philosophy and as a portrayal of the tension and power inherent in domestic life.
Maurice Blanchot's Exilic Writing
Writing, Maurice Blanchot taught us, is not something that is in one's power. It is, rather, a search for a non-power that refuses mastery, order, and all established authority. For Blanchot, this search was guided by an enigmatic exigency, an arresting rupture, and a promise of justice that required endless contestation of every usurping authority, an endless going out toward the other."The step/not beyond" ("le pas au-delà") names this exilic passage as it took form in his influential later work, but not as a theme or concept, since its "step" requires a transgression of discursive limits and any grasp afforded by the labor of the negative. Thus, to follow "the step/not beyond" is to follow a kind of event in writing, to enter a movement that is never quite captured in any defining or narrating account.Last Steps attempts a practice of reading that honors the exilic exigency even as it risks drawing Blanchot's reflective writings and fragmentary narratives into the articulation of a reading. It brings to the fore Blanchot's exceptional contributions to contemporary thought on the ethico-political relation, language, and the experience of human finitude. It offers the most sustained interpretation of The Step Not Beyond available, with attentive readings of a number of major texts, as well as chapters on Levinas and Blanchot's relation to Judaism. Its trajectory of reading limns the meaning of a question from The Infinite Conversation that implies an opening and a singular affirmation rather than a closure: "How had he come to will the interruption of the discourse?"
Published between 1762 and 1765, these writings are the last works Rousseau wrote for publication during his lifetime. Responding in each to the censorship and burning of Emile and Social Contract, Rousseau airs his views on censorship, religion, and the relation between theory and practice in politics.
The Letter to Beaumont is a response to a Pastoral Letter by Christophe de Beaumont, Archbishop of Paris (also included in this volume), which attacks the religious teaching in Emile. Rousseau's response concerns the general theme of the relation between reason and revelation and contains his most explicit and boldest discussions of the Christian doctrines of creation, miracles, and original sin.
In Letters Written from the Mountain, a response to the political crisis in Rousseau's homeland of Geneva caused by a dispute over the burning of his works, Rousseau extends his discussion of Christianity and shows how the political principles of the Social Contract can be applied to a concrete constitutional crisis. One of his most important statements on the relation between political philosophy and political practice, it is accompanied by a fragmentary "History of the Government of Geneva."
Finally, "Vision of Peter of the Mountain, Called the Seer" is a humorous response to a resident of Motiers who had been inciting attacks on Rousseau during his exile there. Taking the form of a scriptural account of a vision, it is one of the rare examples of satire from Rousseau's pen and the only work he published anonymously after his decision in the early 1750s to put his name on all his published works. Within its satirical form, the "Vision" contains Rousseau's last public reflections on religious issues.
Neither the Letter to Beaumont nor the Letters Written from the Mountain has been translated into English since defective translations that appeared shortly after their appearance in French. These are the first translations of both the "History" and the "Vision."
Authorship and Modernity in the Old Regime
A central theme in the history of Old Regime authorship highlights the opportunities offered by a growing book trade to writers seeking to free themselves from patrons and live "by the pen." Accounts of this passage from patronage to market have explored in far greater detail the opportunities themselves—the rising sums paid by publishers and the progression of laws protecting literary property—than how and why writers would have seized on them, no doubt because the choice to do so has seemed an obvious or natural one for writers assumed to prefer economic self-sufficiency over elite protection.
In The Literary Market, Geoffrey Turnovsky claims that there was nothing obvious or natural about the choice. Writers had been involved in commercial book publication since the earliest days of the printing press, yet had not necessarily linked these activities with their freedom to think and write. The association of autonomy and professionalism was forged, not given. Analyzing the literary market as a key articulation of the association, Turnovsky explores how in eighteenth-century polemics a rhetoric of commercial authorship came to signify independence for intellectuals. He finds the roots of the connection not in the claims of entrepreneurial writers to rights and income but in a world to which that of the modern author has been contrasted: the aristocratic culture of the seventeenth century. Aristocratic culture, he argues, generated a disparaging view of the professional author as one defined by activities tainting him or her as greedy and arrogant and therefore unworthy of protection and socially isolated. The Literary Market examines the story of the "birth of the author" in terms of the revalorization of this negative trope in Enlightenment-era debates about the radically changing role of writers in society.
Healing and Love Magic in Old French Romance
What is love? Popular culture bombards us with notions of the intoxicating capacities of love or of beguiling women who can bewitch or heal—to the point that it is easy to believe that such images are timeless and universal. Not so, argues Laine Doggett in Love Cures. Aspects of love that are expressed in popular music—such as “love is a drug,” “sexual healing,” and “love potion number nine”—trace deep roots to Old French romance of the high Middle Ages. A young woman heals a poisoned knight. A mother prepares a love potion for a daughter who will marry a stranger in a faraway land. How can readers interpret such events? In contrast to scholars who have dismissed these women as fantasy figures or labeled them “witches,” Doggett looks at them in the light of medical and magical practices of the high Middle Ages. Love Cures argues that these practitioners, as represented in romance, have shaped modern notions of love. Love Cures seeks to engage scholars of love, marriage, and magic in disciplines as diverse as literature, history, anthropology, and philosophy.