French Literary Fascism: Nationalism, Anti-Semitism, and the Ideology of Culture

Overview

This is the first book to provide a sustained critical analysis of the literary-aesthetic dimension of French fascism--the peculiarly French form of what Walter Benjamin called the fascist "aestheticizing of politics." Focusing first on three important extremist nationalist writers at the turn of the century and then on five of the most visible fascist intellectuals in France in the 1930s, David Carroll shows how both traditional and modern concepts of art figure in the elaboration of fascist ideology--and in the...

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Overview

This is the first book to provide a sustained critical analysis of the literary-aesthetic dimension of French fascism--the peculiarly French form of what Walter Benjamin called the fascist "aestheticizing of politics." Focusing first on three important extremist nationalist writers at the turn of the century and then on five of the most visible fascist intellectuals in France in the 1930s, David Carroll shows how both traditional and modern concepts of art figure in the elaboration of fascist ideology--and in the presentation of fascism as an art of the political.

Carroll is concerned with the internal relations of fascism and literature--how literary fascists conceived of politics as a technique for fashioning a unified people and transforming the disparate elements of society into an organic, totalized work of art. He explores the logic of such aestheticizing, as well as the assumptions about art, literature, and culture at the basis of both the aesthetics and politics of French literary fascists. His book reveals how not only classical humanism but also modern aesthetics that defend the autonomy and integrity of literature became models for xenophobic forms of nationalism and extreme "cultural" forms of anti-Semitism. A cogent analysis of the ideological function of literature and culture in fascism, this work helps us see the ramifications of thinking of literature or art as the truth or essence of politics.

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Editorial Reviews

American Historical Review
A crisp and compelling narrative.... [This] is a book that all scholars of French fascism will have to take seriously.
— William D. Irvine
Choice
That some of the heirs of Voltaire espoused Fascism is one of the great tragedies of French literature. Caroll . . . demonstrates in depth how these brilliant, intelligent, and frequently creative writers, after only the slightest shift of viewpoint, turned nationalist politics into a violent, aggressive, antisocial, terrifying absolute, and vicious alternative to democracy. This is the definitive work on a tragic subject.
The Times Literary Supplement
What interests [Carroll] is fascist ideology and fascist aesthetics, and the relationship between literature and political extremism in general and anti-Semitism in particular. Where some champions of these writers have attempted to separate their writing from their politics, Carroll argues powerfully that it was precisely their faith in art and literature which led them to identify with fascism.
— James F. McMillan
The Virginia Quarterly Review
In French Literary Fascism, Carroll dissects with great care the nature of fascist thought in French literature.... His commentaries are meticulous, documented, intelligent.
— Robert Zaretsky
Toronto Globe & Mail
What stands out is the author's critical intelligence and principled fairness. Although Carroll clearly detests the writings of his subjects, he never loses sight of his project, nor does he diminish the impact of his findings by veering into polemic. Readers interested in the always contemporary debate surrounding anti-hate legislation and freedom of expression will find French Literary Fascism a fascinating read.
— Erna Paris
Toronto Globe and Mail

What stands out is the author's critical intelligence and principled fairness. Although Carroll clearly detests the writings of his subjects, he never loses sight of his project, nor does he diminish the impact of his findings by veering into polemic. Readers interested in the always contemporary debate surrounding anti-hate legislation and freedom of expression will find French Literary Fascism a fascinating read.
— Erna Paris
The Times Literary Supplement - James F. McMillan
What interests [Carroll] is fascist ideology and fascist aesthetics, and the relationship between literature and political extremism in general and anti-Semitism in particular. Where some champions of these writers have attempted to separate their writing from their politics, Carroll argues powerfully that it was precisely their faith in art and literature which led them to identify with fascism.
The Virginia Quarterly Review - Robert Zaretsky
In French Literary Fascism, Carroll dissects with great care the nature of fascist thought in French literature.... His commentaries are meticulous, documented, intelligent.
American Historical Review - William D. Irvine
A crisp and compelling narrative.... [This] is a book that all scholars of French fascism will have to take seriously.
Toronto Globe and Mail - Erna Paris
What stands out is the author's critical intelligence and principled fairness. Although Carroll clearly detests the writings of his subjects, he never loses sight of his project, nor does he diminish the impact of his findings by veering into polemic. Readers interested in the always contemporary debate surrounding anti-hate legislation and freedom of expression will find French Literary Fascism a fascinating read.
From the Publisher

"What interests [Carroll] is fascist ideology and fascist aesthetics, and the relationship between literature and political extremism in general and anti-Semitism in particular. Where some champions of these writers have attempted to separate their writing from their politics, Carroll argues powerfully that it was precisely their faith in art and literature which led them to identify with fascism."--James F. McMillan, The Times Literary Supplement

"In French Literary Fascism, Carroll dissects with great care the nature of fascist thought in French literature.... His commentaries are meticulous, documented, intelligent."--Robert Zaretsky, The Virginia Quarterly Review

"A crisp and compelling narrative.... [This] is a book that all scholars of French fascism will have to take seriously."--William D. Irvine, American Historical Review

"That some of the heirs of Voltaire espoused Fascism is one of the great tragedies of French literature. Caroll . . . demonstrates in depth how these brilliant, intelligent, and frequently creative writers, after only the slightest shift of viewpoint, turned nationalist politics into a violent, aggressive, antisocial, terrifying absolute, and vicious alternative to democracy. This is the definitive work on a tragic subject."--Choice

"What stands out is the author's critical intelligence and principled fairness. Although Carroll clearly detests the writings of his subjects, he never loses sight of his project, nor does he diminish the impact of his findings by veering into polemic. Readers interested in the always contemporary debate surrounding anti-hate legislation and freedom of expression will find French Literary Fascism a fascinating read."--Erna Paris, Toronto Globe and Mail

Toronto Globe & Mail
What stands out is the author's critical intelligence and principled fairness. Although Carroll clearly detests the writings of his subjects, he never loses sight of his project, nor does he diminish the impact of his findings by veering into polemic. Readers interested in the always contemporary debate surrounding anti-hate legislation and freedom of expression will find French Literary Fascism a fascinating read.
— Erna Paris
The Virginia Quarterly Review
In French Literary Fascism, Carroll dissects with great care the nature of fascist thought in French literature.... His commentaries are meticulous, documented, intelligent.
— Robert Zaretsky
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691058467
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/1998
  • Pages: 310
  • Product dimensions: 6.52 (w) x 9.22 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Table of Contents


Acknowledgments
Introduction: Literature, Culture, Fascism 3
Pt. 1 The Fathers of French Literary Fascism 17
1 The Use and Abuse of Culture: Maurice Barres and the Ideology of the Collective Subject 19
The Cult of the Self 19
Cultural and Racial Typologies 27
The Aesthetics of the Collective Subject 31
2 The Beautiful Community: The Fascist Legacy of Charles Peguy 42
Aesthetic Socialism 42
Antimodernism and the Spiritualization of History 52
Nation, Culture, Race 62
3 The Nation as Artwork: Charles Maurras and the Classical Origins of French Literary Fascism 71
Antiromantic Organicism 71
Integral Nationalism, Anti-Semitism, and the Aesthetic Power of the Monarch 87
Pt. 2 Literary Fascists 97
4 Fascism as Aesthetic Experience: Robert Brasillach and the Politics of Literature 99
Nationalism, Fascism, and the Defense of Literature 99
Fascist Joy and the Aestheticizing of Experience 114
5 The Fascist Imagined Community: The Myths of Europe and Totalitarian Man in Drieu la Rochelle 125
The Modernist Political Imagination 125
The Ideal of Total Art 131
The Fascist Imagination and the Myth of Europe 136
Aesthetic Ideals and Collaborationist Politics 139
Apocalyptic Fictions 142
6 Literary Fascism and the Problem of Gender: The Aesthetics of the Body in Drieu la Rochelle 147
The Gender(s) of Fascism: Sartre, Adorno, Theweleit 147
The Fascist Aesthetics of the Body 158
The Trouble with Gender and the Ambivalence of Desire 164
7 Literary Anti-Semitism: The Poetics of Race in Drumont and Celine 171
The Aesthetic Totalization of the Other 171
Style and Race 180
The Politics of Language and the Poetics of Race 186
8 The Art of Anti-Semitic Rage: Lucien Rebatet's Aesthetics of Violence 196
Aesthetic Sensibility and Anti-Semitism 196
The Aesthetic Final Solution 207
9 A Literary Fascism beyond Fascism: Thierry Maulnier and the Ideology of Culture 222
Classicism, Humanism, Fascism 223
Tragedy, Violence, and the National Revolution 229
The Spiritual Revolution and the Ideal of Culture 235
Afterword: Literary Fascism and the Case of Paul de Man 248
Notes to the Chapters 263
Index 295
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