Paranoia and Modernity: Cervantes to Rousseau

Paperback (Print)
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $15.95
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 46%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (9) from $15.95   
  • New (5) from $22.83   
  • Used (4) from $15.95   


"Don Quixote is the first great modern paranoid adventurer. . . . Grandiosity and persecution define the characters of Swift's Gulliver, Stendhal's Julien Sorel, Melville's Ahab, Dostoyevsky's Underground Man, Ibsen's Masterbuilder Solness, Strindberg's Captain (in The Father), Kafka's K., and Joyce's autobiographical hero Stephen Dedalus. . . . The all-encompassing conspiracy, very much in its original Rousseauvian cast, has become almost the normal way of representing society and its institutions since World War Two, giving impetus to heroic plots and counter-plots in a hundred films and in the novels of Burroughs, Heller, Ellison, Pynchon, Kesey, Mailer, DeLillo, and others."—from Paranoia and ModernityParanoia, suspicion, and control have preoccupied key Western intellectuals since the sixteenth century. Paranoia is a dominant concern in modern literature, and its peculiar constellation of symptoms—grandiosity, suspicion, unfounded hostility, delusions of persecution and conspiracy—are nearly obligatory psychological components of the modern hero.How did paranoia come to the center of modern moral and intellectual consciousness? In Paranoia and Modernity, John Farrell brings literary criticism, psychology, and intellectual history to the attempt at an answer. He demonstrates the connection between paranoia and the long history of struggles over the question of agency—the extent to which we are free to act and responsible for our actions. He addresses a wide range of major authors from the late Middle Ages to the eighteenth century, among them Luther, Bacon, Cervantes, Descartes, Hobbes, Pascal, La Rochefoucauld, Swift, and Rousseau. Farrell shows how differently paranoid psychology looks at different historical junctures with different models of agency, and in the epilogue, "Paranoia and Postmodernism," he draws the implications for recent critical debates in the humanities.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This ambitious book traces the workings of paranoia through a dizzying variety of texts, not only 'Cervantes to Rousseau,' but Sophocles to Pynchon, including detailed readings of the Gawain Poet, Luther, Bacon, Descartes, Hobbes, Pascal, Leibniz, Locke, Pope, Swift, and Hemingway."—Samuel Glen Wong, Renaissance Quarterly

"Paranoia and Modernity is a dazzling and exhilarating genealogy of modern Western suspicion. With shrewd discernment and understated wit, John Farrell shows how misanthropic distrust, once an object of general satire, became the received wisdom of intellectuals. His book is itself a satire, though a very learned and scrupulous one, on the folly of religious and philosophical systems that pay no heed to our common humanity. Farrell combines psychological and critical acuity, historical breadth, and moral irony in a way that leaves this reader gasping with admiration. Paranoia and Modernity is nothing less than a masterpiece."—Frederick Crews

"The effect of John Farrell's intellectual historical overview is both bracing and convincing. I particularly enjoy (and endorse) his notion that the idealism and moral perfectionism exhibited not only by Luther's anxieties about the state of his immortal soul but also by Don Quixote's fantasies of chivalric excellence lie at the root of the anti-idealist sense of alienated human degradation that characterizes our post-Rousseauvian modernity. This book supplies a way out of the nihilist impasse in which so much contemporary cultural criticism seems trapped."—Christopher Braider, University of Colorado at Boulder

"In Paranoia and Modernity, paranoia represents the compulsive need to hold others responsible for one's failure to match ideality to reality. John Farrell's provocative readings of some heady and often-read texts establish paranoia as one way to explain the discrepancy between lofty cultural or personal ideals and the reality that brings them too often to earth."—Thomas DiPiero, University of Rochester

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801474064
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2000
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.04 (w) x 9.09 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Agent and other 13
2 The responsible knight 23
3 The knight errant 33
4 Luther and the devil's world 57
5 The terrors of reform 81
6 The science of suspicion 91
7 The demons of Descartes and Hobbes 112
8 Pascal and power 145
9 The art of polite disguise 158
10 Swift and the satiric absolute 174
11 A flight from humanity 195
12 Invisible agents 219
13 Rousseau's great plot 251
14 An attempted escape 279
Epilogue : paranoia and postmodernism 309
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)