Rousseau's Legacy: Emergence and Eclipse of the Writer in France

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Rousseau's Legacy focuses on the new and influential paradigm of the writer that emerged in the decades immediately preceding the French Revolution. Ushered in by Rousseau's combining revolutionary sociopolitical critique with a new art of autobiography, the writer would henceforth differ greatly from the traditional "man of letters." Rousseau inaugurated the idea of a heroic and committed writerly life in which the opposition between public and private selves is collapsed. This was done in the cause of creating a future political community founded on transparency.

Porter, with both a wide-ranging knowledge of contemporary theory and an informed interest in cultural/historical context, gives close readings of relevant works by a number of major French writers, including Stendhal, Baudelaire, Sartre, Barthes, Duras, Althusser, and Foucault. Thus, he explores the persistent importance of the Rousseauist paradigm for French literary culture. The book goes beyond a critique or theory that interprets literary or philosophical works for their own sake, to reveal representations and self-representations of the idea of the writer in paintings, engravings, and photographs, as well as in literary texts. In concluding, Porter argues that with the collapse of faith in social and individual regeneration through revolution, the archetype of such a writer is also waning.

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Editorial Reviews

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"[An] entertaining and provocative book."—Times Literary Study
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195091076
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 5/28/1995
  • Pages: 320
  • Lexile: 1620L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.22 (d)

Meet the Author

University of Massachusetts, Amherst
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Table of Contents

Introduction 3
1 Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Putting the Polis in Command 22
2 Stendhal: Overpoliticization and the Revenge of Literature 71
3 Charles Baudelaire: Portrait of the Poet as Antiwriter 106
4 Jean-Paul Sartre: Writer, Militant, Graphomaniac 143
5 The Cultural Twilight of Roland Barthes 189
6 Marguerite Duras: Autobiographical Acts, Celebrity Status 212
7 Epilogue: From Althusser's Theory of a Murder to Foucault's Aesthetics of Existence 238
Notes 269
Index 297
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