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Politics of Literature

Jacques Rancière

ISBN: 978-0-745-64530-8 February 2011 Polity 248 Pages


The politics of literature is not the same as the politics of writers and their commitments, nor does it concern the way writers represent social structures or political struggles. The expression 'politics of literature' assumes that there is a specific connection between politics as a form of collective practice and literature as a historically determined regime of the art of writing. It implies that literature intervenes in the parceling out of space and time, place and identity, speech and noise, the visible and the invisible, that is the arena of the political.

This book seeks to show how the literary revolution shatters the perceptible order that underpinned traditional hierarchies, but also why literary equality foils any bid to place literature in the service of politics or in its place. It tests its hypotheses on certain writers: Flaubert, Tolstoy, Hugo, Mallarmé, Brecht and Borges, to name a few. It also shows the consequences of this for psychoanalytical intepretation, historical narration and philosophical conceptualization.

Original Sources
- The Politics of Literature
- Literary Misunderstanding
- The Putting to Death of Emma Bovary: Literature, Democracy and Medicine
- On the Battlefield: Tolstoy, Literature, History
- The Intruder: Mallarmé's Politics
- The Gay Science of Bertolt Brecht
- Borges and French Disease
- The Truth Through the Window: Literary Truth, Freudian Truth
- The historian, literature and the genre of biography
- The Poet at the philosopher's: Mallarmé and Badiou
"By 'politics of literature' Rancière means the intervention of the new democratic literature of modernity in the parceling out of space and time. There is more than one democracy at stake here, and no one has tracked their competing claims and contradictory vocations more brilliantly than Rancière. Every page of this riveting work illuminates and challenges. This is Rancière at his scintillating best."
J.M. Bernstein, New School for Social Research
  • Jacques Rancière is one of the leading philosophers in France today, well-known for his work on aesthetics, politics and the philosophy of literature.
  • This book is a thoughtful and stimulating account of the relationship between literature and politics, in the style of great thinkers like Sartre.
  • Rancière argues that the politics of literature is not about the politics of particular writers, but is about a more general relation between politics as a form of collective practice and literature as a historically determined regime of the art of writing.
  • This book will appeal to students and academics in philosophy, literary theory, political philosophy and social theory. Rancière has a large following in the English-speaking world who will be eager to read this new book.