Mute Speech: Literature, Critical Theory, and Politics (New Directions in Critical Theory)
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Jacques Rancière has continually unsettled political discourse, particularly through his questioning of aesthetic "distributions of the sensible," which configure the limits of what can be seen and said. Widely recognized as a seminal work in Rancière's corpus, the translation of which is long overdue, Mute Speech is an intellectual tour de force proposing a new framework for thinking about the history of art and literature. Rancière argues that our current notion of "literature" is a relatively recent creation, having first appeared in the wake of the French Revolution and with the rise of Romanticism. In its rejection of the system of representational hierarchies that had constituted belles-letters, "literature" is founded upon a radical equivalence in which all things are possible expressions of the life of a people. With an analysis reaching back to Plato, Aristotle, the German Romantics, Vico, and Cervantes and concluding with brilliant readings of Flaubert, Mallarmé, and Proust, Rancière demonstrates the uncontrollable democratic impulse lying at the heart of literature's still-vital capacity for reinvention.
sciences that give the silence of things its eloquence as a true testimony about a world or refer any proffered speech to the mute truth expressed by the speaker’s attitude or the writer’s paper. The opposition between the creative individual and the collectivity or that between artistic creation and cultural commerce can only be formulated on the basis of the same idea of language and the same rupture of the representative circle. This circle defined a 68 | From Restricted to General Poetics
by the works of Jean Paul. The author is always on stage; he accumulates prefaces and appendixes, appendixes to prefaces and prefaces to appendixes, finally agrees to set in motion a character who is his double and throw him into an insignificant story, but only to accompany him, substitute himself for him, and forget him along the way in order to begin a poetic digression or a discussion with the reader. “Poetry” is nothing more than the continual dissolution of representation, the act of
wrote, as an individual, the “book of life” of a people and 114 | The Contradictions of the Work of Literature an age of the world. This equivalent will be, to the contrary, a work without substance: no longer the work as cathedral, but the work as desert, the “book about nothing” that makes word and thought adhere to one another by the force of style alone. What seems beautiful to me, what I should like to write, is a book about nothing, a book dependent on nothing external, which would be
the Looking Glass | 13 the distribution of genres is dismantled by the principle of the equality of all represented subjects. The novel rises to power as the false genre, the genreless genre that freely circulates through diverse publics rather than being restricted to specific domains or privileged locations. Third, the principle of decorum is overturned by the indifference of style in relation to the subject represented. With the abolition of genres, style becomes, in Flaubert’s language,
Life Philosophy: Négritude, Vitalism, and Modernity, Donna V. Jones Democracy in What State? Giorgio Agamben, Alain Badiou, Daniel Bensaïd, Wendy Brown, Jean-Luc Nancy, Jacques Rancière, Kristin Ross, Slavoj Žižek Politics of Culture and the Spirit of Critique: Dialogues, Edited by Gabriel Rockhill and Alfredo Gomez-Muller LItIC o p d n o r y, a e h t L rItICa C , e r u t LItera MUte SpeeCh JacQUeS raNciÈre Tra N s L aTe D B Y Ja m e s sWe N so N WiTh a N i NTr o D u C Ti o N B Y g a B r i e L