The Price of Literature

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ISBN 978-0-8101-3934-3

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ISBN 978-0-8101-3933-6

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ISBN 978-0-8101-3932-9
Publication Date
March 2019
Page Count
168 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

The Price of Literature

The French Novel's Theoretical Turn
Patrick M. Bray

The Price of Literature examines the presence of theory in the nineteenth-century French novel, something Proust likened to leaving a price tag on a gift. Emerging after the French Revolution, what we now call literature was conceived as an art liberated from representational constraints. Patrick M. Bray shows how literature’s freedom to represent anything at all has meant, paradoxically, that it cannot articulate a coherent theory of itself—unless this theory is a necessarily subversive literary representation, or “the novel’s theoretical turn.”

Literary thought, or the theory produced by the text, can only function by exploring what escapes dominant representations. The Price of Literature analyzes how certain iconic texts from the nineteenth century (by Mme de Staël, Hugo, Balzac, Flaubert, and Proust) perform a theoretical turn to claim the freedom to represent anything in the world, but also literature’s ability to transform the world it represents. The conclusion advances a new way of thinking about literary scholarship—one based on how literature redistributes ways of writing by lending form to thought.
About the Author

PATRICK M. BRAY is an associate professor in the Department of French and Italian at The Ohio State University and the author of The Novel Map: Space and Subjectivity in Nineteenth-Century French Fiction.

“This book offers an original, sound and clever approach to literary works, as a profound and better understanding of theoretical importance of Literature in the creative nature of thought over the mechanical habits of our reading, and of the ‘a-disciplinarity’ of literature.” —Jacques Neefs, James M. Beall Professor of French Literature at Johns Hopkins University

"Focusing on Mme de Staël, Hugo, Balzac, Flaubert, and Proust, Bray explores the many tensions at the heart of 'literature’s theoretical conundrum' . . . He lays bare the deceptive division of literature into theory and fiction, plays off the supposed oppositions between theory and art, and shows how authors create great literature out of the very fluidity of boundaries. An important contribution to literary studies. Recommended." —Choice