a new study from Dora Zhang
The modern novel, so the story goes, thinks poorly of mere description—what Virginia Woolf called “that ugly, that clumsy, that incongruous tool.” As a result, critics have largely neglected description as a feature of novelistic innovation during the twentieth century. Dora Zhang argues that descriptive practices were in fact a crucial site of attention and experimentation for a number of early modernist writers, centrally Woolf, Henry James, and Marcel Proust.
Description is the novelistic technique charged with establishing a common world, but in the early twentieth century, there was little agreement about how a common world could be known and represented. Zhang argues that the protagonists in her study responded by shifting description away from visualizing objects to revealing relations—social, formal, and experiential—between disparate phenomena. In addition to shedding new light on some of the best-known works of modernism, Zhang opens up new ways of thinking about description more broadly. She moves us beyond the classic binary of narrate-or-describe and reinvigorates our thinking about the novel. Strange Likeness will enliven conversations around narrative theory, affect theory, philosophy and literature, and reading practices in the academy.
DORA ZHANG is Associate Professor of English at UC Berkeley. Her essay “A Lens for an Eye: Proust and Photography” was published in Representations 118.
A new book from Sharon Marcus, Columbia scholar and friend of the journal:
In this a bold new account of how celebrity works, Marcus draws on scrapbooks, personal diaries, and vintage fan mail to trace celebrity culture back to its nineteenth-century roots, when people the world over found themselves captivated by celebrity chefs, bad-boy poets, and actors such as the “divine” Sarah Bernhardt (1844–1923), as famous in her day as the Beatles in theirs.
Sharon Marcus is the Orlando Harriman Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. She is a founding editor of Public Books and the author of the award-winning Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England (Princeton) and Apartment Stories: City and Home in Nineteenth-Century Paris and London. She has co-edited two special issues for Representations, Description Across Disciplines (2016) and The Way We Read Now (2009)
The Novel in the Age of Evolution
by Ian Duncan
A major rethinking of the European novel and its relationship to early evolutionary science
The 120 years between Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones (1749) and George Eliot’s Middlemarch (1871) marked both the rise of the novel and the shift from the presumption of a stable, universal human nature to one that changes over time. In Human Forms, Ian Duncan reorients our understanding of the novel’s formation during its cultural ascendancy, arguing that fiction produced new knowledge in a period characterized by the interplay between literary and scientific discourses—even as the two were separating into distinct domains.
Duncan focuses on several crisis points: the contentious formation of a natural history of the human species in the late Enlightenment; the emergence of new genres such as the Romantic bildungsroman; historical novels by Walter Scott and Victor Hugo that confronted the dissolution of the idea of a fixed human nature; Charles Dickens’s transformist aesthetic and its challenge to Victorian realism; and George Eliot’s reckoning with the nineteenth-century revolutions in the human and natural sciences. Modeling the modern scientific conception of a developmental human nature, the novel became a major experimental instrument for managing the new set of divisions—between nature and history, individual and species, human and biological life—that replaced the ancient schism between animal body and immortal soul.
The first book to explore the interaction of European fiction with “the natural history of man” from the late Enlightenment through the mid-Victorian era, Human Forms sets a new standard for work on natural history and the novel.
Part of the book’s chapter 5, “George Eliot’s Science Fiction,” was first published in Representations 125.
Ian Duncan is professor and Florence Green Bixby Chair in English at the University of California, Berkeley, and a member of the Representations editorial board. His books include Scott’s Shadow: The Novel in Romantic Edinburgh (Princeton).
Boston Review has posted today an excerpt of Rachel Ablow’s Interview with Elaine Scarry in our current special issue, The Social Life of Pain. Read the full interview here, and check out the issue introduction (free for a limited time) here.
University of Chicago Press 2019
Imagine trying to tell someone something about yourself and your desires for which there are no words. What if the mere attempt at expression was bound to misfire, to efface the truth of that ineluctable something?
In Someone, Michael Lucey considers characters from twentieth-century French literary texts whose sexual forms prove difficult to conceptualize or represent. The characters expressing these “misfit” sexualities gravitate towards same-sex encounters. Yet they differ in subtle but crucial ways from mainstream gay or lesbian identities—whether because of a discordance between gender identity and sexuality, practices specific to a certain place and time, or the fleetingness or non-exclusivity of desire. Investigating works by Simone de Beauvoir, Colette, Jean Genet, and others, Lucey probes both the range of same-sex sexual forms in twentieth-century France and the innovative literary language authors have used to explore these evanescent forms.
As a portrait of fragile sexualities that involve awkward and delicate maneuvers and modes of articulation, Someone reveals just how messy the ways in which we experience and perceive sexuality remain, even to ourselves.
Michael Lucey is Professor of Comparative Literature and French at the University of California, Berkeley, and a member of the Representations editorial board. An earlier version of the chapter “Simone de Beauvoir and Sexuality in the Third Person” appeared in Representations 109. His new work in progress is Proust, Sociology, Talk, and Novels. Previous books include Never Say I: Sexuality and the First Person in Colette, Gide, and Proust and The Misfit of the Family: Balzac and the Social Forms of Sexuality.
Congratulations to Kent Puckett
–whose book Narrative Theory: A Critical Introduction (Cambridge UP, 2016) has won the 2018 Perkins Prize from the International Society for the Study of Narrative. The Barbara Perkins and George Perkins Prize is presented annually the society to the book that makes the most significant contribution to the study of narrative in the preceding year.
Narrative Theory: A Critical Introduction provides an account of a methodology increasingly central to literary studies, film studies, history, psychology, and beyond. In addition to introducing readers to some of the field’s major figures and their ideas, Puckett situates critical and philosophical approaches toward narrative within a longer intellectual history. The book reveals one of narrative theory’s founding claims – that narratives need to be understood in terms of a formal relation between story and discourse, between what they narrate and how they narrate it – both as a necessary methodological distinction and as a problem characteristic of modern thought. Puckett thus shows that narrative theory is not only a powerful descriptive system but also a complex and sometimes ironic form of critique.
KENT PUCKETT is Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley, and author, in addition to Narrative Theory, of War Pictures: Cinema, Violence, and Style in Britain, 1939-1945 (Fordham, 2017) and Bad Form: Social Mistakes and the Nineteenth-Century Novel (Oxford, 2008). He serves on the editorial board of Representations, for which he edited the special forum Search (127) and coedited, with C. D. Blanton and Colleen Lye, the special issue Financialization and the Culture Industry (126).
New from Berkeley Forum in the Humanities
Freud and Monotheism: Moses and the Violent Origins of Religion critically examines a range of discourses surrounding Freud’s Moses and Monotheism, taking as its entry point Freud’s relations to Judaism, his conception of tradition and history, his theory of the mind, and his model of transgenerational inheritance.
Gilad Sharvit and Karen S. Feldman, editors
Authors include: Jan Assmann (Egyptology, University of Heidelberg), Richard Bernstein (Philosophy, New School for Social Research), Karen Feldman (German, UC Berkeley), Willi Goetschel (German and Philosophy, University of Toronto), Ronald Hendel (Near Eastern Studies, UC Berkeley), Catherine Malabou (Philosophy, Kingston University; Comparative Literature, UC Irvine), Gabriele Schwab (Comparative Literature, UC Irvine), Yael Segalovitz (Townsend Fellow, Comparative Literature, UC Berkeley), Gilad Sharvit (Townsend Fellow, Jewish Studies, UC Berkeley), Joel Whitebook (Psychoanalytic Studies, Columbia University).
Publisher: Fordham University Press
Publication date: 06/05/2018
Series: Berkeley Forum in the Humanities Series
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)
New from Haun Saussy:
(Including the essay “Death and Translation,” first published in Representations 94.
This volume examines translation from many different angles: it explores how translations change the languages in which they occur, how works introduced from other languages become part of the consciousness of native speakers, and what strategies translators must use to secure acceptance for foreign works.
Haun Saussy argues that translation doesn’t amount to the composition, in one language, of statements equivalent to statements previously made in another language. Rather, translation works with elements of the language and culture in which it arrives, often reconfiguring them irreversibly: it creates, with a fine disregard for precedent, loan-words, calques, forced metaphors, forged pasts, imaginary relationships, and dialogues of the dead. Creativity, in this form of writing, usually considered merely reproductive, is the subject of this book.
The volume takes the history of translation in China, from around 150 CE to the modern period, as its source of case studies. When the first proponents of Buddhism arrived in China, creativity was forced upon them: a vocabulary adequate to their purpose had yet to be invented. A Chinese Buddhist textual corpus took shape over centuries despite the near-absence of bilingual speakers. One basis of this translating activity was the rewriting of existing Chinese philosophical texts, and especially the most exorbitant of all these, the collection of dialogues, fables, and paradoxes known as the Zhuangzi. The Zhuangzi also furnished a linguistic basis for Chinese Christianity when the Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci arrived in the later part of the Ming dynasty and allowed his friends and associates to frame his teachings in the language of early Daoism. It would function as well when Xu Zhimo translated from The Flowers of Evil in the 1920s. The chance but overdetermined encounter of Zhuangzi and Baudelaire yielded a ‘strange music’ that retroactively echoes through two millennia of Chinese translation, outlining a new understanding of the translator’s craft that cuts across the dividing lines of current theories and critiques of translation.
Michael Lucey’s translation of The End of Eddy by Édouard Louis, published earlier this month, has just been reviewed in both the New Yorker and the New York Times.
An autobiographical novel about growing up gay in a working-class town in Picardy, The End of Eddy at once captures the violence and desperation of life in a French factory town and provides a sensitive portrait of boyhood and sexual awakening.
The author, Édouard Louis, is a novelist and the editor of a scholarly work on Pierre Bourdieu. He is the coauthor, with the philosopher Geoffroy de Lagasnerie, of “Manifesto for an Intellectual and Political Counteroffensive,” published in English by the Los Angeles Review of Books.
Michael Lucey, a member of the Representations editorial board, is a professor of French literature at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Never Say I: Sexuality and the First Person in Colette, Gide, and Proust and The Misfit of the Family: Balzac and the Social Forms of Sexuality and translator of Returning to Reims by Didier Eribon.