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Bourdieu and Literature

Bourdieu and Literature

John R.W. Speller
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Open Book Publishers
Pages: 203
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  • Book Info
    Bourdieu and Literature
    Book Description:

    Bourdieu and Literature is a wide-ranging, rigorous and accessible introduction to the relationship between Pierre Bourdieu's work and literary studies. It provides a comprehensive overview and critical assessment of his contributions to literary theory and his thinking about authors and literary works. One of the foremost French intellectuals of the post-war era, Bourdieu has become a standard point of reference in the fields of anthropology, linguistics, art history, cultural studies, politics, and sociology, but his longstanding interest in literature has often been overlooked. This study explores the impact of literature on Bourdieu's intellectual itinerary, and how his literary understanding intersected with his sociological theory and thinking about cultural policy. This is the first full-length study of Bourdieu's work on literature in English, and it provides an invaluable resource for students and scholars of literary studies, cultural theory and sociology.

    eISBN: 978-1-906924-44-7
    Subjects: Sociology, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-6)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 7-10)
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. 11-12)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 13-16)

    At the time of his death in 2002, Bourdieu was a contender for the position of France’s foremost intellectual, and one of the most influential sociologists in the world. A Chair in sociology at the Collège de France from 1981, he wrote on a wide range of topics from Kabyle society to French cultural taste, and from housing policy to fine art. Translated into some forty languages, his works have become standard points of reference in the fields of anthropology, linguistics, art history, cultural studies, politics, sociology, and beyond. Yet Bourdieu’s work on literature has so far received relatively little...

  5. 1. Positions
    (pp. 17-38)

    Are Bourdieu’s analyses of literature any more than a diversion from his more ‘serious’ sociological research? Unlike his other major studies of social fields, which were written in collaboration with teams of researchers and co-authors, Bourdieu’s work on literature seems to have been a largely solitary affair, suggesting that it was something of a sideline to which he returned when he needed a rest from his ‘hard’ scientific labours. Again, while literature provides an important source of anecdote, illustration, and insight across much of the rest of Bourdieu’s work, it appears most often in the form of epigraphs, footnotes, and...

  6. 2. Methods
    (pp. 39-78)

    What Bourdieu brings to literature studies is first and foremost a new method for analysing literary texts. The main aim of that method is to connect internal and external levels of analysis, the relation between which has always been problematic, when it has not been ignored, or declared unfathomable. Yet Bourdieu also employs the same general theories and concepts in his studies of sport, philosophy, politics, journalism, linguistics, and education, as he applies in his studies of literature. This was another of Bourdieu’s stated methodological aims: to remove the ‘statut d’exception’ (RA, 10-11)¹ that literature holds traditionally in France, which...

  7. 3. Autonomy
    (pp. 79-102)

    Having set out Bourdieu’s theory and method of literature analysis and introduced its latest developments, this chapter explores Bourdieu’s under-examined but central concept of autonomy, as the point at which the concepts of field, habitus, and capital intersect. The concept of autonomy is fundamental to Bourdieu’s thinking about literary fields, because it is through an historical process of autonomisation and differentiation that fields become constituted. It is also this process that leads to the constitution of the dispositions characteristic of the ‘pure’ writer, motivated by literary ends alone, and to the birth of the literary ‘intellectual’, first embodied, Bordieu argues,...

  8. 4. Science and Literature
    (pp. 103-130)

    If Bourdieu came to the defence of writers and artists in his political interventions, and even claimed that the sociologist can be the greatest ally of those engaged in the creation and conservation of literary and artistic culture, his analyses have been more often criticised as reductive and destructive of cultural values. A particular bone of contention has been his insistence on the word ‘science’, which especially jars when it is used to describe Bourdieu’s approach to literature, inLes Règles de l’artand elsewhere, as ‘une science des oeuvres’.¹ In this relationship, scientific knowledge and rationality appear to be...

  9. 5. Literature and Cultural Politics
    (pp. 131-152)

    In the last decade of his career, Bourdieu became a figure on the French political stage, following in the tradition of engaged public intellectuals including Foucault, Sartre, and Zola. This chapter explores the place of literature and literary effects within Bourdieu’s wider political-intellectual project. First, it traces what Bourdieu calls ‘La production de l’idéologie dominante’, and explains the analogies between literary and political discourse, which is open therefore to literary modes of analysis and subversion. Next, it examines literature’s function as a vehicle for critical or ideological messages, and the particular force that literature can contribute to symbolic struggles. Thirdly,...

  10. 6. Literature and Cultural Policy
    (pp. 153-184)

    Bourdieu usually avoided making ‘normative’ proposals, especially in his ‘scientific’ work. Even in his political interventions, he warns against ‘le piège du programme’, arguing ‘il y a bien assez de partis et d’appareils pour ça’ (CFI,62).¹ In Bourdieu’s view, researchers are better off keeping to what they are good at: providing information and analysis, rather than programmes and prescriptions. On several prominent occasions, Bourdieu did, however, engage directly in the cultural policy debate, most notably in two reports commissioned by the French government on the reform of education.² This chapter examines the points at which Bourdieu’s cultural policy reflection...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 185-190)

    Bourdieu’s work on literature provides a wide-ranging and theoretically sophisticated framework for understanding the processes and patterns of literary production and reception. Bourdieu’s work on cultural tastes, education and his cultural policy proposals intertwine with his substantive work on literature to provide a view of literature’s place and function in French society. This is a model that can and has been used as the basis for comparison of literary production in other countries, facilitated by the re-application of Bourdieu’s concepts and theories. Bourdieu’s theory has, moreover, been extended to the transnational level of ‘world literary space’, to take account of...

  12. References
    (pp. 191-200)
  13. Index
    (pp. 201-204)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 205-207)