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Allusion is not Illusion

You'll pry my books off my cold, dead body. By the time you shift them all I'll be flat and dessicated.

Currently reading

Winter's Tales
Karen Blixen, Isak Dinesen
Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (Penguin Classics)
Rebecca West, Christopher Hitchens
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Susanna Clarke
Already Dead
Charlie Huston
The Rings of Saturn
W.G. Sebald, Michael Hulse
Lady Audley's Secret
Mary Elizabeth Braddon, David Skilton
Unequal Protection: How Corporations Became "People" - And How You Can Fight Back
Thom Hartmann
The City, Not Long After
Pat Murphy
You Can Sketch: A Step-by-Step Guide for Absolute Beginners
Jackie Simmonds
Lonely Werewolf Girl
Martin Millar
Birth of a National Icon: The Literary Avant-Garde and the Origins of the Intellectual in France - Venita Datta

Arguing that the “Intellectual” emerged in France in the years just prior to the Dreyfus Affair, Datta sets her study two goals: “to separate the origins of the intellectual in France from the strict confines of the Dreyfus Affair and to examine the key role played by the literary avant-garde in the emergence of this figure.” She then proposes to demonstrate that the intellectual (whom she defines as a person “involved in public affairs” who possesses an “authority to speak... derived from their cultural and intellectual titles as well as personal fame”) from is born from the clash of traditional and avant-garde ideologies over national identity.


Intellectuals, in this study, are a fairly specific group, connected by bonds of age, schooling, and family. They defined themselves against earlier generations and by their scorn for the bourgeois values of the Third Republic. Datta relies heavily on the literary journals produced by this group, quoting from the writings of various individuals as she discusses the key intellectuals of the generation.


Next Datta discusses the groups' shared ideas, especially in regards to art and politics. The main source here is the enquete, which mystifyingly she does not describe. They appear to be a sort of opinion poll. She concludes that intellectuals agreed that they ought to be involved in the public realm but “to transcend divisions of class and rise above political parties.” However, they did not favor the new state educational system and rejected the attempts of men of lesser origins (including Jews) to join their elite. They saw themselves as belonging to both a class and a vocation.


Datta finishes with somewhat less original (i.e. drawn from extant scholarship rather than her own research) discussions of contemporary debates over the new woman and manliness, and individual versus national identities.