Acts of Fiction
Resistance and Resolution from Sade to Baudelaire
Scott CarpenterThe idea that narrative operates as a symbolic resolution of realities that are undesirable, uncontrollable, or unbearable has gained considerable currency in fields as diverse as Marxist criticism and Lacanian psychoanalysis. What has received less attention is that narratives largely lose their effectiveness when their symbolic nature is uncovered, when the resolutions they offer are revealed to be ''merely'' symbolic. Acts of Fiction demonstrates how narratives operate under cover, negotiating problematic realities while masking their rhetorical strategies.
Scott Carpenter shows how the restructuring of society in postrevolutionary France (1795–1869) triggered a variety of narrative attempts to come to terms with social, political, and epistemological shifts. While identifying four modes of writing in works by Sade, Balzac, Nerval, and Baudelaire, Carpenter studies the entanglements of literature and history, demonstrating how narratives were used to re-engineer the cultural imagination. Acts of Fiction draws on popular culture, iconography, science, philosophy, and politics and is informed by a wide range of critics, including Foucault, Chambers, Terdiman, Jameson, and Petrey.
Scott Carpenter is Associate Professor of French at Carleton College.
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