By Gilbert D. Chaitin
Within the Enemy inside, Gilbert D. Chaitin deepens our knowing of the character and resources of tradition wars throughout the French 3rd Republic. The mental trauma as a result of the Ferry academic reform legislation of 1880-1882, which strove to create a brand new nationwide id according to secular morality instead of God-given commandments, pitted Catholics opposed to proponents of lay schooling and gave upward thrust to novels via Bourget, Barres, A. France and Zola.By deploying Lacanian suggestions to appreciate the 'erotics of politics' published in those novels, Chaitin examines the formation of nationwide id, supplying a brand new highbrow heritage of the interval and laying off gentle at the intimate relatives between literature, schooling, philosophy, morality, and political order. The mechanisms defined within the Enemy inside of supply clean perception into the affective constitution of tradition wars not just within the French 3rd Republic yet in different places on the earth this day
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Extra resources for Culture Wars and Literature in the French Third Republic
In short, he combats the republican fantasy with his own, equally dangerous fantasy of what Derrida has called “the terrifying desire for roots and common roots” (Derrida 1988, 648). No wonder, then, that the authoritarian right-wing turn of the century Nationalists of “the soil and the dead”—Taine (see L’école, the last volume of his Origines de la France contemporaine), Bourget and Barrès, among others—should have warmly embraced the ideology of these most resistant texts by the left-wing Communard.
But the connection becomes apparent when one examines the role of literature as a subset of the mediating role between art and society played by humanistic disciplines, a role that serves as a basis for the moral authority claimed by those same schools in which students currently are forbidden from exhibiting their religious affiliation. Art and religion are of course distinct human activities, and I argue that the tendency to conflate the two is dismissive of religion’s specific claims to truth, and possibly of art’s claims as well; but they have always been perceived as having something in common, enough to allow art, and “national” literature in particular, to help justify the secular state’s claims to moral authority over its future citizens, in a manner that irresistibly evokes an institutionalized religion’s dependence on its own specific canonical texts and iconography.
Except that the world Jacques longs to create is not new but a reconstruction of the one he imagines he has lost through his parents’ choices in life and their imposition of those choices onto himself. The first pages of the novel are filled with images of the joyous freedom and conviviality, of the sheer physical and verbal exuberance of the haunts and activities of the workers and peasants from whom Jacques is descended on both sides of his family, scenes designed to provide stark contrasts to the constricted existence of the schoolboy victim of his parents’ dreams of upward social mobility.