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Modern Literary Criticism in France

Stanislava Moyová


If we think about literary criticism in France and want to define its features, we have to know which criticism we are concerned with or how we define the position of the critic. It is best to look at the historical background of the origins of literary streams in the second half of the 20th century, and particularly at the contributions of its main representatives in terms of the bipolar terrain, i. e. in terms of the field of tension between journalistic and scholarly criticism. A significant breakthrough in the critical paradigm was Roland Barthes's essay Sur Racine and his polemics with Raymond Picard. At the end of the '60s, French literary criticism experienced a fruitful disturbance in which Jean Starobinski played an important role with his study Oeil vivant . In the '50s, Charles Mauron started publishing psychoanalytical studies. The French translation of Lukács's Theory of the Novel laid ground for the sociological approach, in which the main concern is about the relations between the society and the literary work. Lucien Goldman's approach was socio-critical. Pierre Bourdieu also contributed to the debate. Sociological thinking about literature gradually turned into sociological reading and reception aesthetics. In this regard, Jacques Leenhardt and Pierre Józsa's Lire la lecture was especially significant. At the same time, new criticism emerged. It was represented by Roland Barthes. The same impulses led to the formation of Tel Quel. At the beginning of the '70s, a new tendency started to develop. In literary handbooks, it has become known as genetic criticism.

Journalistic criticism has always been concerned about current events. It has been influenced by the abovementioned streams only marginally. Besides judging a literary work, its main function is informative. It is distinct from scholarly criticism not only in its function, but also in its language. In a time of economic liberalism, scholarly criticism loses its veracity by emphasising its informative and advertising role.


Keywords: French Literary Criticism. Journalistic Criticism. Scholarly Criticism. Tel Quel. Roland Barthes. Raymond Picard. Jean Starobinski. Lucien Goldman. George Lukács. Pierre Bourdieu. Jacques Leenhardt. Pierre Józsa. Charles Mauron.


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