I was privileged to collaborate with Graham Harman, the founder of Object-Oriented Ontology (OOO), on an article for Nineteenth-Century French Studies. “Reader, Response, Theory: The Nineteenth-Century Fantastic as a Counter-Enlightenment Mode,” examines the philosophical underpinnings of the Fantastic and looks at OOO and literature with references to Maupassant, Gautier, Ponge, Robbe-Grillet, and Lovecraft, among others.
Read my review (from Dec. 2016) of Russ Crawford’s Le Football: A History of American Football in France on the website of the Sports Literature Association.
Culture on Two Wheels: The Bicycle in Literature & Film is now in print! Edited by Jeremy Withers and Daniel P. Shea and published by the University of Nebraska Press, the volume examines bikes in literature (Twain, Proust, H.G. Wells, Beckett and more) and in film (Truffaut, Tarkovsky, The Wizard of Oz, Breaking Away, etc.).
It also includes my essay titled, “Like a Furnace: Alfred Jarry’s The Supermale, Doping, and the Limits of Positivism.”
Visit this site for a full description of the book.
An article I wrote on the fantastic just appeared in print in Nineteenth-Century French Studies. “Réintroduction à la littérature fantastique: Enlightenment Philosophy, Object-Oriented Ontology, and the French Fantastic” is in vol. 44 Nos. 1&2 2015-2016 of NCFS. Here is a link to the article online: http://www.ncfs-journal.org/?q=node/1338.
Since the journal’s editor, Seth Whidden, has been so efficient in getting this to press, I have to find a way to make the presentation I will give on the topic at November’s NCFS colloquium different than the published article… Hmmm… Redon images of fantastic objects, perhaps?
I recently submitted a book chapter for a volume on sports and French literature edited by my colleagues Roxanna Curto (University of Iowa) and Rebecca Wines (Cornell College). Though it has a lot of editing to still go through, here is a sneak peek of one of the paragraphs discussing Mérimée’s narrative La Vénus d’Ille:
While much has been made of those in the story who fall under the spell of the Venus, little has been written about the mystifying power of sport over both the narrator and the locals. Upon the conclusion of his victorious match over the Spaniard, Alphonse must leave for his wedding in a neighboring town. “Tous les joueurs de paume de la ville et grand nombre de spectateurs nous suivirent avec des cris de joie. A peine les chevaux vigoureux qui nous traînaient pouvaient-ils maintenir leur avance sur ces intrépides Catalans” (2: 108). Michel Serres sees Alphonse’s victory as confirmation of his deification making him a worthy spouse of the sculpture of the goddess. But Serres, like the Catalans, are caught up in the thrill of winning and fail to realize that Alphonse’s victory is a circus that masks the real event of the day, the marriage between Alphonse and Mlle de Puygarrig and the consolidation of the wealth in the region. Alphonse had described his fiancée to the narrator in these terms, “Le bon, c’est qu’elle est fort riche. Sa tante de Prades lui a laissé son bien. Oh! je vais être fort heureux” (2: 103), leading the narrator to remark, “Quel dommage . . . qu’une si amiable personne soit riche, et que sa dot la fasse rechercher par un home indigne d’elle!” (2: 104). But once he sees Alphonse’s athleticism, even the cynical narrator cannot help but join in: “Je ne sais quelle sottise je lui dis pour me mettre à l’unisson des convives” (2: 110). While the Roman “bread and circus” is here replaced with Catalan wine and tennis, Alphonse’s sporting exploits successfully cover a multitude of sins while mystifying villagers, the narrator, and even critics. They cannot imagine that a sporting hero could be anything but heroic in his other endeavors.
I’ll update you here as we make our way through the editorial process. I’m looking forward to reading a good volume from two excellent editors and a host of good contributors.
We just finished up BYU French Camp, a camp for high school students who come from all over the world to be immersed in French for nearly 3 weeks. We had 73 students this year in three classes taught by great colleagues. I got to teach the accelerated class for the first week. Here’s my selfie with them at the end of our week together:
This fall, I will participate in the Nineteenth-Century French Studies Colloquium at Princeton. My presentation is titled: “Réintroduction à la littérature fantastique: Théophile Gautier, Immanuel Kant, and Object Oriented Ontology.”
Abstract: Studies of the fantastic and attempts to define the fantastic as a genre have always presupposed a human-centered ontology. But the anthropocentric hierarchies of Enlightenment thought, embodied by the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, are precisely what the fantastic seeks to undermine. The fantastic posits a flat ontology where humans and objects stand on equal ground, where objects act, and where human subjects are objectified. After showing connections from Kant to Théophile Gautier through E. T. A. Hoffmann, I argue that Gautier’s fantastic undermines a human-centered worldview while theorizing the hidden life of things. This reading leads us to tentatively redefine the fantastic as a form “speculative realism,” as a genre that takes the presence and perspective of objects seriously, and that embeds this object-oriented ontology into fantastic texts in ways that trouble the reader’s subject-centered consciousness.