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Mute Speech: Literature, Critical Theory, and Politics (New Directions in Critical Theory)by Jacques Ranciere
Synopses & Reviews
Throughout his career, shaped by a notable collaboration with Louis Althusser, Jacques Ranci?re has continually unsettled political discourse, particularly by examining its relationship to aesthetics. Like Michel Foucault, he broke with his many of his predecessors to upend dominant twentieth-century historical narratives and critical theories. Often overlooked in the canon of his works, Mute Speech contains the critical seeds of Ranci?re's most provocative assertions, challenging the intellectual orthodoxy that had come to define the nature of art and representation.
Arguing that art is neither inherently political nor colonized by politics, Ranci?re casts art and politics as distributions of the sensible, or configurations of what are visible and invisible in experience. Through an original reinterpretation of German Romanticism and phenomenology, especially the work of its most prominent figures Kant and Hegel, and engaging with the thought of Germaine de Sta?l, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Maurice Blanchot, among others, Ranci?re reevaluates conceptions of art in various decades, from the classical age of representation to the modern, anti-representational turn and its promise of political transformation. Rather than dwell on modernity's crisis of representation, he celebrates the triumph of realism in modern aesthetics, which for him is the true representative art. Opening radical new vistas onto the history of art and philosophy, Ranci?re pioneers a theory of aesthetics in which democratic politics constitute the essence of art.
Jacques Ranci?re has continually unsettled political discourse, particularly through his questioning of aesthetic distributions of the sensible, which configure the limits of what can be seen and said. Widely recognized as a seminal work in Ranci?re's corpus, the translation of which is long overdue, Mute Speech is an intellectual tour de force proposing a new framework for thinking about the history of art and literature. Ranci?re argues that our current notion of literature is a relatively recent creation, having first appeared in the wake of the French Revolution and with the rise of Romanticism. In its rejection of the system of representational hierarchies that had constituted belles-letters, literature is founded upon a radical equivalence in which all things are possible expressions of the life of a people. With an analysis reaching back to Plato, Aristotle, the German Romantics, Vico, and Cervantes and concluding with brilliant readings of Flaubert, Mallarm?, and Proust, Ranci?re demonstrates the uncontrollable democratic impulse lying at the heart of literature's still-vital capacity for reinvention.
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