Hardcover ISBN: 0226424189
Brilliantly uniting the personal and the critical, French Lessons is a powerful autobiographical experiment. It tells the story of an American woman escaping into the French language and of a scholar and teacher coming to grips with her history of learning. Kaplan begins with a distinctly American quest for an imaginary France of the intelligence. But soon her infatuation with all things French comes up against the dark, unimagined recesses of French political and cultural life. The daughter of a Jewish lawyer who prosecuted Nazi war criminals at Nuremburg, Kaplan grew up in the 1960s in the Midwest. After her father's death when she was seven, French became her way of "leaving home" and finding herself in another language and culture. In spare, midwestern prose, by turns intimate and wry, Kaplan describes how, as a student in a Swiss boarding school and later in a junior year abroad in Bordeaux, she passionately sought the French "r," attentively honed her accent, and learned the idioms of her French lover. When, as a graduate student, her passion for French culture turned to the elegance and sophistication of its intellectual life, she found herself drawn to the language and style of the novelist Louis-Ferdinand Celine. At the same time she was repulsed by his anti-Semitism. At Yale in the late 70s, during the heyday of deconstruction she chose to transgress its apolitical purity and work on a subject "that made history impossible to ignore:" French fascist intellectuals. Kaplan's discussion of the "de Man affair" — the discovery that her brilliant and charismatic Yale professor had written compromising articles for the pro-Nazi Belgian press—and her personal account of the paradoxes of deconstruction are among the most compelling available on this subject. French Lessons belongs in the company of Sartre's Words and the memoirs of Nathalie Sarraute, Annie Ernaux, and Eva Hoffman. No book so engrossingly conveys both the excitement of learning and the moral dilemmas of the intellectual life.
Sor Juana Or, the Traps of Faith
Paperback ISBN: 0674821068
A life of the seventeenth-century poet, intellectual, and feminist who became a nun and eventually gave up secular learning, places her in her times and in Spanish intellectual tradition, and examines the contradictions in her personality.
Paperback ISBN: 0374521506
"[Mythologies] illustrates the beautiful generosity of Barthes's progressive interest in the meaning (his word is signification) of practically everything around him, not only the books and paintings of high art, but also the slogans, trivia, toys, food, and popular rituals (cruises, striptease, eating, wrestling matches) of contemporary life . . . For Barthes, words and objects have in common the organized capacity to say something; at the same time, since they are signs, words and objects have the bad faith always to appear natural to their consumer, as if what they say is eternal, true, necessary, instead of arbitrary, made, contingent. Mythologies finds Barthes revealing the fashioned systems of ideas that make it possible, for example, for 'Einstein's brain' to stand for, be the myth of, 'a genius so lacking in magic that one speaks about his thought as a functional labor analogous to the mechanical making of sausages.' Each of the little essays in this book wrenches a definition out of a common but constructed object, making the object speak its hidden, but ever-so-present, reservoir of manufactured sense."--Edward W. Said
The Dialogic Imagination
Paperback ISBN: 029271534x
These essays reveal Mikhail Bakhtin (1895-1975)known in the West largely through his studies of Rabelais and Dostoevskyas a philosopher of language, a cultural historian, and a major theoretician of the novel. The Dialogic Imagination presents, in superb English translation, four selections from Voprosy literatury i estetiki (Problems of literature and esthetics), published in Moscow in 1975. The volume also contains a lengthy introduction to Bakhtin and his thought and a glossary of terminology. Bakhtin uses the category "novel" in a highly idiosyncratic way, claiming for it vastly larger territory than has been traditionally accepted. For him, the novel is not so much a genre as it is a force, "novelness," which he discusses in "From the Prehistory of Novelistic Discourse." Two essays, "Epic and Novel" and "Forms of Time and of the Chronotope in the Novel," deal with literary history in Bakhtin's own unorthodox way. In the final essay, he discusses literature and language in general, which he sees as stratified, constantly changing systems of subgenres, dialects, and fragmented "languages" in battle with one another.