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Bourdieu and literature

By J. (John) Speller


This thesis provides the first extended and in-depth study of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu‟s work on literature. Chapter 1 surveys the problematic from which Bourdieu‟s work on literature emerged, and its reception in the Anglophone field of literary criticism. Chapter 2 introduces Bourdieu‟s original method of literature analysis, which has yet to have been used widely in literary studies, but which provides analytic purchase at all levels of literary study, from the micro-textual to the macrosocial. Chapter 3 centres on Bourdieu‟s notion of autonomy, and explores its relations to his key concepts of habitus, capital, and field. Chapters 4 to 6 then examine the intersections between Bourdieu‟ work on literature and his other sociological and political projects. Chapter 4 shows how Bourdieu‟s theory of sociological knowledge enabled him to set up a distinction between a „scientific‟ and a „literary‟ representation of the social world, and explores the possibilities for complementarities and exchange between sociology and literature. Chapter 5 shows how Bourdieu hoped to harness the specific skills and symbolic capital of writers in the service of progressive causes, focusing on his plans for an International Parliament of Writers and Liber, his European book review. Chapter 6 explores the cultural policy implication of Bourdieu‟s work on literature, both for educational reform and State support for the Arts. Overall, this thesis will show that Bourdieu brings novel solutions to some of the most persistent – and urgent – problems facing literary studies today, and not only in France; but also that sociology can learn from literature and from studying literary writers

Topics: PN0080, HM
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