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Title: Disarming Intelligence: On a Modern French Faculty
Authors: Paul, Zakir
Advisors: Heller-Roazen, Daniel
Contributors: Comparative Literature Department
Keywords: Bergson
Nouvelle Revue Française
Subjects: Comparative literature
Romance literature
Modern literature
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: "Disarming Intelligence: On a Modern French Faculty" unearths a hidden trajectory linking two moments in European thought through modernist fiction and literary criticism. In Third Republic France, “intelligence” was a contested object for the sciences, one that differentiated the normal from the pathological. After World War I, it emerged as a politically charged watchword in tense cultural polemics. Focusing on texts by Henri Bergson, Marcel Proust, Paul Valéry, and the critics of the Nouvelle revue française, this dissertation shows how these writers transformed the literary field by questioning the values and meanings it attached to intelligence. It reconstructs distinct steps in the struggle to control the meaning of intelligence from the emergence of the term after Taine and its fictive abdication in Proust, to its crisis in Valéry, and its criticism in the pages of the NRF. Moving from Proust’s novel arguments for abdicating intelligence in favor of an experimental combination of intuition and intellect, it examines the notebooks of Paul Valéry who tested literature’s pretentions to intelligence. The literature of this period attempts to negotiate and displace the meanings of intelligence it inherits from Third Republic thought. As a topic for narrative and an object for reflection, intelligence spurred the casting of new narrative forms that did not simply abdicate analysis in favor of the irrational. Rather, these forms altered the place of literature within a wider range of discursive practices. By concluding with comparative reference to contemporary debates in the German tradition, this work argues that French modernist literature constitutes a privileged moment for understanding the polysemic concept of intelligence.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Comparative Literature

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