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Literary Field, Literary Game, Ethos, or Author's Posture? French Concepts after Bourdieu

Class at Faculty of Arts |


I. Introduction

II. Bourdieu’s theory of the literary field (overview)

III. Extensions, critiques, and alternatives to the field theory (Lahire, Sapiro, Casanova)

IV. Discourse and rhetoric: ethos, author’s posture, and other concepts (Amossy, Maingueneau, Meizoz)

V. Symposium


The work of Pierre Bourdieu, especially his theory of the literary field, has had a considerable impact on literary criticism. The reception has been partially critical and has led to interesting modifications of and alternatives to his concepts.

In the seminar, after a return to the core components of Bourdieu’s theory of the literary field, the focus will shift to the (post-)Bourdieusian research and some of its prominent approaches. First, we will look at three authors that directly address the Bourdieusian framework.

Gisèle Sapiro is arguably the most important Bourdieu’s follower and focuses – among other areas – on questions of autonomy and responsibility of the writer; Bernard Lahire has developed his own concept of the literary game as and alternative to field theory; and Pascale Casanova has translated the field theory into the framework of world literature and its “cultural capitalism”. We will then move to a related but relatively independent branch of contemporary Francophone theory of discourse and new rhetoric (Ruth Amossy, Dominique Maingueneau) which emphasizes questions of author’s ethos and his/her self-presentation in discourse in the context of the overall discursive activity and various media.

Closely related to this way of thinking is Jérôme Meizoz’s notion of author’s posture as a dynamic unity of his/her persona outside and inside the text. The course will also include reading of selected literary works (Émile Zola, Colette, Édouard Louis…).

The final „Symposium“ will allow us to return once more to the positions and concepts in a systematic and critical way.