The Politics of the Essay

Frans Ruiter
Utrecht University, Netherlands

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Ingår i: Current Issues in European Cultural Studies; June 15-17; Norrköping; Sweden 2011

Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings 62:51, s. 489-494

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Publicerad: 2011-11-22

ISBN: 978-91-7519-993-1

ISSN: 1650-3686 (tryckt), 1650-3740 (online)


The notion of ‘heteronymous literature’; as introduced by Bourdieu; covers literature which takes its significance from something else than literature itself. It is produced out of commercial; religious as well as political motivation. I will focus on the relation between literature and politics. Understood as the interrelation between politics and literature; the genre of the essay is potentially interesting to inquire into the interrelation between heteronomy and autonomy. As an argumentative and persuasive discourse; an essay very well may have a political message. What could then be the difference between the ‘literary’ essay and more strait forwarded kinds of political discourse? Starting from a taxonomy by Angenot; I will differentiate between genres closely related to the political essay (pamphlet; satire; polemics) which all negotiate their own pact with the reader. All these genres seem to be more ‘political’ than the essay. From the view point of ‘autonomous’ literature the political essay even may be a contradiction in terminus. I will investigate to what extend speaking from a political position is consolatory with ‘the essayistic spirit’ (De Obaldia). If; as I would argue; the literary essay has a politics of its own; what is its relation to ‘non literary’ political discourse?


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