Palgrave Studies in Modern European Literature

The Aesthetics of Clarity and Confusion

Literature and Engagement since Nietzsche and the Naturalists

Authors: Baker, Geoffrey

  • Traces the ongoing debate between literary realism and experimentalism from the nineteenth century through the twentieth century
  • Sets out to reexamine and define the purpose and function of literature in society, including its political merit
  • Incorporates a wide range of past and previous texts including works by Nietzsche, Brecht, Sartre, Adorno, and Coetzee
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eBook $79.99
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  • ISBN 978-3-319-42171-1
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  • Included format: EPUB, PDF
  • ebooks can be used on all reading devices
  • Immediate eBook download after purchase
Hardcover $99.99
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  • ISBN 978-3-319-42170-4
  • Free shipping for individuals worldwide
  • Usually dispatched within 3 to 5 business days.
About this book

What should literature with political aims look like? This book traces two rival responses to this question, one prizing clarity and the other confusion, which have dominated political aesthetics since the late nineteenth century. Revisiting recurrences of the avant-garde experimentalism versus critical realism debates from the twentieth century, Geoffrey A. Baker highlights the often violent reductions at work in earlier debates. Instead of prizing one approach over the other, as many participants in those debates have done, Baker focuses on the manner in which the debate itself between these approaches continues to prove productive and enabling for politically engaged writers. This book thus offers a way beyond the simplistic polarity of realism vs. anti-realism in a study that is focused on influential strands of thought in England, France, and Germany and that covers well-known authors such as Zola, Nietzsche, Arnold, Mann, Brecht, Sartre, Adorno, Lukács, Beauvoir, Morrison, and Coetzee.


About the authors

Geoffrey A. Baker is Associate Professor of Humanities (Literature) at Yale-NUS College, Singapore. He is the author of Realism’s Empire, in addition to articles on political aesthetics, realism, and other topics.

Reviews

“In this wide-ranging study, Geoffrey A. Baker traces the impact of two competing theories of literature in its relation to social and political reality from the late nineteenth century to the twenty-first century. He identifies the origins of a representational ‘aesthetic of clarity’ with Emile Zola and an anti-representational ‘aesthetic of confusion’ with Friedrich Nietzsche. By posing the question of how literature leads to knowledge, this book offers a fresh perspective on several major figures of modern literature.” (Mary Ann Frese Witt, Professor Emerita of French and Italian, North Carolina State University, USA, and editor of “Nietzsche and the Rebirth of the Tragic”)

“This book traces a critical dyad that structures much of the great literature of the last century and half, yet one that is rarely taken seriously in both its terms. Proponents of ‘clarity’ (exemplified by Zola and later Sartre) as well as those of ‘confusion’ (think Nietzsche and Adorno) risk being considered either in splendid isolation or in mere opposition. Baker braids them together masterfully, demonstrating both their bold promise and insufficiency—and perhaps above all their interdependence. Focusing not only on acknowledged classics of politically committed literature but also on more recent works by Toni Morrison, Peter Handke, and J. M. Coetzee, he presents complicated epistemological matters with enviable clarity, and offers fresh readings in every chapter.” (William Collins Donahue, John J. Cavanaugh Professor of the Humanities, University of Notre Dame, USA)

“What should literature with political aims look like? This book traces two rival responses to this question, one prizing clarity and the other confusion, which have dominated political aesthetics since the late nineteenth century. Revisiting recurrences of the avant-garde experimentalism versus critical realism debates from the twentieth century, Geoffrey A. Baker highlights the often violent reductions at work in earlier debates. Instead of prizing one approach over the other, as many participants in those debates have done, Baker  focuses on the manner in which the debate itself between these approaches continues to prove productive and enabling for politically engaged writers. This book thus offers a way beyond the simplistic polarity of realism vs. anti-realism in a study that is focused on influential strands of thought in England, France, and Germany and that covers well-known authors such as Zola, Nietzsche, Arnold, Mann, Brecht, Sartre, Adorno, Lukács, Beauvoir, Morrison, and Coetzee.” (Geoffrey A. Baker is Associate Professor of Humanities (Literature) at Yale-NUS College, Singapore. He is the author of “Realism’s Empire”, in addition to articles on political aesthetics, realism, and other topics)

Table of contents (8 chapters)

  • Introduction: Literary Activism, Clarity and Confusion

    Baker, Geoffrey A.

    Pages 1-28

  • “For Love of Clarity”: Émile Zola, Practice, and the Political Potential of Realistic Literature

    Baker, Geoffrey A.

    Pages 31-61

  • Grounds for Confusion: Nietzsche, Theory, and the Political Potential of Anti-Realism

    Baker, Geoffrey A.

    Pages 63-95

  • Between Theory and Practice: Matthew Arnold, Thomas Mann, Julien Benda, and the Purpose of the Intellectual

    Baker, Geoffrey A.

    Pages 99-130

  • “Different Kinds of Clarity”: Science, Sense, and Utilitarian Realism in Bertolt Brecht

    Baker, Geoffrey A.

    Pages 131-161

Buy this book

eBook $79.99
price for USA (gross)
  • ISBN 978-3-319-42171-1
  • Digitally watermarked, DRM-free
  • Included format: EPUB, PDF
  • ebooks can be used on all reading devices
  • Immediate eBook download after purchase
Hardcover $99.99
price for USA
  • ISBN 978-3-319-42170-4
  • Free shipping for individuals worldwide
  • Usually dispatched within 3 to 5 business days.
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Bibliographic Information

Bibliographic Information
Book Title
The Aesthetics of Clarity and Confusion
Book Subtitle
Literature and Engagement since Nietzsche and the Naturalists
Authors
Series Title
Palgrave Studies in Modern European Literature
Copyright
2016
Publisher
Palgrave Macmillan
Copyright Holder
The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s)
eBook ISBN
978-3-319-42171-1
DOI
10.1007/978-3-319-42171-1
Hardcover ISBN
978-3-319-42170-4
Edition Number
1
Number of Pages
XIV, 279
Topics