Nov 242009

On page 114 of Foucault Live the French philosopher gives an example of the so-called schizophrenia of capitalism, its ability to integrate conflicting tendencies at its core, a process similar to what the situationists termed recuperation.

In the 19th century the university was the medium at the center of which  a literature said to be classic was constituted. This literature was by definition not a contemporary literature, and was valorized simultaneously as both the only base for contemporary literature and as its critique. Hence a very curious play in the 19th century between literature and the university, between the writer and the academic.

And then, little by little, the two institutions, which underneath their petty squabbles were in fact profoundly akin, tended to become completely undistinguishable. We know perfectly well that today the literature said to be avant-garde is only ever read by academics; that a writer over thirty has students around him who are doing their theses on his work; and that writers live for the most part by giving courses and being academics.

More than anything, this comment is valuable for our understanding of what literature is today.

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