Literary France: The Making of a Culture
University of California Press, 1987 - Social Science - 273 pages
The French have the reputation of being level headed, rational, and inclined to the use of litotes rather than dithyrambics, particularly in their area of specialization, the "classical" seventeenth century. The prologue examines the close ties that have always prevailed between literature and politics. "Literary France" carefully brings us to a recognition of the disparate but inseparable strands of the fabric from which French culture is woven. Their origin can be found in the social, economic, and political structures of French society or from literary, intellectual, and aesthetic traditions both within and beyond France, the concern of the chapters that follow. Clark concentrates on France within a comparative framework, illustrating and explaining why the "Paris phenomenon" is unique in the world. On the occasion of his election to the Academie franqaise in 1757, Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon said that knowledge of singular facts, even new discoveries cannot guarantee immortality. "Posterity will retain well written works and these alone" (pg. 104). France's civilization is built on and around words, because in France literature draws attention and confers glory. Clark's style perfectly aligns with Buffon's assertion, and will reward readers interested in French literary culture.
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