Jefferson Humphries's The Puritan and the Cynic: Moralists and Theorists in French PDF


By Jefferson Humphries

ISBN-10: 0195041801

ISBN-13: 9780195041804

Why do american citizens, and so usually, American writers, profess ethical sentiments and but write so little within the characteristically "moralistic" genres of maxim and delusion? what's the relation among "moral" issues and literary idea? Can any type of morality live on the meant nihilism of deconstruction? Jefferson Humphries undertakes a dialogue of questions like those via a comparative examining of the ways that ethical concerns floor in French and American literature. Humphries takes factor with the "amoral" view of deconstruction espoused via a lot of its detractors, arguing that the controversy among the theory's advocates and competitors comes right down to opposing literary and ethical traditions. whereas the yank culture perspectives morality as a inflexible method able to being enforced via injunctions alongside the traces of "Thou shalt" and "Thou shalt not," the French culture conceives of morality as a functionality of a continuing and unsentimental pursuit of fact, and eventually, an admission that "truth" isn't a static factor, yet fairly an ongoing strategy of rigorous thought.

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Extra resources for The Puritan and the Cynic: Moralists and Theorists in French and American Letters

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The choice is between humility and arrogance. Needless to say, 1 prefer the former. (21-22) As I understand it, the theory of structuralism would have it that the poem or the story, having no identity beyond that of a system of signs, can have no existence except insofar as the signs are decoded by the reader. What the reader does, therefore, is to give existence to the work by making it his own work: he breaks down the system of signs and reconstructs it in order to display its functions. To the verbal object that is the work, he adds intellect; the result is a simulacrum, in which the functions are made intelligible.

His work is a lie against death, which it nevertheless looks to, reflects, and is. As life consists in pretending not to die, writing maxims consists in pretending not to lie, pretending that there is a truth where there is none, that there are faces where there are only masks, that there is life where there is only death. And yet, virtue consists in the self-knowledge of the pretense, in not believing one's own lies and not pretending to believe them. So it is that, with Chamfort, the maxim becomes a game of language played for its own sake, the poetic taking precedence over the referential and the metalingual.

Nous brulons de desir de trouver une assiette ferme, et une dernicre base constante pour y cdificr unc tour qui s'elevc a [l']infini, mais tout notre fondement craque ct la terre s'ouvre jusqu'aux abimes. Ne cherchons done point d'assurance et de fermete; notre raison est toujours decue par 1'inconstance des apparences: rien ne peut fixer le fini entre les deux infinis qui 1'enferment et le fuient. (119) There is our true state. It is what makes us incapable of knowing with certainty and of not knowing with absoluteness.

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The Puritan and the Cynic: Moralists and Theorists in French and American Letters by Jefferson Humphries

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