The Vicissitudes of a Theory in the Writings of Proust and Barthes
Research Monographs in French Studies 6
Legenda: Oxford, 2000
Expressivism was the first European theory of art significantly to challenge the imitation theory rooted in Greek antiquity. Modern expressivism places the focus on the individual human subject as committed to finding ‘les mots pour le dire’, such that art becomes the most privileged means of self-realization. In his wide-ranging survey of modern theories, Gratton reveals both the instability of the concept ‘expressivism’, and its continuing relevance in the contemporary world. In Proust, the movement of textualization radically unsettles the ‘official’ aesthetic programme of A la recherche du temps perdu, while in Barthes the move from a firmly anti-expressivist discourse to a more personalized writing manner unexpectedly allows a version of expressivism to gain a foothold in the postmodern context.
Johnnie Gratton is Head of the Department of French at University College, Dublin. He has also written on surrealism, modern fiction and autobiography.