Phantom Formations: Aesthetic Ideology and the Bildungsroman

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Cornell University Press, 1996 - Aesthetics, Modern - 220 pages
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Marc Redfield maintains that the literary genre of the Bildungsroman brings into sharp focus the contradictions of aesthetics, and also that aesthetics exemplifies what is called ideology. He combines a wide-ranging account of the history and theory of aesthetics with close readings of novels by Goethe, George Eliot, and Gustave Flaubert. For Redfield, these fictions of character formation demonstrate the paradoxical relation between aesthetics and literature: the notion of the Bildungsroman may be expanded to apply to any text that can be figured as a subject producing itself in history, which is to say any text whatsoever. At the same time, the category may be contracted to include only a handful of novels, (or even none at all), a paradox that has led critics to denigrate the Bildungsroman as a phantom genre. Redfield traces this paradox to its origins in the discourse of aesthetics. His analysis shows that rhetorical reading is cultural critique. Deconstruction is ultimately a critique of aesthetics, and aesthetic formulations continue to shape the discourses and practices of our cultural institutions. Phantom Formations addresses the problem of the Bildungsroman through a rigorous examination of aesthetic ideology which explains the hysteria provoked by literary theory, clarifies the link between aestheticism and technologism, and questions the aesthetic presuppositions of the pragmatist and neo-professionalist ideologies of the modern bureaucratic university.
 

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Contents

The Phantom Bildungsroman
38
Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre
63
Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre and
95
George Eliots Telepathy Machine
134
LEducation sentimentale
171
Conclusions
201
Index
215
Copyright

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About the author (1996)

Marc Redfield is Associate Professor of English at the Claremont Graduate School.

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