The selling of Sartre: existentialism and public opinion, 1944–7
Abstract:Most contemporary commentators, and subsequent critics, have been quick to identify a 'Sartre phenomenon', by which a writer and philosopher who was relatively unknown before the Second World War, and even during the Occupation, became a major public figure at the Liberation. The phenomenon was not due merely to a considerable gift for self-promotion, nor to an astute marketing campaign by Sartre's publisher, Gallimard, but also to other factors. Building on work by critics and historians such as Ingrid Galster, this article analyses the rise to public prominence of Sartre immediately after the Second World War in the light of three major factors: generation, the cult of the Resistance and publishing. The Liberation saw the rise of a new generation of young cultural consumers anxious to shake off the past and adopt new cultural leaders. In this context, Sartre occupied a privileged position in having cultural prestige without being identified with the previous generation. The same is true of Sartre's perceived position within the Resistance, the dominant cultural and intellectual power-brokers in the post Liberation period: benefiting from the prestige of the literary Resistance, he was nevertheless not closely identified with any one Resistance faction. Thus, as the 'Hussards' pointed out at the time, Sartre's post-Liberation popularity owed much to a careful cultivation of the vogue for Résistantialisme. Finally, as Jean Galtier-Boissière records in his diaries, the Sartre phenomenon was part of a wider jockeying for position in the Parisian publishing world, in which most major publishers were anxious to regain their respectability after the Occupation.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: March 1, 2006
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- Journal of Romance Studies promotes innovative critical work in the areas of linguistics, literature, performing and visual arts, media, material culture, intellectual and cultural history, critical and cultural theory, psychoanalysis, gender studies, social sciences, and anthropology. The primary focus is on those parts of the world that speak, or have spoken, French, Italian, Spanish or Portuguese, but work on other cultures may be included. Issues cross national and disciplinary boundaries in order to stimulate new ways of thinking about cultural history and practice.
Published in Association with the Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London.
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