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The lost thread of strategy: Lord Jim, Jacques Rancière and dreaming

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This paper discusses Rancière’s recent work The Lost Thread: The Democracy of Modern Fiction. Similar to his directly preceding work, Aisthesis, The Lost Thread explores the transformation of the very paradigm of fiction itself with the advent of modern realism in its break with the conventions of belles lettres. For Rancière, the specific logic of modern fiction, its democracy, consists in a logic of (im)purity that generates what he calls effects of equality. The specificity of modern fiction thus yields a rather different idea of the politics of fiction than that conveyed by modernist readings and epitomized by Roland Barthes’ notion of the reality effect. This paper discusses the logic of this change in fiction implicit within Rancière’s account, a logic the author refers to as ‘creative destruction’ in contradistinction to modernist dialectics; second, it explores the kind of subject implied by this fiction – where subject is understood both as the kind of limit situation that this fiction recounts and the constitution of its characters. Third, the author briefly suggests that Rancière’s reading of the logic of the event, in particular in Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim, can be seen as sketching an answer to why it is that the key question of ‘how are we to live?’ only ever comes after the event.
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Keywords: Aristotelian poetics; Gustav Flaubert; Joseph Conrad; Roland Barthes; modern fiction; realism

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2017

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