Agonies of the Intellectual: Commitment, Subjectivity, and the Performative in the Twentieth-Century French Tradition
The word intellectual first arrived to use at the turn of the century as a reproach to a group of writers who defended Dreyfus against the military and government of France. The role and status of the intellectual has been closely scrutinized and fiercely disputed ever since-and not only in France. Intellectual movements emanating from Paris have crossed the Atlantic in great waves repeatedly.In Agonies of the Intellectual Allan Stoekl sorts out the theoretical foundations of the French intellectual from Emile Durkheim, a founder of modern sociology, through the interbellum communists, the postwar ex-istentialists, and the recent structuralists, deconstructionists, and postmodernists. He treats the ongoing works of Paul Nizan, Drieu la Rochelle, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jean Paulhan, Georges Bataille, Maurice Blanchot, Michel Foucault, Paul de Man, Jacques Derrida, and Jean Baudrillard. Taking as his starting place Durkheim's thesis that modern intellectuals are "secular clerics," Stoekl differentiates them from the older traditions of priests, philosophes, and academics. His concern is the very real crisis of duty felt by intellectuals who've demonstrated their agony not only in print but also in confrontation, wartime resistance, or collaboration. They have agonized about their powers, their responsibilities, and their relations to other folks. Agonies of the Intellectual looks hard at the difficult intersection of thought and act: decision.