Genius in France: An Idea and Its Uses by Ann JeffersonGenius in France: An Idea and Its Uses by Ann Jefferson

Genius in France: An Idea and Its Uses

byAnn Jefferson

Hardcover | December 21, 2014

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This engaging book spans three centuries to provide the first full account of the long and diverse history of genius in France. Exploring a wide range of examples from literature, philosophy, and history, as well as medicine, psychology, and journalism, Ann Jefferson examines the ways in which the idea of genius has been ceaselessly reflected on and redefined through its uses in these different contexts. She traces its varying fortunes through the madness and imposture with which genius is often associated, and through the observations of those who determine its presence in others.

Jefferson considers the modern beginnings of genius in eighteenth-century aesthetics and the works ofphilosophessuch as Diderot. She then investigates the nineteenth-century notion of national and collective genius, the self-appointed role of Romantic poets as misunderstood geniuses, the recurrent obsession with failed genius in the realist novels of writers like Balzac and Zola, the contested category of female genius, and the medical literature that viewed genius as a form of pathology. She shows how twentieth-century views of genius narrowed through its association with IQ and child prodigies, and she discusses the different ways major theorists-including Sartre, Barthes, Derrida, and Kristeva-have repudiated and subsequently revived the concept.

Rich in narrative detail,Genius in Francebrings a fresh approach to French intellectual and cultural history, and to the burgeoning field of genius studies.

Ann Jeffersonis professor of French literature at the University of Oxford and fellow and tutor in French at New College, Oxford. Her books includeReading Realism in StendhalandBiography and the Question of Literature in France.
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Title:Genius in France: An Idea and Its UsesFormat:HardcoverDimensions:288 pagesPublished:December 21, 2014Publisher:Princeton University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0691160651

ISBN - 13:9780691160658

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From the Author

This engaging book spans three centuries to provide the first full account of the long and diverse history of genius in France. Exploring a wide range of examples from literature, philosophy, and history, as well as medicine, psychology, and journalism, Ann Jefferson examines the ways in which the idea of genius has been ceaselessly reflected on and redefined through its uses in these different contexts. She traces its varying fortunes through the madness and imposture with which genius is often associated, and through the observations of those who determine its presence in others.Jefferson considers the modern beginnings of genius in eighteenth-century aesthetics and the works ofphilosophessuch as Diderot. She then investigates the nineteenth-century notion of national and collective genius, the self-appointed role of Romantic poets as misunderstood geniuses, the recurrent obsession with failed genius in the realist novels of writers like Balzac and Zola, the contested category of female genius, and the medical literature that viewed genius as a form of pathology. She shows how twentieth-century views of genius narrowed through its association with IQ and child prodigies, and she discusses the different ways major theorists-including Sartre, Barthes, Derrida, and Kristeva-have repudiated and subsequently revived the concept.Rich in narrative detail,Genius in Francebrings a fresh approach to French intellectual and cultural history, and to the burgeoning field of genius studies.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsix

Prefacexi

Introduction 1

Part I: Enlightenment Genius 17

Chapter 1: The Eighteenth Century: Mimesis and Effect 19

Chapter 2: Genius Obscured: Diderot 35

Part II: Nineteenth-Century

Genius: The Idiom of the Age 45

Chapter 3: Language, Religion, Nation 47

Chapter 4: Individual versus Collective Genius 61

Chapter 5: The Romantic Poet and the Brotherhood of Genius 67

Chapter 6: Victor Hugo, William Shakespeare, and the Dynasty of Genius 81

Part III: Genius in the Clinic 89

Chapter 7: Genius under Observation: Lélut 91

Chapter 8: Genius, Neurosis, and Family Trees: Moreau de Tours 104

Chapter 9: Genius Restored to Health 114

Part IV: Failure, Femininity, and the Realist Novel 123

Chapter 10: A Novel of Female Genius: Mme de Staël'sCorinne125

Chapter 11: Balzac'sLouis Lambert: Genius and the Feminine Mediator 137

Chapter 12: Creativity and Procreation in Zola'sL'OEuvre146

Part V: Precocity and Child Prodigies 159

Chapter 13: Exemplarity and Performance in Literature for Children 161

Chapter 14: Alfred Binet and the Measurement of Intelligence 173

Chapter 15: Minou Drouet: The Prodigy under Suspicion 183

Part VI: Genius in Theory 193

Chapter 16: Cultural Critique and the End of Genius: Barthes, Sartre 195

Chapter 17: The Return of Genius: Mad Poets 204

Chapter 18: Julia Kristeva and Female Genius 212

Chapter 19: Derrida, Cixous, and the Impostor 219

Notes227

Bibliography251

Index267

Editorial Reviews

"This thoughtful and engaging book combines rigorous literary and intellectual history with linguistic sensitivity to track cultural understandings of genius from the eighteenth century to the present in French thought and writing. Genius in France will change how this idea is conceptualized and discussed."-Miranda Gill, University of Cambridge