The lost thread of Jacques Rancière's title is an overdetermined signifier, itself an interwoven history. Most obviously, it refers to the loss of the authority of plot as derived from Aristotelian aesthetics. Aristotle redeemed literature from Plato's accusation of delusive falsehood by asserting that the artist's delineation of the rational chain of cause and effect was a superior form of truth to the historian's mere succession of facts. Subsequently, this order of rationality conferred the authority of its form of truth on philosophical and scientific discourse and on the social and political sciences. In the field of literature, rational verisimilitude produced a totalizing aesthetic in which only some people were designated capable of meaningful speech and action, dignified feelings, and motivation toward a noble goal. All those not privileged with the status of rationality were relegated to the order of noise rather than...
PAM MORRIS was professor of critical studies at Liverpool John Moores University and is now an independent scholar. Her most recent book is Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, and Worldly Realism (2017), and she has a book in progress on realism in twentieth- and twenty-first-century European writers.
Pam Morris; Weaving Democracy. Novel 1 November 2018; 51 (3): 529–532. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-7086735
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