The adjective egalitarian evokes movements and institutions that are governed by a principle of virtuous uniformity. Egalitarianism is typically grounded in the belief that all individuals should have access to the same rights, opportunities, and resources.

In his new study of class disturbance and leveling in modern and contemporary French narrative, Edward J. Hughes draws on the philosophy of Jacques Rancière to problematize that conceptual framework and develop a variegated account of how a commitment to equality can function in a world defined by inequality. The titular motif of “egalitarian strangeness” (13)—a direct borrowing from Rancière—refers to an ethical and aesthetic outlook that has the potential to disturb and level entrenched systems of inegalitarian socioeconomic organization. Central to that vision is an emphasis on the emancipatory power of spontaneity and improvisation. For Rancière, autonomous individual struggles to break free of social determination represent a vital means of resisting regimes of...

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