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Antagonized by the Text, Or, It Takes Two to Read Alice Walker's "Everyday Use"

Antagonized by the Text, Or, It Takes Two to Read Alice Walker's "Everyday Use" maTThew mulliNS After publishing his study of Racine in 1963, Roland Barthes came under fire for what many critics of the French literary establishment saw as a misreading of the iconic dramatist. One particularly hostile member of the Sorbonne, Raymond Picard, charged Barthes with denying the possibility of self-evident "objective knowledge in literary criticism" (Keuneman xiv). "The stage was set," François Dosse recounts, "and all the elements assembled for the duel, which was cast like some great Racinian tragedy of the twentieth century" (223). But Barthes refused to take the stage. He responded to Picard's attack, which was entitled New Criticism or New Imposture?, with a short treatise of his own entitled Criticism and Truth. Philip Thody characterizes this exchange by explaining that "instead of taking up Picard's somewhat acerbic criticisms and responding with a comparably mordant wit, [Barthes] moved the debate on to higher ground" (viii). Despite Picard's best attempts to pick a fight, Barthes, it seems, avoids any antagonism altogether. Yet, there is a strain of antagonism at work in Criticism and Truth, an antagonism between critic and text: "as soon as one claims to examine the work in itself, from the point of view of http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Comparatist University of North Carolina Press

Antagonized by the Text, Or, It Takes Two to Read Alice Walker's "Everyday Use"

The Comparatist , Volume 37 (1) – May 12, 2013

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Publisher
University of North Carolina Press
Copyright
Copyright © Southern Comparative Literature Association.
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1559-0887
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Abstract

maTThew mulliNS After publishing his study of Racine in 1963, Roland Barthes came under fire for what many critics of the French literary establishment saw as a misreading of the iconic dramatist. One particularly hostile member of the Sorbonne, Raymond Picard, charged Barthes with denying the possibility of self-evident "objective knowledge in literary criticism" (Keuneman xiv). "The stage was set," François Dosse recounts, "and all the elements assembled for the duel, which was cast like some great Racinian tragedy of the twentieth century" (223). But Barthes refused to take the stage. He responded to Picard's attack, which was entitled New Criticism or New Imposture?, with a short treatise of his own entitled Criticism and Truth. Philip Thody characterizes this exchange by explaining that "instead of taking up Picard's somewhat acerbic criticisms and responding with a comparably mordant wit, [Barthes] moved the debate on to higher ground" (viii). Despite Picard's best attempts to pick a fight, Barthes, it seems, avoids any antagonism altogether. Yet, there is a strain of antagonism at work in Criticism and Truth, an antagonism between critic and text: "as soon as one claims to examine the work in itself, from the point of view of

Journal

The ComparatistUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: May 12, 2013

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