2017. Issue 4 (39)

Sapiro G. The Debate on the Writer’s Responsibility in France and the United States from the 1920s to the 1950s (.pdf)

Translation: E.P. Nemenko


The debate on the responsibility of the writer was, in France as in the USA, an attack against literary and artistic modernism. From Charles Maurras to Irving Babbit, the reaction against modernism presented itself as a defense of Classicism and of tradition against Romanticism. Far from being politically neutral, this attack identified Romanticism with revolution and the destruction of the social order. The opposition between responsibility and freedom structured the debate from the end of the 19th century until World War II. The war entailed a loss of autonomy of the literary field which fostered, like during World War I, the imposition of national moralism. In both countries, a debate arose on the question of the responsibility of the writer, but it took a different form. Whereas the opposition between art for art’s sake and responsibility continued to structure it in the USA, the notion of responsibility was appropriated in France by the literary Resistance and redefined by Sartre at the Liberation.


Key words: responsibility, intellectuals, committed literature, Romanticism, Classicism, literary quarrels.


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