What is literature is an essay of Jean-Paul Sartre published for the first clip in several parts in 1947, in his magazine les temps modernes. The essay is a manifestation of Sartre ‘s construct of “ occupied literature ” which he defends against its critics. In the essay, Sartre replies three inquiries: What is composing? Why write? For whom does one write?
The first inquiry that Sartre asks is, ” What is composing? ” which is a pure enquiry into happening a clear definition of the act of composing. Sartre will foremost explicate that authorship is neither painting nor playing music. In fact, unlike the painter or the musician, who really care merely to present things as they are and give the witnesss the absolute freedom to see what they want, the author can steer his reader. Therefore, he does non show the things as being merely things but as marks.
So, when Sartre makes this distinct differentiation between literature and other signifiers of art, he can later do another distinction but within the kingdom of literature itself, between prose and poetry. The latter differentiation is really indispensable in Sartre ‘s contemplation. I can sum up his differentiation by this simple expression: prose utilizations words whereas poetry or poesy serves words. Poetry considers words as a stuff, merely as the painter considers colourss or the musician the sounds. Additionally, the prose author uses a different attack: For him, words are non objects but design objects. He is considered a talker, and to talk agencies to move ( to make something ) . In fact, while speech production, we are unveiling facts and while making so we change them.
With his differentiation between prose and poesy, Sartre answers the cardinal inquiry of the first chapter. Therefore, harmonizing to him, to compose is to uncover and to make so means to guarantee that cipher ignores about the universe which is precisely the same state of affairs as with jurisprudence which everyone should cognize as they become accountable for their Acts of the Apostless. After holding elaborated on the definition of authorship, Sartre tackles its signifier. He insists that the manner can be added to the kernel and must ne’er predate it. It is, he adds, the fortunes and the topic which the author intends to handle that will force him to seek new agencies of look, a new linguistic communication, and non the other manner around. Next, Sartre takes us back to the thought of battle with which he has begun his book explicating that we can non inquire a painter or a musician to prosecute himself. Sartre concludes that the author has to prosecute himself wholly in his plant. One should compose when he wants and when he chooses to make so. However, if we write when we decide to, we should now inquire ourselves why we write. That is traveling to be the subject that will be discussed in the following chapter entitled: “ Why compose? ”
For Sartre, literature is a agency of communicating. Knowing that, we should so happen out why one writes. The writer begins the chapter by saying the beginnings of literature, “ one of the main motivations of artistic creative activity is surely the demand of experiencing that we are indispensable to the universe ” [ 1 ] . To explicate this, allow ‘s chew over on this illustration: A adult male contemplates a landscape. By making this, he unveils/reveals this scenery and establishes a relationship that would non be if he were non at that place. In the interim Man is deeply witting of the fact that he is non indispensable to the exposed scenery. In fact, he merely perceives it without taking portion in the procedure of its creative activity.
Man can besides make, but so he will lose his revealing/unveiling map as the produced object reflects regulations that he himself created and so will be subjective, for illustration a author can non read his Hagiographas from an external angle. The state of affairs here is contrary to the scenery ‘s one in that the Godhead becomes indispensable because without him, the object would hold no being, but he is inessential. He has assuredly gained the creative activity which was non when he was contemplating the landscape, but he has lost the perceptual experience. So far, the key to the job is at the reading phase. A reading which will do a synthesis between the perceptual experience and the creative activity, because any literary work will non reflect wholly until read, “ It is the conjoint attempt of writer and reader which brings upon the scene that concrete and fanciful object which is the work of the head. There is no art except for and by others ” [ 2 ] .
In reading, the object is indispensable because it imposes its proper constructions merely like in the landscape ‘s illustration I mentioned earlier, and the topic is besides indispensable since it is required non merely to uncover the object but to vouch its being, excessively. Furthermore, Sartre specifies that the literary object is non conveyed in the linguistic communication but through it. That is why any literary work deserves to be read in order to do it complete, revealed and finally created. Hence the activity of the reader is linked to creative activity, which makes us make a alone case: The object is given as it is to its Godhead which makes him bask what he creates.
After explicating the kernel and significance of authorship and reading which are interrelated and complete each other, Sartre will continue with the 3rd inquiry which is about the particular relationship bing between the writer and his reader. The former is in demand of the latter to finish what he started. In fact, for Sartre, every literary work is an entreaty and peculiarly an entreaty for freedom of the reader so that the latter would be able to lend to the devising of the literary work. So there will be no work without readers. Here, it is noticeable that Sartre ‘s existential philosopher inclination is dominant as he places the word freedom at the nucleus of the relationship between the writer and the reader. What is more, there is an inexplicit understanding between the two to acknowledge the freedom of the other, and so the reader presupposes that the author has realized his composing freely as any human being, otherwise the written work would be uninteresting and strictly fatalist. Parallelly, the writer recognizes the freedom of his reader as it is a basic demand for the completion of his work. For this ground, reading is defined as an act of practising generousness: Each one devotes himself to the other in thorough freedom and being every bit much demanding as possible both vis-a-vis the writer or towards oneself.
To sum up this procedure, I can state that the writer has recovered the universe by “ giving it to be seen as it is, but as if it had its beginning in human freedom ” [ 3 ] and non in the mere opportunity of things. As to the reader, he recovers and interiorizes this external universe [ or non self-importance, Sartre ‘s term ] by transforming it into a compulsory undertaking, “ The universe is my undertaking ” [ 4 ] . In fact, it is this procedure of interiorization which will do the reader to experience what Sartre calls an esthetic joy, and it is merely when this joy takes topographic point that the work can be considered complete. So each 1 is a victor and is therefore rewarded. But is that all? Of class non! Sartre thinks that this disclosure-creation procedure should besides be “ an fanciful battle in the action ” [ 5 ] . Afterwards, he moves on to knock pragmatism which pretends making merely contemplation, a word which contradicts action because when the writer names something [ Sartre takes unfairness as an illustration ] , he creates it as good and invites his reader to make the same, which makes the two sides responsible for it in the existent universe.
After arousing duty, J.P Sartre goes back to his cardinal thought, that of freedom, “ the author, a free adult male turn toing free work forces, has merely one topic — – freedom ” [ 6 ] . This sounds a good reply to the inquiry of the chapter: Why compose? Harmonizing to Sartre, authorship is doubtless and deeply linked to freedom ; accordingly one should take his opportunity to the full by composing approximately critical countries like political relations and democracy. To compose is a manner for seeking freedom ; if one starts this procedure of composing either volitionally or unwillingly, he is decidedly engaged. Again Sartre launches the term engaged, so now the inquiry would be to cognize the populace for whom one writes so as to specify where and how to prosecute. That is what Sartre is traveling to reply is his following chapter entitled, “ For whom does one write? ”
In this chapter, the writer will undertake the cardinal relationship between the author and his public but this clip from a historical position. Sartre proposes an reply to the chapter ‘s inquiry. As a affair of fact, “ one writes for the cosmopolitan reader, and the exigency of the author is addressed to all work forces. ” [ 7 ] However, Sartre restrains this averment by explicating that the author has ever had this aspiration to be somehow immortal through transgressing the historic minute he lives into a high degree, but Sartre insists that the author should pass on with his modern-day chap authors and besides with those sharing the same civilization with him. So to state, there is a certain grade of complicity and some shared values between them which makes of the latter communicating, a really specific one. It is so a historic contact both because it is a portion of history and besides since it is engraved in it. Therefore, the author has a function to play: a go-between ; non merely is he a Man, but a author every bit good ; a place that he chose. Again, Sartre uses his existentialist key-term: freedom, which is at the beginning of this pick, but one time this pick made, the society will put on the writer by seting barriers and frontiers in forepart of him by their demands and exigencies. This point brings us to oppugn the importance of the relationship between the author and his populace.
To exemplify this point Sartre introduces the illustration of the African American author Richard Wright ; a author that had as an aspiration to support the rights of the laden black Americans. There are chiefly two points to emphasize on: the first is that Wright was turn toing the cultivated Negroes — his compatriots, but at the same clip he was turn toing all work forces. Therefore, by seting his name in history, the author will accomplish this much desired infinite spring. The 2nd point is that his populace was lacerate apart, Negroes on one side and Whites on the other, which gives words a dual significance, one for the Negroes and one for the Whites.
From the aforesaid illustration, Sartre will develop his contemplation upon the relationship between the author and his public. As I have already explained, the author reveals the society which makes the latter faced with an imperative pick: to presume itself or to alter. That is why it is said that the author has a parasitic map: he seeks to run into those who make him unrecorded by pulling their attending to state of affairss they would instead non desire to see. This struggle, which is at the very base of the place of the author, can be explained as follows: on the one manus, we have the conservative forces or the existent populace of the author but on the other manus, we have the progressivists or the practical populace. Sartre will later show a brief history of the dealingss between the two forces: the existent and the practical. He starts from the Middle Ages, an epoch in which merely the clerks knew to read and compose and these two activities were considered as techniques merely as those of any craftsman.
What is more, the populace was really restricted to clerks since they write for each other and the end was non to alter things but to keep the order as it is. Following, Sartre moves to the seventeenth century which brought up “ the secularisation of the author ” [ 8 ] but this secularisation did non intend a universalization since the populace was really restricted, excessively. Additionally, the populace was really active since everybody was reading because they knew to make so, but they were judging following precise values. Peoples at that clip had a dominant spiritual political orientation guarded by the clerks, and which was shortly doubled by a political political orientation which had besides its watchdogs. However, there was a 3rd class, one composed of authors who accept both these spiritual and the political facts because they are portion of the context without being wholly utile to them. They do non of course question their mission ; the latter is already traced reverse to today ‘s author. They are classical, that is to state they progress in a stable universe where the pursuit is non to detect but to build what is already known. The society or instead the elect demand that the author reflects non what the society is but what the society thinks it is ; art should be moralising. Again, Sartre asserts that we can observe a emancipating power within a given work since the latter has an consequence, which is to liberate the human being from his passions.
Sartre will afterwards undertake the eighteenth century turning of history in which the author will decline political orientations of the opinion categories, and so he will speak about the nineteenth century ‘s position of literature which is characterized by the political orientation of devastation which will stop up by the coming of surrealism. So literature is at a difficult phase of disaffection in which it is simply a agency or a tool and non an purpose in itself. Sartre sums up the present state of affairs of the author in three points: First, he is disgusted of the mark as he prefers upset to composing and therefore poesy to prose. Second, he considers literature a sample look like all other looks bing in life and therefore he is non ready to give his life for literature. Third, the author is traveling through a crisis of moral scruples because he can no longer specify his function. So, Sartre proposes for the author to move in order to last and finally to make a province of equilibrium. Finally, Sartre draws the portrayal of an ideal society without categories and in which the practical populace is in a rich relationship with the existent public. This manner the author could talk to all his coevalss so as to show their joys and cholers. Literature would incorporate the whole human status and would be anthropologist. It would be a pure Utopia which would enable literature to be fulfilled in all its pureness. This utopia can be really utile as an illustration, but it has its bounds since it does non really stand for what was go oning in Sartre ‘s clip.
To reason his book, Sartre will be more concrete as he states the state of affairs of the author in his clip ( that is in 1947 ) and suggests some pieces of advice to his modern-day authors.
Sartre ‘s part to literary theory is really of import and what makes it so meaningful is the fact that Sartre is both a critic and a author. His thoughts about literature are really influenced by his existentialist-Marxist position of the universe. Generally speech production, existential philosophy attempts to do significance in a helter-skelter and irrational universe and Sartre argues that it is Man who makes himself, and as a major representative of existential philosophy, Sartre seeks to analyse literary plants while stressing on the battle to specify significance and individuality in the face of disaffection and isolation.
Therefore, in his book, Sartre sees literature as the merchandise of the relation between the writer and the society he lives in. Equally far as signifier is concerned, he prefers prose to versify and considers that the purpose of prose is humanist or the empyreal human being and this thought goes manus in manus with his celebrated slogan Existentialism is humanitarianism. Besides, for him, linguistic communication is the strongest tool of communicating and literature is the climaxing phase of this communicating. This position leads Sartre to encompass the thought of battle of literature since literature is basically a societal merchandise though written by persons. Here, I personally feel attracted by this thought of committedness since a author or an creative person in general has a critical duty over his society, and even though sometimes readers may read plants with no didactic or moral purpose, it is undeniable that art is highly purposeful. The grounds that shows that art has an influence on society is that it presents new values non merely assisting to develop society, but determining its behaviour every bit good, for illustration we can pull many lessons from a drama ‘s characters that do non halt at sublimating us but influences us by its content and consequence [ Aid 1988 ] [ 9 ] .
Furthermore, I portion this thought of Sartre raised chiefly against the nineteenth century motion of art for art ‘s interest and which views that “ the intrinsic value of art, and the lone “ true ” art, is divorced from any didactic, moral or useful map ” [ 10 ] and besides against the businessperson author, who was more devoted to his trade than to his audience. Furthermore, sing the existential philosopher thought of Man in the universe and since the author is a Man, his existent being is a literary individuality for him. That is to state, a author defines himself by prosecuting volitionally and consciously in knowing action.
I think that Sartre is like Terry Eagleton [ 1983 ] in seeking a definition of literature. However, the latter does non see literature as being simply inventive, but as utilizing linguistic communication specifically, that is to state, as Jakobson believes: literature is a type of composing which exerts an organized force on the ordinary discourse and condenses the ordinary linguistic communication as the composing, sounds and beat of the words overtakes its lexical significance. Therefore, the linguistic communication of literature purposes at pulling attending to it. In add-on, for the Russian Formalists, cited by Terry Eagleton in his debut to literary theory [ 1983 ] : the literary work is neither a vas for transporting thoughts nor a contemplation of the societal world but a physical truth since it is compounded of words and non topics or emotions, “ Literary linguistic communication is a set of divergences from a norm aˆ¦ a ‘special ‘ sort of linguistic communication, in contrast to the ‘ordinary ‘ linguistic communication we normally use. ” [ Eagleton 1983 ] [ 11 ]
Here, it would be utile to detect that the formalists overlook to analyse the literary content and concentrate merely on analysing the signifier, and alternatively of sing the signifier as an look of the content, they see it as a mere motivation for it, and even though some formalists ne’er deny the bing relationship between literature and society, they refute the thought that this relationship might be of some involvement to the critic. Besides, If Sartre focuses on two chief rules: battle and freedom, Eagleton stresses on one major rule which is that literature by nature is a non-pragmatic discourse reverse to Sartre ‘s strong beliefs, that is to state that literature is a linguistic communication that indicates itself merely. This position of Eagleton resembles the positions of the Russian formalists about literature.
As to the thought of disaffection, Eagleton thinks that there is no composing which can non be read as being alienated since readers can utilize their ability of reading, because ambiguity and confusion are present even in most logical discourses, so every text is unfastened to reading. I can add to Eagleton ‘s part that life is full of cases of confusion, for illustration in film ; most movies ‘ secret plans are based upon the ambiguities and confusions linked to mundane linguistic communication.
This thought is besides advanced by Wolfgang Iser ( 1978 ) , in which he says that readers are free to construe a text the manner they want but they have to build it in such a manner that renders it internally consistent. An unfastened work must go coherent, and the vagueness must be normalized. [ 12 ]
To reason, I would state that Sartre ‘s book was a manifestation of occupied literature in which he defines steadfastly the characters of the modern-day literature. However, his limpid contemplations have raised many reviews from different bookmans in different periods of clip, but it still remains a good mention for anyone who seeks to reply inquiries related to the nature and map of literature. I should state that I portion most of Sartre ‘s thoughts particularly those related to the nature and function of art and the relationship between the writer and his reader. Literature has ever had a map throughout history from Plato to our recent yearss either morally, educationally or socially, and any author, anyplace, should cognize his duty over humanity and therefore compose purposefully. However, one can compose for grounds which are non needfully didactic, such as for delectation and amusement of the reader. In any instance, I think that a author should unite both meaningful and amusive attacks in his literary work, hence literature can “ learn and please ” [ Sidney 1595 ] [ 13 ]