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The ClassicSainte-Beuve and the Nineteenth-Century Culture Wars$
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Christopher Prendergast

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199215850

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199215850.001.0001

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The Foundations of Culture

The Foundations of Culture

(p.240) 9 The Foundations of Culture
The Classic

Christopher Prendergast (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Towards the end of the first decade of the July Monarchy in France, an image appears in Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve's criticism. It is the image of the Dyke, which seems to have first appeared in the 1839 article ‘De la litterature industrielle’, where the forces of encanaillement (the market, democracy, ‘industrialization’, the masses) are described as having launched a massive assault on the foundations of culture. The metaphor of the dyke suggests that it has something to do with shoring up ‘foundations’, but the foundational nature of Sainte-Beuve's conserving project is exactly the problem, imposed by the terms of his own reflection. One of Sainte-Beuve's answers to the question of foundations was communitarian in form. The ground would be not merely secured but actively created by the endeavours of an institutionalized community of writers, critics, and intellectuals. This might be the way to build the ‘dyke’ and provide the ‘guarantee’.

Keywords:   Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve, classic, France, literary criticism, culture, politics, foundations, dyke, metaphor

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