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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Rational Enchantment: On the Travel Writings of Cendrars, Leiris and Michaux
by Dubrov, Andrew, Ph.D., New York University, 2017, 205; 10261008
Abstract (Summary)

In the 19th century, writers like Chateaubriand, Nerval, and Flaubert traveled in search of sublime, exotic transport that still existed (they believed) outside of France. However, this tradition changed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. With the advent of a modernity defined by calculated rationalism and progress, many writers began to lament the death of travel as a sublime, writerly experience. To paraphrase Sartre’s Roquentin, they mourned the death or dearth of adventure and enchantment left in the world.

In my dissertation, I read the travel memoirs of three authors who look for ways of overcoming this disenchantment of the world: the futurist and vagabond Blaise Cendrars, the surrealist ethnographer Michel Leiris, and the heteroclite traveler-poet Henri Michaux. I examine how each of these authors develops a particular method of travel that mixes poetic desire with the technological, social, and political realities of the modern world; Cendrars through a fascination with speed and vehicles, Leiris through ethnography, and Michaux through an obsession with ethical practices of self-control. Each author’s method, I show, leads him to form what the critic Michel Deguy calls a poéthique — writing that finds enchantment through reason and engagement with the real world. The title of my dissertation, Rational Enchantment, then, describes this poéthique process. In other words, I show how, through travel, Cendrars, Leiris, and Michaux cultivate representations of enchantment that, in turn, contribute to the re-enchantment the world.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hollier, Denis, Sieburth, Richard
Commitee: Cortade, Ludovic, Ertel, Emmanuelle, Miller, Judith G.
School: New York University
Department: French
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 79/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Romance literature, Literature
Keywords: Blaise cendrars, Enchantment, Henri michaux, Michel leiris, Modernity, Travel writing
Publication Number: 10261008
ISBN: 978-0-355-12824-6
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