Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Roger Caillois' logic of participation in the 30s: From "Le Grand Jeu" to the "College de sociologie"
by Frank, Claudine Paulette, Ph.D., Harvard University, 1991, 448; 9211681
Abstract (Summary)

This thesis examines the early writings of Roger Caillois, best known at present as George Bataille's collaborator in the "College de sociologie" (1937-39). Viewed as an important prefiguration of French post-structuralist thought, the ephemeral "College" drew upon ideas evolving in the social sciences and on the periphery of Surrealism throughout the 30s. Caillois is an interesting figure in this regard, uniquely poised among the Ecole Normale, the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, the Surrealist movement, and Bataille. His 'totalizing' and 'activist' theory at the time entails a subtle interdisciplinary quest for dynamic 'systematization', radically altered by the war, and still relatively unexplored.

I study the evolution of Caillois' ideas in their intertextual, biographical, and historical context. The term 'logic of participation' conveys the dual and interrelated focus of my approach: First, it connotes Caillois' status as an intellectual and as theorist with respect to the various groups or movements he frequented. Secondly, it evokes his interest in an alternative logic constituted by new modes of correspondences and related to such concepts as 'mimicry' and the 'fantastic'. In essence, this was an attempt to accomodate post-Enlightenment 'residuals' (such as the irrational and affective imagination, 'primitivism', and the sacred) within 'coherent' systems of representation. Although Caillois' scope was always interdisciplinary, the residuals he addressed each pertained to a particular sphere which may be outlined in broad chronological order: psychology, then biology, sociology, and finally, in a sense, metaphysics.

Through detailed analyses, which consider little-known texts, dialogues and correspondences, I reconstruct Caillois' ambitious and distinctive intellectual trajectory in the 30s, informed by a series of controlling concepts which demarcate the eight basic units of this thesis. In doing so, I discuss his relation to Bachelard, Bataille, Breton, Dali, Dumezil, Gilbert-Lecomte, Lacan, Levy-Bruhl, Mauss, Monnerot, Paulhan, Petitjean, Rouveyre, and Tzara.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Suleiman, Susan Rubin
School: Harvard University
School Location: United States -- Massachusetts
Source: DAI-A 52/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Romance literature, Literature, Comparative literature
Keywords: Caillois, Roger, France, Surrealism
Publication Number: 9211681
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