Guide Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought

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    Article Navigation. Close mobile search navigation Article Navigation. Volume Martin Jay. Philosophical-Political Profiles. Translated by Frederick G.

    Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought

    London, Heinemann, Hitchens, Christopher. New York, Verso, Horkheimer, Max. Howard, Dick and Karl E. The unknown dimension: European Marxism since Lenin. New York, Basic Books, Hughes, H.

    Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought

    Cambridge, Harvard University Press, Jay, Martin. Bono et al. New York, Fordham University Press, , pp. Texts as different as Erich Auerbach's Mimesis, Meyer Abrams's Mirror and the Lamp, Hayden White's Metahistory, and Michel Foucault's Order of Things, to name only these, have perhaps just one thing in common: they have provided different perspectives or paradigms for understanding various periods and forms of literature, history, and thought.

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    Whatever questions we might have about their assumptions, whatever differences we might have with their interpretations of individual works, problems, or periods, these texts have encouraged us to reconsider how we periodize theoretical and literary discourse, to question the continuities and breaks assumed to exist in the movement of thought, to reevaluate the themes and problems allegedly shared by various periods, or to take more seriously the metaphors, concepts, and procedures dominant at any particular historical moment.

    Martin Jay's Downcast Eyes presents a similar opportunity to reconsider important aspects of contemporary thought through its insistence on the central thematic or problematic of vision in the work of twentieth-century French intellectuals.

    Although not ignored to the extent that Jay implies, the question of vision has certainly been peripheral to most debates concerning French existentialism and what is called poststructuralism or postmodernism. Even if we continue to analyze the works treated in this book in very different terms from those explicitly articulated by Jay and draw quite different conclusions from his, debates about "the French" will now have to consider Jay's perspective on the problem of vision in contemporary French theory and criticism.


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    • Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought?
    • Critics and theorists will now have to keep an eye on the problem of the eye and determine for themselves whether the French eye is really as "downcast" as Jay's title implies. In fact, Martin Jay has given his study a playful but problematic title, for the real subject of his book is not the downcast eyes of the French but the casting down of the eye by "the French," their lack of respect for unreflective notions of vision and their active opposition to the reductive, repressive effects of the unquestioned authority of the eye.