Michel Houellebecq’s Novel Precarities: Literature That Leads Nowhere
Why should the “academic study of literature” lead anywhere . . . at all? And, why should the “academic study of literature” find or be required to find a value exclusively in a neoliberal, hyper-monetizing economy? And, why couldn’t one instead see the “academic study of literature” as an activity that foundationally challenges rather than obsequiously affirms the truly “farcical system” that produces the notion of “luxury goods” in the first place? These “against the grain” questions, as I have posed them, reveal what emerges as a Houellebecqian “double take” on or a Houellebecqian process of ironic reversal of uncritical assumptions and forms of cultural stupidity (in the Flaubertian sense); and, it is this critical and sometimes radical second look that we see attending François’s rolling sarcastic and cynical pronouncements on literature, culture, politics, and theology/religion throughout the work, especially in Submission’s final ridiculous section on the impetus for a conditional (and therefore paradoxical) religious conversion. Moreover, the “double take” in Houellebecq’s works exposes crisscrossing conditions of precarity – the precarity of persons, institutions, and ideas.
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