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Tragic Realism and Modern Society: Studies in the Sociology by John Orr

By John Orr

Publication by way of Orr, John

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But in Formalism and Genetic Structuralism 35 Goldmann's actual studies of modern fiction, his use of this method is totally inconsistent. It applies to his interpretation of the revolutionary novels of Malraux, but not to his studies of the nouveau roman. In the latter he seeks out homologies between the literary text and the economic infrastructure of society. Here the relationship of fiction and society is no longer mediated by the problem of values. Rather it is a mechanistic reflection of the changing nature of the economic system, in which social consciousness, as the third element, plays only a secondary role.

While the study is generally a sociological success, his idea of Racine's tragic vision is curiously spaetromantisch, almost as if the young Lukacs had written Andromaque. In his writings on the novel, Goldmann comes equally under the influence of the idea of the problematic hero. But he departs from Lukacs in trying to outline his own sociological method. He rejects mimesis in favour of a procedure for establishing a homology of structures between literature and social consciousness. Here literature is no longer the mechanistic reflection of the consciousness of distinctive social groups, but a significant ordering of that consciousness which did not previously exist.

Barthes can deny history only by invoking it. In his own scheme of things the end of history is in fact historically conditioned. This becomes evident in his remarks on the evolution of literary form. Here Barthes stands Lukacs's historicism on its head and regards 1848 not as the beginning of the end for the novel, but its true beginning in a literature of pure form. The modern historical era is one in which the writer denies history. But unfortunately for Barthes 'the Flaubertisation of writing' only makes sense because history-and bourgeois societyactually exist, and continue to exist despite the increasing absence of any reference to them in the literature which Barthes admires.

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