Hot Property: The Stakes and Claims of Literary Originality

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University of Chicago Press, 1994 - Literary Criticism - 171 pages
But is it original? The question, on which so much of writing stakes its claim to greatness, may be more interesting than the answer. In this provocative book, Francoise Meltzer takes a subtle and incisive look at the anxiety of origins at the heart of the literary enterprise. Using four case studies, Meltzer reveals the shaky status of originality as a founding principle of the critical establishment.

Freud, inventor of "dream work," turns a blind eye upon the dreams that were the starting point of his predecessor Descartes's famous methode, the one man's obsession with originality mirroring the other's fear of plagiarism. The Holocaust poet Paul Celan, whose sense of identity and place resided in his work, is devastated by a charge of plagiarism. Colette's husband Willy outdoes himself, and his "lazy" wife as well, with his enactment of literary seriousness. Walter Benjamin's early interpreters, notably Hannah Arendt and Theodor Adorno, insidiously undermine the originality of his project . In each of these cases, Meltzer shows how a threat to a writer's status as creator betrays the larger fraud of the originality myth itself.

Fascinating for its insights into the ways originality is both at risk and at work in Western literary culture, Hot Property will engage all those who have an interest in questions of authorship, textual soveriegnty, and the legitimacy of the critical establishment.

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Hot property: the stakes and claims of literary originality

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Meltzer examines originality, genius, and the cult of the individual and its concomitant insistence on uniqueness in an attempt to destabilize accepted notions concerning originality. Her argument is ... Read full review

Contents

Disappropriating Colette
82
Walter Benjamin and the Right to Acedia
128
Conclusion I
157
Copyright

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About the author (1994)

Françoise Meltzer is the Edward Carson Waller Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago, where she is also professor at the Divinity School and in the College, and chair of the Department of Comparative Literature. Meltzer is the author of five books, most recently of Seeing Double: Baudelaire's Modernity, and a coeditor of the journal Critical Inquiry.

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