“The bourgeois … Not so long ago, this notion seemed indispensable to social analysis; these days, one might go years without hearing it mentioned. Capitalism is more powerful than ever, but its human embodiment seems to have vanished. ‘I am a member of the bourgeois class, feel myself to be such, and have been brought up on its opinions and ideals,’ wrote Max Weber, in 1895. Who could repeat these words today? Bourgeois ‘opinions and ideals’—what are they?”
Thus begins Franco Moretti’s study of the bourgeois in modern European literature—a major new analysis of the once-dominant culture and its literary decline and fall. Moretti’s gallery of individual portraits is entwined with the analysis of specific keywords—“useful” and “earnest,” “efficiency,” “influence,” “comfort,” “roba”—and of the formal mutations of the medium of prose. From the “working master” of the opening chapter, through the seriousness of nineteenth-century novels, the conservative hegemony of Victorian Britain, the “national malformations” of the Southern and Eastern periphery, and the radical self-critique of Ibsen’s twelve-play cycle, the book charts the vicissitudes of bourgeois culture, exploring the causes for its historical weakness, and for its current irrelevance.
About The Bourgeois
“I am a member of the bourgeois class, feel myself to be such, and have been brought up on its opinions and ideals,” wrote Max Weber, in 1895. Who could repeat these words today?
Thus begins Franco Moretti’s study of the bourgeois in modern European literature, where a gallery of individual portraits is entwined around the analysis of specific keywords – such as ‘useful’ and ‘earnest’, ‘efficiency’, ‘influence’, ‘comfort’, ‘roba’ – and of the formal mutations of the medium of prose. The book charts the rise and fall of bourgeois culture, exploring the causes for its historical weakness, and searches for the seeds of its failures.
“The great iconoclast of literary criticism.”—John Sutherland, Guardian
“It’s a rare literary critic who attracts so much public attention, and there’s a good reason: few are as hellbent on rethinking the way we talk about literature.”—Times Literary Supplement
“Moretti, a mythopoeic figure, generates around himself a dense network of folklore and apocrypha.”—n+1
“Moretti is already famous in bookish circles for his data-centric approach to novels, which he graphs, maps, and charts … if his new methods catch on, they could change the way we look at literary history.”—Wired
“Distant reading might prove to be a powerful tool for studying literature.”—New York Times