Jonathan Littell's Les Bienveillantes: Ethics, Aesthetics and the Subject of Judgment

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Abstract

The article focuses on Jonathan Littell's Les Bienveillantes (2006) which it regards as part of an emerging cluster of French- and German-language 'Nazi perpetrator fictions' published from the mid-1990s onwards. The relationship between ethics and aesthetics, and the links of each to judgment, are explored via discussion of aspects of the reception of Littell's text, specifically, that it is kitsch and pro-Nazi. The status of the first-person narrator as an occupant of different subject positions (actor, self-conscious spectator, author) and the intertextual function of Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem and Kant's 'categorical imperative' are considered. A final section assesses the reader both the narrator's fictional reader or addressee and Littell's 'real' reader in the light of Arendt's later work on 'thinking' and judgment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalModern & Contemporary France
Volume18
Issue number1
Early online date1 Feb 2010
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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