Paranoia and Modernity: Cervantes to Rousseau

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Cornell University Press, 2006 - 341 pages
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"Don Quixote is the first great modern paranoid adventurer.... Grandiosity and persecution define the characters of Swift's Gulliver, Stendhal's Julien Sorel, Melville's Ahab, Dostoyevsky's Underground Man, Ibsen's Masterbuilder Solness, Strindberg's Captain (in The Father), Kafka's K., and Joyce's autobiographical hero Stephen Dedalus.... The all-encompassing conspiracy, very much in its original Rousseauvian cast, has become almost the normal way of representing society and its institutions since World War Two, giving impetus to heroic plots and counter-plots in a hundred films and in the novels of Burroughs, Heller, Ellison, Pynchon, Kesey, Mailer, DeLillo, and others."--from Paranoia and Modernity

Paranoia, suspicion, and control have preoccupied key Western intellectuals since the sixteenth century. Paranoia is a dominant concern in modern literature, and its peculiar constellation of symptoms--grandiosity, suspicion, unfounded hostility, delusions of persecution and conspiracy--are nearly obligatory psychological components of the modern hero.

How did paranoia come to the center of modern moral and intellectual consciousness? In Paranoia and Modernity, John Farrell brings literary criticism, psychology, and intellectual history to the attempt at an answer. He demonstrates the connection between paranoia and the long history of struggles over the question of agency--the extent to which we are free to act and responsible for our actions. He addresses a wide range of major authors from the late Middle Ages to the eighteenth century, among them Luther, Bacon, Cervantes, Descartes, Hobbes, Pascal, La Rochefoucauld, Swift, and Rousseau. Farrell shows how differently paranoid psychology looks at different historical junctures with different models of agency, and in the epilogue, "Paranoia and Postmodernism," he draws the implications for recent critical debates in the humanities.

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Contents

The Paranoid Temptation 1 Agent and Other
1
The Responsible Knight
27
The Knight Errant
33
The Alienation of Agency 4 Luther and the Devils World
57
The Terrors of Reform
81
The Science of Suspicion
93
The Demons of Descartes and Hobbes
137
Unmaskings 8 Pascal and Power
145
Regimes of Nature 12 Invisible Agents
219
Rousseaus Great Plot
251
An Attempted Escape
289
Paranoia and Postmodernism
309
Index
329
81
330
112
331
158
333

The Art of Polite Disguise
163
Swift and the Satiric Absolute
174
A Flight from Humanity
195

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About the author (2006)

John Farrell is Professor of Literature at Claremont McKenna College. He is also the author of Freud's Paranoid Quest: Psychoanalysis and Modern Suspicion.

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