Lucien Goldmann


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Romanian-born, Paris-based Marxistsociologist of literature whose theory of structural parallels or homologies was very influential in the 1950s and 1960s. Born in Bucharest, he began his studies there, but soon moved to Vienna to study German philology. It was there that he first came into contact with the work of György Lukács, which proved to be a lifelong interest. During World War II he was initially incarcerated in Paris, where he was studying at the time, but he was able to get away to Switzerland where he got a job as an assistant to the great child psychologist Jean Piaget. He completed a doctorate there on Kant. After the war he returned to Paris. He held positions at the Centre Nationale de Recherche Scientifique and the École Pratique des Hautes Études. His work foregrounded the problems of class consciousness and reification. In Le dieu caché: étude sur la vision tragique dans les Pensées de Pascal et le théâtre de Racine (1955), translated as The Hidden God: A Study of Tragic Vision in the Pensées of Pascal and the Tragedies of Racine (1964), Goldmann posited a homology between class situation, world view, and artistic form, the implication being that each of these three things can be treated as synonymous with the other two, so that a study of an artistic object can yield knowledge of both class and world view. Because of this facility, enabling the study of one thing to function as the study of another thing, the theory of homology was initially quite attractive, but would subsequently come under fire for oversimplying things. Goldmann enlarged upon the idea in his posthumously published Pour une sociologie du roman (1973), translated as Towards a Sociology of the Novel (1974), making what he called a ‘rigorous homology’ between the novel form and everyday life in capitalist society.

Further Reading:

M. Cohen The Wager of Lucien Goldmann: Tragedy, Dialectics, and a Hidden God (1994).

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies.

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