Redefining the engagé: intellectual identity and the French extreme right, 1898-1968 Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Shurts, Sarah E.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • Intellectual historians today continue to treat French intellectual history as the study of the figures, institutions, and ideas of the Left. This approach ignores the presence of self-identified intellectuals of the Right who conceived of their values, role, communities, and their very identity as intellectuals, differently than those on the Left. By basing discussions of intellectual life on only one of two existing models, historians have done a disservice to the field. This study examines the construction of an alternative intellectual identity by the engaged thinkers of the extreme Right in France between 1898 and 1968. The work of self-proclaimed right-wing intellectuals Maurice Barrès, Ferdinand Brunetière, Henri Massis, Charles Maurras, Abel Bonnard, Ramon Fernandez, Pierre Drieu la Rochelle, Alphonse de Châteaubriant, Maurice Bardèche, Jacques Laurent, and Alain de Benoist is used to trace this process of identity construction. From these case studies, it becomes apparent that throughout the twentieth century, intellectuals of the Right felt excluded from the cultural and political world by what they believed to be a hegemonic Left. This exclusion was not entirely a matter of perception, however, since the Left appreciated the authority of the role of the intellectual and worked to secure the concept for their own camp and to label the Right “anti-intellectual.” The Right’s resentment of this marginalization would become central to their construction of a new type of intellectual identity. In their struggle to legitimize their own vision of intellectual values, socio-professional communities, and experience while differentiating it from that constructed on the Left, they were attempting to redefine the concept of the intellectual according to their own perspective. This study attempts to bring the self-identified intellectuals of the extreme Right back into the narrative of intellectual history. It is also reveals the century-long struggle waged over the conceptualization of the intellectual between the Left and Right. While the model constructed by the Left has become synonymous today with the image of the intellectual, it was not the only version of intellectual identity throughout the century. It should, therefore, not be the only version considered in the narrative of French intellectual history.
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  • Reid, Donald
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  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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