Sartre and the (un-)Freedom of the Reading Subject

Marieke Mueller

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter considers the freedom afforded to the reader in Sartre's late literary theory (in particular as this is implicit in L'Idiot de la famille [The Family Idiot], by contrast with his earlier and better-known views in Qu'est-ce que la littérature? [What is literature?]. In his earlier work, Sartre insisted on the freedom and activity of the reader, but argued nevertheless that the author 'guides' the reader through the text. In his later work, especially in the Flaubert biography, Sartre then explores examples of passive and comparatively unfree reading processes. Paradoxically, Sartre's here also begins to see the author as merely an intention imagined by the reading subject. This new theorization in turn frees the reader from the author. The chapter also views the different element of Sartre's approach to reading in the context of the notion of reading as 'play' developed by Michel Picard.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFreedom and the Subject of Theory
Subtitle of host publicationEssays in Honour of Christina Howells
EditorsOliver Davis, Colin Davis
PublisherModern Humanities Research Association
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)978-1781887332, 1781887330
Publication statusPublished - 06 May 2019


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