“The Power of a Form of Thought that Has Become Foreign to Itself”: Rancière, Romanticism and the Partage of the Sensible


The recent wave of interest in the work of Jacques Rancière in North America can likely be traced back to the unique status he gives to the category of the aesthetic in its relation to the political. Coming after the exhaustion of debates surrounding the notion of “aesthetic ideology,”1 and expressing dissatisfaction with familiar arguments about the aestheticization of politics, Rancière’s oeuvre seems to offer the promise of a critical theory that develops an entirely novel understanding of the history of the relation between aesthetics and politics. It promises, among other things, to revitalize the study of literature as a privileged form of intervention into established modes of expression. Rancière weds aesthetics and politics through a particular reading of Romanticism. According to him, the early nineteenth century saw the invention of a form of literature that proved capable of articulating a new relationship between the aesthetic and the ground of the political community, or polis—the arche of politics itself.

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