The Dialectics of Politics and Aesthetics in Twentieth Century Literature: Commitment and Organicity in James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Yasmina Khadra's L'écrivain

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Adresse Universite Mouloud MAMMERI Tizi-Ouzou


This thesis discusses commitment in James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Yasmina Khadra’s L’écrivain. It demonstrates commitment from the position of organicity vis-à-vis aesthetics and politics, and reveals that Joyce’s organic aesthetics and Khadra’s insidedness are forms of engagement, which allow them to “speak truth to power”. This thesis hypothesizes that organic aesthetics creates a kind of a “sundial of history”, making A Portrait aesthetic in form and political in content. It also suggests that Khadra’s insidedness towards the ruling elite leads him to discuss, in L’écrivain, the mechanisms of power and to resist its absorption into the Algerian regime’s propagandist campaign. The work is divided into three chapters. The first chapter deals with affinities in texts and contexts. It analyzes the themes of fatherhood and motherhood and illustrates the relationship of the protagonists with the different social, religious and political forces. I rely on Carl Gustav Jung’s theory of the archetype to analyze the procedure that Stephen and Mohammed follow to construct their personalities and to show how their inner selves react to religious, cultural and social constraints, which prevented their intellectual freedom. The distinct processes of the protagonists, and by extension, the writers towards maturity reveal their positions towards politics and aesthetics. On the one hand, Joyce’s rebellious attitude led him to adopt an organic aesthetics in order to explore the language and free his fiction from the literary conformity of the “cultural industry”. On the other hand, Khadra’s inability to resist the authority of his father, who urged him to join the military institution, led him to adopt a position of organicity vis-à-vis politics. Though different, both writers are similar in that they invested their organicity, each at a different level, to express commitment. The second chapter demonstrates how Joyce’s organic aesthetics in A Portrait discusses socio-political issues. Barthes’ anti-communicational approach reveals that “writing” is the locus of commitment, repositioning it at the level of the signifier instead of the signified as claimed by the Marxists. Indeed, Adorno’s conception of the “monad” explains that the novel’s aestheticism is not apoliticism, rather it gives a socio-political dimension to the text by virtue of the “double character” of aesthetic devices as ornamental and instrumental. This chapter discusses commitment in politicized aesthetics and reveals that aesthetics has its own politics or meta-politics. The third chapter deals with Khadra’s L’écrivain and demonstrates how the writer “speaks truth to power” from an organic positionality vis-à-vis political power. It analyzes the conceptions of the Algerian state in terms of conflict and construction in order to explain the socio-political context wherein the writer operates. It illustrates the writer’s shift from the tendency of “aestheticizing politics” and violence, making propaganda for the regime to the tendency of “politicizing aesthetics” and expressing commitment from a state of insidedness. The thesis examines commitment at distinct levels and reveals that it is possible in a state of aesthetic and political organicity


271F. : ill. ; 30cm. + 30cm.


Literature, Cultural industry, Theoretical Framework, Political Commitment, Politicization of Aesthetics