A sociological analysis of the Satanic Verses Affair

Fowler, B. (2000) A sociological analysis of the Satanic Verses Affair. Theory, Culture and Society, 17(1), pp. 39-61. (doi: 10.1177/02632760022050997)

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Bourdieu's work on modern cultural production has certain omissions. It fails to raise the possibility that authors such as Salman Rushdie, either writing from peripheral nations or from powerless minorities within a powerful nation, might be called `heroic modernists'. This would differentiate them from the routinized form of late 20th-century modernist avantgardism, which operates within the logic of the laws of the `restricted literary field' and contributes inadvertently to social reproduction rather than transformation. The argument of the article provides grounds for seeing Rushdie as such a `heroic modernist'. The structural location for contemporary `heroic' modernism is linked to the particular position the writer occupies as a stranger or migrant. However, it is proposed that even writing such as Rushdie's, deriving as it does from the political good intentions of the radical, is constrained to establish itself within a highly competitive cultural field. The article asks whether the `double rupture' of the Verses - a rupture both with the bourgeois bestselling novel and with popular forms - is not the main source of those social contradictions on which the writer himself came to be so impaled. Not the least among such contradictions is the imperative for the purpose of literary distinction of the refusal of a traditional realist style, which led the author towards an ironic iconoclasm: a comic grotesque mode of subverting of the sacred.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Fowler, Professor Bridget
Authors: Fowler, B.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
Journal Name:Theory, Culture and Society
Publisher:SAGE Publications
ISSN (Online):1460-3616

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