Over several issues of his newly founded journal, Les Temps modernes, Sartre published a series of essays that later appeared as the book What Is Literature? There he elaborated his theory of committed literature enunciated in the inaugural issue. I do not intend to rehearse the rather well-known concepts developed in that remarkable opus--its distinction, for example, between poetry, which could not be committed, and prose, which could be, or its trenchant critique of surrealism. But since history is already emerging in Sartre's mind as a form of literature, we shall gain insight into his existentialist understanding of hisory by briefly considering his remarks on committed literature in that seminal text, published the year the Notebooks began. To begin with, the following observations are a virtual gloss on what we have said about History as value:
But if perception itself is action, if, for us, to show the world is to disclose it in the perspectives of a possible change, then, in this age of fatalism, we must reveal to the reader his powers, in each concrete case, of doing and undoing, in short of acting.
-- Sartre, What Is Literature?
The prose-writer is a man who has chosen a certain method of secondary action which we may call action by disclosure. It is therefore permissible to ask him this second question: "What aspect of the world do you want to disclose? What change do you want to bring into the world by this dis
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Publication information: Book title: Sartre, Foucault, and Historical Reason. Volume: 1. Contributors: Thomas R. Flynn - Author. Publisher: University of Chicago Press. Place of publication: Chicago. Publication year: 1997. Page number: 92.
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