Populism and Literature: Mapping the Debate on Houellebecq's Soumission

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    The recent rise of populism is a topic that has been widely investigated, particularly in the field of political science (Laclau 2005; Mudde 2017; Müller 2016; Žižek 2006). However, the question arises whether populism should only be considered as a purely political phenomenon, or can also be studied from a cultural perspective: through literature, cinema and visual culture for example. The relationship between populism and culture is normally seen as one of mutual exclusion – populism dismisses culture as a waste of time and money, while culture perceives and represents populism as its disturbing Other. But on the other hand, populism’s own active use of culture tends to be underestimated.
    In this present article, I will illustrate these aspects by analyzing the reception of a controversial novel, namely Soumission by Michel Houellebecq (2015). This text has been widely investigated by scholars (Jones 2016; Rosenthal 2015; Spieser-Landes 2017); at the same time, far less scholarly attention has been paid to the cultural appropriation of the text on the part of populist politicians and media. By mapping the public debate on Soumission through a variety of sources (reviews, newspaper articles, interviews, etc.), I will illustrate how French populists have used Houellebecq’s novel to define their political agenda, with particular regard to the alleged ‘Islamization’ or ‘Africanization’ of Europe. On the other hand, we will see that these populist interpretations fail to grasp the complexity of the work.
    Originele taal-2English
    Pagina's (van-tot)7-56
    Aantal pagina's50
    TijdschriftPerspectivas de la Comunicación
    Nummer van het tijdschrift1
    StatusPublished - 15-aug.-2018

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