LITERARY NATION BUILDING IN TIMES OF CRISIS: IMAGINING EARLY MODERN FRANCE
Much humanistic inquiry has been devoted to the construction of postmodern and postcolonial national identities. Professor Keller’s project aims to achieve a better understanding of the genealogy of national consciousness in the colonizing countries, such as France, that exported the nation-state as a political and cultural model and whose national identities were shaped by their colonial enterprises.
Professor Keller is pursuing the idea that the nation as an imaginary community relies heavily on the fictive creation of a collective identity. During his Center appointment, he plans to accomplish two objectives: (a) examine the contributions of early modern French writers to the discursive formation of France as an imaginary community, and thus reconstitute and analyze an important stratum in the genealogy of a key category of Western political consciousness and cultural identity and (b) probe the validity of contemporary postcolonial theory and political philosophy for an understanding of early modern forms of nationhood as exemplified by the French case.
The project is part of a book-length study now in its final stages. Work remaining includes enlarging and concluding a chapter on the representation of France in Michel de Montaigne’s Essais and a new chapter analyzing the patriotic poetry of François de Malherbe. Professor Keller will also strengthen the monograph’s historical and theoretical underpinning by examining sixteenth-century French political philosophy (Jean Bodin) and historiographical representation of France (Etienne Pasquier).