Paper $37.00 ISBN: 9780226519760 Published June 1997
Cloth $99.00 ISBN: 9780226519753 Published March 1994

Hot Property

The Stakes and Claims of Literary Originality

Françoise Meltzer

Hot Property

Françoise Meltzer

179 pages | 5-1/2 x 8-1/2 | © 1994
Paper $37.00 ISBN: 9780226519760 Published June 1997
Cloth $99.00 ISBN: 9780226519753 Published March 1994
But is it original? The question, on which so much of writing stakes its claim to greatness, may be more interesting than the answer. In this provocative book, Francoise Meltzer takes a subtle and incisive look at the anxiety of origins at the heart of the literary enterprise. Using four case studies, Meltzer reveals the shaky status of originality as a founding principle of the critical establishment.

Freud, inventor of "dream work," turns a blind eye upon the dreams that were the starting point of his predecessor Descartes’s famous methode, the one man’s obsession with originality mirroring the other’s fear of plagiarism. The Holocaust poet Paul Celan, whose sense of identity and place resided in his work, is devastated by a charge of plagiarism. Colette’s husband Willy outdoes himself, and his "lazy" wife as well, with his enactment of literary seriousness. Walter Benjamin’s early interpreters, notably Hannah Arendt and Theodor Adorno, insidiously undermine the originality of his project . In each of these cases, Meltzer shows how a threat to a writer’s status as creator betrays the larger fraud of the originality myth itself.

Fascinating for its insights into the ways originality is both at risk and at work in Western literary culture, Hot Property will engage all those who have an interest in questions of authorship, textual soveriegnty, and the legitimacy of the critical establishment.
1: Freud and Descartes: Dreaming On
2: Paul Celan and the Death of the Book
3: Disappropriating Colette
4: Walter Benjamin and the Right to Acedia
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