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An Officer of Civilization

The Poetics of Michel Houellebecq

Nurit Buchweitz

Michel Houellebecq posits himself as an officer of civilization, offering a map of contemporary reality and according literature a substantial role in the field of public involvement. His unique style problematizes contemporary cultural processes and deconstructs the aesthetic and ideological thought-habits that design the collective imaginary of our era. As such, this book seeks to analyze the particularities of Houellebecq’s poetics in the context of literary tradition, intertextual relations, psycho-cultural aspects and social semiotics, alongside contacts with the contemporary field of art. The author focuses on Houellebecq’s poetical differentia specifica, the unique and innovative intersection between the cooperation with transnational capitalism and the resentment toward ignorant indulgence in it. This book reads Houellebecq as both iconoclastic and subversive and at the same time as a commodity in the literary marketplace and shows how his narratives are harnessed for the purposes of activism in the service of engaged impact.
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Pornography and the Post-human


The Pornographic Formula

Explicit sexual descriptions, an inseparable part of Michel Houellebecq’s poetic world, suffuse the author’s works.1 Indeed, many sections, often very similar in content and style, appear to draw on the type of book which is intended “to be read with one hand”2 – works written for a particular kind of male reader. Episodes involving sexual acts are described in graphic detail and appear to be the product of an assembly line: a certain number of body parts are described, a specific number of acts take place, and nothing unexpected interrupts the scene as it approaches its climax. Neither male nor female lovers exhibit unique or original sexual responses. In Houellebecq’s writing, slight variations on the same scene are repeated numerous times. Metaphor is forbidden, and this redundancy does not appear to concern the author. Houellebecq’s representation of sex complies with the laws of a genre for whose every detail he has the utmost respect: pornography.

Murielle Lucie Clément follows Farncesco Alberoni in elucidating Houellebecq’s pornographic scenes. According to Alberoni in his work L’Erotisme,3 pornography belongs to the male imagination; it is the fantasy of satisfying male desires, needs, aspirations, and fears. The male fantasy in pornography represents women as sexually ravenous, driven by an uncontrollable urge, who want nothing more than to throw themselves upon the male sex organ. Clément demonstrates how this definition corresponds perfectly with the following sexual fantasy scene that occurs in the mind of...

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