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Geneva school

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A group of critics associated with the University of Geneva at various times since the 1940s. Its most prominent figure has been the Belgian critic Georges Poulet, while in the USA J. Hillis Miller was a significant practitioner of the school's methods before he adopted those of deconstruction; others include Jean Rousset, Jean Starobinski, and Jean-Pierre Richard. Drawing on the philosophical tradition of phenomenology, these ‘critics of consciousness’ (as they have sometimes been called) saw the critic's task as one of identifying, and fully identifying with, the unique mode of consciousness pervading a given author's works. Thus an author's particular sense of time and space would be seen as the unifying source of his or her entire oeuvre, regardless of the differences between individual works. Although related to some of the assumptions of biographical criticism, the ‘phenomenological’ approach of the Geneva critics differs in that it works back from the texts to the mind behind them, not from the life to the texts. An impressive example of this approach at work in English is J. Hillis Miller's Charles Dickens: The World of his Novels (1959).

Subjects: Literature

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