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Abstract

In her article "Ambiguity, the Artist, the Masses, and the 'Double Nature' of Language" Elizabeth Rechniewski discusses the function of the European intellectual elite through a close reading of two very different yet related books, John Carey's The Intellectuals and the Masses, and Pierre Bourdieu's Les Règles de l'art. Through a contrapuntal reading of the arguments of these two critics, she argues that Symbolist experiments may actually be read as reactionist; in celebrating art's supposed conquest of independence and refinement, they are replete with nostalgia for a time when the artist and the intellectual were able to ignore the pressure and the demands made on art from the outside. Rechniewski argues that the "double nature" of language is less a discovery of the nineteenth-century avant-garde than a stake in their struggle over the control of culture within an artistic field split between the fields of the masses and restricted production. The assertion of the essential ambiguity of language opens up a space for creation and interpretation to which the specialist — writer, critic, scholar — has privileged, perhaps exclusive access: this claim underpins their deontology, the professional ideology which legitimates their activity.

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