Reading laïcité

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Beginning with the observation that in recent years laïcité has taken on connotations that its nineteenth-century republican proponents would not have foreseen, this article reflects on the way laïcité's evolving meaning bears on questions of literary experience and literary education. It argues that there are important structural similarities between recent theories of laïcité and theories of literary reading, both of which rely on similar conceptions of intellectual and cultural space and the kinds of identity formation that occur there. The first half of the article builds on arguments by political philosophers Marcel Gauchet and Catherine Kintzler, who assert that aesthetic and cultural experiences enact the psychic phenomena of self-distancing inherent in laïcité. From there, the article goes on to suggest linkages between this view of laical distanciation and the process of individuation outlined in D. W. Winnicott's concept of transitional space, an influential concept for reader-oriented critics seeking to explain literary experience as an act of 'getting out of the self'.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)330-339
Number of pages10
JournalFrench Cultural Studies
StatePublished - Aug 27 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2014.


  • Catherine Kintzler
  • D. W. Winnicott
  • Marcel Gauchet
  • humanities
  • laicity (laïcité)
  • literature
  • reading
  • schooling
  • transitional space

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History


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