Jacques Ranciere has continually unsettled political discourse, particularly through his questioning of aesthetic "distributions of the sensible," which configure the limits of what can be seen and said. Widely recognized as a seminal work in Ranciere's corpus, the translation of which is long overdue, Mute Speech is an intellectual tour de force proposing a new framework for thinking about the history of art and literature. Ranciere argues that our current notion of "literature" is a relatively recent creation, having first appeared in the wake of the French Revolution and with the rise of Romanticism. In its rejection of the system of representational hierarchies that had constituted belles-letters, "literature" is founded upon a radical equivalence in which all things are possible expressions of the life of a people. With an analysis reaching back to Plato, Aristotle, the German Romantics, Vico, and Cervantes and concluding with brilliant readings of Flaubert, Mallarme, and Proust, Ranciere demonstrates the uncontrollable democratic impulse lying at the heart of literature's still-vital capacity for reinvention.
Jacques Ranciere (b. 1940) is professor of philosophy emeritus at the University of Paris VIII. Among his major works translated into English are The Future of the Image, The Politics of Aesthetics, The Philosopher and His Poor, The Flesh of Words: The Politics of Writing, Aesthetics and Its Discontents, Disagreement: Politics And Philosophy, and The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation. Gabriel Rockhill is assistant professor of philosophy at Villanova University and program director at the College International de Philosophie. He is the author of Logique de l'histoire and coeditor of the Politics of Culture and the Spirit of Critique: Dialogues, as well as Jacques Ranciere: History, Politics, Aesthetics. James Swenson is associate professor of French and dean of humanities at Rutgers University. He is the author of On Jean-Jacques Rousseau Considered as One of the First Authors of the Revolution and a well-known translator of Etienne Balibar and Jacques Ranciere.