Disarming Intelligence: From Proust and Valéry to the NRF and Beyond


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Comparative Literature


In Third Republic France, “intelligence” was a contested object for the sciences differentiating the normal from the pathological. After WWI, it emerged as a nationalist watchword in tense cultural polemics. “Disarming Intelligence” unearths a hidden trajectory linking these two moments in French discourse through Modernist fiction and literary criticism. Examining works by Proust and Valéry, the NRF critics, and Blanchot, this project shows how these writers questioned dominant views, revealing ignored aesthetic dimensions to urgent political and cognitive debates. Read together they offer a nuanced account of how “intelligence” was tested during this period of uncertainty. While the power to think had not changed, ways of thinking about intelligence entered an unending crisis that continues today.