Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


French Studies

Document Type



This dissertation addresses the use of literature in support of political ideologies, starting from the cases of Louis Aragon and Pierre Drieu La Rochelle. Aragon and Drieu wrote extensively about man’s alienation in the modern world and, more importantly, about the possibility of overcoming that alienation. Both argued for the creation of a new man who could erect a new world on the ruins of the old. Though Aragon was a communist and Drieu a fascist, they shared an apocalyptic view of the world and believed themselves to be living in the last stage of history, the prelude to a final revolution. Each designated himself a prophet and offered a formula for the salvation of the world. They were modern, secular Gnostics – believers in the infallibility of their own understanding, convinced that human hands could forge an age of perfection. Treating Aragon and Drieu as modern Gnostics and secular millenarians allows me to explain their systems of belief and the ideological contradictions in their literary works. Aragon and Drieu overlooked the fallacies they advanced in their roles as political prophets, yet as novelists, they divulged their ambivalence and raised discomfiting questions about their own doctrines. My study reveals that the fictions Aragon and Drieu created in their political often fall apart in their works of fiction. Although their literature meant to embrace totalitarianism, it ended up contesting it. As literary figures, neither Aragon nor Drieu were “slaves” of communism or fascism. What ensured their freedom was their subversion of totalitarian ideologies through literature. Yet, their literary subversion ultimately proves their awareness of their ideological errors.



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Committee Chair

Alexandre Leupin