Philip Roth, Profils Américains 15. Edited by Paule Lévy et Ada Savin. (Montpellier : Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier III, 2002), pp. 228.
The fifteenth issue of Profils Américains, focuses on Philip Roth and offers an impressive array of articles on his stories and essays. This new book includes thematic surveys of Philip Roth's fiction and detailed analyses of certain aspects or themes (the human body, exposure and concealment, to mention but a few) in specific texts, thus presenting an exploration of Roth's writing which is both comprehensive and intensive. In addition the book includes articles in English and in French by many distinguished contributors from France and America, providing the reader with a bicultural and bilingual perspective.
More specifically, the thematic surveys focus on the central problem of identity. André Bleikasten examines the problematic nature of identity in Philip Roth's fiction while Robert Alter shows that the presentation of the problem of identity can be seen as an exploration of American experience, American culture and history. Lilian Kremer explores the perception of Jewishness. Daniel Walden and Ellen Gerstle describe the impact of the Holocaust on Philip Roth's work.
The more detailed analyses comprise Martine Chard-Hutchinson's examination of Reading Myself and Others, which underscores the interconnections between the textual and the visual, biography and autobiography in this collection of essays, together with Régine Camps-Robertson's analysis of Portnoy's Complaint ,which shows the role of the image of the closed door/blocked threshold. Moreover Paule Lévy studies the perception and presentation of the human body in The Anatomy Lesson while Jay Halio describes the specific form of humor (‹‹ deadly farce) which the reader finds in this novel.
Géraldine Chouard investigates the exchange between the mourner and the deceased in Patrimony, focusing on the relationship between mourning and writing. Lazare Bitoun shows the various aspects of betrayal in Sabbath's Theater whereas Ellen Lévy demonstrates that I Married A Communist is Roth's anatomy of betrayal and a portrait of the artist as a young listener. Thomas Pughe explores the representation of nature in Philip Roth's Zuckerman novels. The last article of the book is Ada Savin's description of The Human Stain as a novel in which the individual, social and universal dimensions are interrelated: it presents the most radical form of self-transformation (overturning the color bar), a critical examination of American experience and society, and a universal reflection on human nature.
These perceptive articles provide new and illuminating perspectives on Philip Roth's fiction and literary career. Consequently this new collection will undoubtedly incite readers to ignore the clichés about Philip Roth's narcissistic and self-regarding posture in order to perceive a writer attentive to his peers and contemporaries, influenced by other writers and seriously engaged in a critical appraisal of American culture and society.
Associate Professor of American Literature
at the University of Poitiers