Réintroduction à la littérature fantastique: Enlightenment Philosophy, Object-Oriented Ontology, and the French Fantastic

Studies of the fantastic and attempts to define the fantastic as a genre have always presupposed a human-centered ontology. But the anthropocentric hierarchies of Enlightenment thought, embodied by the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, are precisely what the fantastic seeks to undermine. The fantastic posits a flat ontology where humans and objects stand on equal ground, where objects act, and where human subjects are objectified. After tracing a line from Kant to Théophile Gautier through E. T. A. Hoffmann, this article considers other fantastic narratives by Mérimée and Maupassant to suggest how the fantastic undermines an Enlightenment human-centered worldview while theorizing the hidden life of things. This reading leads us to tentatively redefine the fantastic as a form of speculative realism, as a genre that takes the presence and perspective of objects seriously and that embeds this object-oriented ontology into the texts in ways that trouble the reader’s subject-centered consciousness.