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Chambers, Ross

CHAMBERS, Ross


PERSONAL: Male. Education: L'Université de Grenoble, Ph.D.


ADDRESSES: Home—511 Benjamin St., No. 2, Ann Arbor, MI 48104. Offıce—Program in Comparative Literature, University of Michigan, 2015 Tisch Hall, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1003.


CAREER: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, began as professor of French, currently professor emeritus of French and comparative literature, 1975—.


MEMBER: Academy of Literary Studies.


AWARDS, HONORS: Marvin Felheim Distinguished University Professor, University of Michigan; University of Michigan Press Book Award, 2000, for Facing It: AIDS Diaries and the Death of the Author.


WRITINGS:


Gérard de Nerval et la poétique du voyage, J. Corti (Paris, France), 1969.

L'Ange et l'automate, Lettres Modernes (Paris, France), 1971.

Spirite de Théophile Gautier: Une Lecture, Lettres Modernes (Paris, France), 1974.

Meaning and Meaningfulness: Studies in the Analysis and Interpretations of Texts, French Forum (Lexington, KY), 1979.

Discours et pouvoir, Michigan Romance Studies (Ann Arbor, MI), 1982.

Story and Situation: Narrative Seduction and thePower of Fiction, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1984.

Mélancolie et opposition: Les Débuts du modernisme en France, J. Corti (Paris, France), 1987, translation by Mary Seidman Trouille published as TheWriting of Melancholy: Modes of Opposition in Early French Modernism, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1993.

Room for Maneuver: Reading (the) Oppositional (in)Narrative, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1991.

Facing It: AIDS Diaries and the Death of the Author, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 1998.

Loiterature, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 1999.


Member of editorial board of Australian Journal of French Studies, French Forum, Studies in Twentieth-Century Literature, European Romantic Review, and Narrative.


SIDELIGHTS: Ross Chambers is professor emeritus of French and comparative literature at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He serves on the editorial boards of a number of scholarly journals and has written various books on the nature of literature and its forms and functions. He received the 2000 University of Michigan Press Book Award for Facing It: AIDS Diaries and the Death of the Author. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


Chambers's first book appeared in 1969. Gérard de Nerval et la poétique du voyage, looks at the work of the poet Nerval and attempts to decipher the motives and patterns of his travel narratives and pen sketches. Brian Juden in Modern Language Review called it an "exhaustive analysis" that "presents an interesting theory, rightly emphasizes Nerval's artistic evolution, but does, perhaps, place the significant stages much too late."

In 1981 Chambers published Meaning and Meaningfulness: Studies in the Analysis and Interpretations of Texts. This work is a volume of essays, written over a seven-year period, that focuses on the structural analysis of texts, the role of the reader, and the problem of the contract or unspoken agreement made between writer and reader. Paul Murphy stated in the Modern Language Review that "Chambers is primarily concerned with two aspects of literary theory: the structural analysis of meanings present in a text, and the interpretations of texts which produce 'meaningfulness' in particular contexts."


Story and Situation: Narrative Seduction and the Power of Fiction was published in 1984. In this book Chambers looks at the relationship between the text and the reader, focusing on classic works of short fictions by Poe, Balzac, Joyce, Nerval, Flaubert, and James. Ann Jefferson described his argument in her article for the Modern Language Review, "Narratives, he claims depend for their point or meaning on their reader and this dependency means that their basic mode of operation is seduction: the reader has to be seduced into both accepting and granting the authority of narrative to narrate." She went on to say, "This is an important book for narrative theory because it reshapes the whole field with its central question about why narratives work." A critic for American Literature called his argument "lucid" and "witty," and James J. Sosnoski said in Modern Fiction Studies that Chambers's theoretical voice is "balanced, well-modulated, rich, incisive and seductive."


Chambers published Mélancolie et opposition: Les Débuts du modernisme en France in 1987. In this work Chambers elaborates on some ideas first presented in Story and Situation by looking at the works of Flaubert, Gautier, Hugo, Nerval, and Baudelaire. David F. Bell described the book in Modern Language Notes, "In Mélancolie he sets out to explore the political and ideological significance implied by the attempt at readerly seduction that marks the series of nineteenth-century texts which have attracted his gaze." Bernard Howells in the Modern Language Review called it "a sophisticated reading" and stated, "Dr. Chambers writes as clearly as the complexity of his thinking allows."


Room for Maneuver: Reading (the) Oppositional (in) Narrative was published in 1991. "Chambers is interested in ways that the text can change the reader," as Peter Lamarque explained in his review for the Times Literary Supplement. He looks at works by Nerval, Acquin, Carpentier, Asturias, and Puig. Leonard Tennenhouse commented in Modern Fiction Studies, "This is a careful, intelligent, densely referenced, and marvelously synthetic study of narrative theory that undertakes two timely and important tasks at once."


In 1994 Chambers published The Writings of Melancholy: Modes of Opposition in Early French Modernism, a translation of his earlier book Mélancolie et opposition. In her review for L'Esprit Createur Suzanne Nash noted, "Ross Chambers continues the important new work he began in Story and Situation and continued in Room for Maneuver of developing a theory for reading modern fiction which recuperates the 'oppositional' or change-producing force of these texts from the forms of indeterminacy that constitutes their being." Nathanial Wing of the French Review called it "a lucid and compelling theory of historical melancholy—a particular form of alienation in certain mid-nineteenth-century French writers." Nicholas White said in Journal of European Studies, "There is much to recommend in Chambers's stimulating book."

In 1998 Chambers published Facing It: AIDS Diaries and the Death of the Author. This book, like his others, is scholastic in nature, but appealed to wider audiences because of its subject matter. Chambers looks at three AIDS diaries and discusses how the writing of such diaries is an act of revolt for the author, while the reading of one is an act of mourning. He also discusses Roland Barthes's concept of the death of the author and how this phrase takes on new meaning when the author of the work is literally dying. Kevin J. Harty of the Harvard Gay and Lesbian Review found that the book "ultimately disappoints" and the "academic prose . . . limits its audience" and felt that Chambers could have looked at more readily available AIDS diaries. However, Julien S. Murphy of Biography disagreed, "He puts postmodern ideas to good use, illuminating AIDS diaries by providing us with rich and multiple interpretations of the texts and videos."


In his next book, Loiterature, Chambers coins the term "loiterature" to describe works with a narrator who ambles slowly through the story and in effect seems to loiter. Robert D. Spector, in a review for World Literature Today, remarked, "Cleverly and entertainingly, Chambers argues effectively through demonstration, well aware of the technique he is employing." Laurence M. Porter in Nineteenth-Century French Studies called it "subtle, ingenious, humane, and immensely learned." Robert D. Spector from World Literature in Review praised the book, "Instructive from beginning to end, Loiterature is a joy to read."


BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:


PERIODICALS


American Literature, October, 1984, review of Story and Situation: Narrative Seduction and the Power of Fiction, p. 461.

Biography, winter, 2000, Julien S. Murphy, review of Facing It: AIDS Diaries and the Death of the Author, p. 260.

French Review, February, 1996, Nathaniel Wing, review of The Writing of Melancholy: Modes of Opposition in Early French Modernism, p. 499.

Harvard Gay and Lesbian Review, spring, 1999, Kevin J. Harty, review of Facing It, p. 56.

Journal of European Sudies, June, 1994, Nicholas White, review of The Writing of Melancholy, p. 183.

L'Esprit Createur, summer, 1994, Suzanne Nash, review of The Writing of Melancholy, p. 126.

Modern Fiction Studies, winter, 1984, James J. Sosnoski, review of Story and Situations, p. 849; summer, 1993, Leonard Tennenhouse, review of Room for Maneuver: Reading (the) Oppositional (in) Narrative, p. 438.

Modern Language Notes, September, 1988, David F. Bell, review of Mélancolie et opposition: Les Débuts du modernisme en France, p. 939.

Modern Language Review, July, 1970, Brian Juden, review of Gérard de Nerval et la poétique du voyage, p. 637; October, 1981, Paul Murphy, review of Meaning and Meaningfulness, p. 904; January, 1986, Ann Jefferson, review of Story and Situation, p. 158.

Modern Language Studies, October, 1989, Bernard Howells, review of Mélancolie et opposition, p. 988.

Nineteenth-Century French Studies, spring-summer, 2001, Laurence M. Porter, review of Loiterature, p. 336.

Times Literary Supplement, March 13, 1992, Peter Lamarque, "Horrors in Parentheses," p. 27.

World Literature Today, autumn, 1999, Robert D. Spector, review of Loiterature, pp. 831-832.



ONLINE


University of Michigan,http://www.press.umich.edu/ (September 10, 2003), description of Facing It.

University Press Book Award,http://www.umich.edu/ (October 2, 2000), biography of Ross Chambers.*

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