The strategy of letters

Document Type


Publication Date



Harvard University Press


Although literary theories describe a world of strategies - textual, discursive, interpretive, and political - what is missing is the strategist. Poststructuralists try to explain agency as the effect of large-scale systems or formations; as a result, intuitions about individual action and responsibility are expressed in terms of impersonal strategies. Mette Hjort's book responds to this situation by proposing an alternative account of strategic action, one that brings the strategist back into the picture. Hjort analyzes influential statements made by Derrida, Foucault and others to show how proposed conceptions of strategy are contradictory, underdeveloped and at odds with the actual use of the term. Why, then, has the term acquired such rhetorical force? Since "strategy" evokes conflict, Hjort suggests, its very use calls into question various pieties of idealism and humanism, and emphasizes a desired break between mondernism and post modernism. It follows that a theory of strategy must explore some of the psychological implications of conflict, and Hjort pursues these implications through traditions as diverse as game theory, discourse ethics, and the philosophy of war. Unstable frames, self-deception, promiscuous pragmatism, and social emotion are some of the phenomena she explores as she develops her account of strategic action in the competitive domain of letters. In her reflection on strategy, Hjort draws on such literary examples as "Troilus and Cressida", "Tartuffe", the autobiographical writings of Holberg and the early modern French and English treatises on theatre.





Recommended Citation

Hjort, M. (1993). The strategy of letters. Cambridge, Mass. ; London: Harvard University Press.

This document is currently not available here.