Critics as pros : a challenge of thirty years for the union-like French association of literary critics.
Since the end of the 19th century, the rise of mass culture substantially transformed the structure of the French literary field, affecting writers as much as literary critics – their essential counterparts who promoted them to an ever growing readership. Determined to fight against the pressure of the market upon the press and the publishing business which threatened both their authority and their aesthetic or ethical standards, critics reluctantly welcomed a 1902 union-like association organized to defend their interests. Their individualism most likely prevented these heterogeneous and status-deprived elites from benefiting from the process of professionalization that at the same moment led many other forms of intellectual work to be acknowledged as actual “jobsâ€?. Hence, this association experienced difficulties in its early years, as it tried to define and legitimate the work of critics on the margins of models offered by writers and journalists. The renaissance of this association in the 1930s, discussed in the second part of this article, involved a re-examination of how it could become an effective representative of literary criticism as an actual profession.