Heroism and Passion in Literature: Studies in Honour of Moya Longstaffe
Moya Longstaffe's estimable body of work is suitably honoured in this volume, which develops the strands with which she linked Corneille, Stendhal and Claudel in Metamorphoses of Passion and the Heroic (1999). In the first section, the waning of heroism, and its deviations, in the late seventeenth century are well covered. With his customary mastery, H. T. Barnwell explores Racine's ambiguous use of heroic language and ambivalence towards a 'Roman' concept of heroism in Bérénice, and Angela Ryan draws on an impressive range of theoretical perspectives to compare the Racinian Phèdre, within her 'constrained heroic space', with her Euripidean counterpart. John Campbell tracks the shifting view of (heroic) ambition in La Princesse de Clèves, Robert McBride the subterfuges and self-deceptions of Molière's comic heroes, and Marité Oubrier presents a biographical evaluation of La Fontaine, debating whether he deliberately positioned himself as 'anti-hero or reluctant hero'. Concurrently with these now canonical figures' questioning of conventional heroism, the increasingly marginalized Huguenot community had a particularly acute need to consider of what stuff heroes were made. An excellent essay by Jane McKee analyses the expression of beleaguered spiritual heroism, mediated through biblical allegory, in Laurence Drelincourt's Sonnets chrétiens, where self-reliance and trust in the Creator are not irreconcilable values. The sole eighteenth-century focus is in Graham Gargett's persuasive identification of a new real-life model for Voltaire's 'Ingénu', exploring the 'transformation of heroic noble savage into civilized heroic Frenchman'. For the following century there is Brian Keith-Smith on Wagner in Paris, John McCann on Baudelaire, Anne Judge and Solange Lamothe, in one of relatively few essays to foreground passion, on Stendhal's style, a fascinating note by Henri Godin on the film versions of Maupassant's Bel-Ami, and Elizabeth Lillie's fine account of Renan's evolving concept of the intellectual hero and the duty of the 'aristocrat of the mind' to enlighten and guide the masses. A metadiscourse on the heroic figure of the writer as prophet and mediator, present in Baudelaire and Renan, reappears in the final section in Aimé Césaire's vision of the poet as 'heroic creator of a new myth' expertly reviewed by Angela Chambers and in Stanley Black's deft analysis of Juan Goytisola's metafiction. Less ambitious figures feature in essays by John Gillespie, Gerard M. Macklin and Pól Ó Dochartaigh on, respectively, Camus's flawed heroes, Beckett's [End Page 424] implication that heroism consists in not succumbing to despair, and Jurek Becker's unremarkable Jewish anti-heroes who run counter to GDR social and literary myth-making. There are also contributions by Marie-Joséphine Whitaker on Rimbaud's passion for travel, Alan Gabbey on Péguy's reading of Descartes and Philip Taylor on dissidence within French Communism. Five essays on non-French figures — Wagner, the anti-Nazi Adam von Trott, Evelyn Waugh, Goytisolo and Becker — introduce a broader European dimension. As is the way of mélanges, one or two contributions are rather tenuously connected to the prescribed themes, but this volume, through its close-focus analyses and Graham Gargett's excellent introduction, makes a valuable contribution to charting the fluctuations of the heroic ideal.