Indiana; Mauprat, and: George Sand and Autobiography (review)
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Nineteenth Century French Studies 30.3 & 4 (2002) 418-420

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Book Review

Indiana; Mauprat

George Sand and Autobiography

Hiddleston, Janet. Indiana; Mauprat. Glasgow Introductory Guides to French Literature 45. London: University of Glasgow French & German Publications, 2000. Pp. 88. ISBN 0-85261-660-0
—. George Sand and Autobiography. Research Monographs in French Studies 5. Oxford: University of Oxford, 1999. Pp. 107. ISBN 1-900755-25-4

Since these two studies treat different works - a pair of Sand's early novels and her Histoire de ma vie, respectively - they might appear to have little in common. Yet both foreground basic issues of gender, genre, narrative voice, and authorial intention, [End Page 418] among others. Moreover, both testify to the complexity of the Sandian text, which is sometimes so replete with ambiguities that any attempt to define it is likely to be frustrated.

The first volume, which brings together Indiana and Mauprat, addresses the range of topics that one might expect to find in a manual of this kind, such as context, structure, and plot. As Hiddleston explains in her foreword, the juxtaposition of these two dissimilar works provides a good sense of Sand's early development as a writer, and also illustrates how she follows male literary models while forging her own personal, "feminine" views on marriage, education, and social problems (3).

Hiddleston begins with Indiana, "a somewhat incoherent work" (6) which represents a veritable battleground between the opposing forces of realism and idealism, the social and the personal, the objective and the subjective (10). The section on characterization is a good example of Hiddleston's nuanced reading of the Sandian narrative. Noting Sand's propensity for arranging her characters in pairs and triangles, for example, Hiddleston proposes that certain characters (namely Indiana and Noun), generally viewed as mirror images of each other, are at once opposites and interchangeable. Or again, after affirming that Laure de Nangy is unique, in contrast to Raymon (a stereotype), and Noun (a type and a symbol), Hiddleston suggests that Ralph might be considered "Sand's most original creation" (28), or even "the focus of the entire text" (29).

In her discussion of Mauprat, one of the more intriguing sections is that devoted to genre; Hiddleston argues that despite the novel's unmistakable kinship to such narrative forms as the Gothic novel, chivalric romance, and detective fiction, it ultimately becomes something entirely original. And while Mauprat is also a novel of education, it differs from Bildungsromane written by men which showcase the hero's efforts to ascend the social ladder, in that it gives precedence to the protagonist's sentimental education, becoming nothing less than "a lesson in feminism" (59).

Hiddleston herself furnishes a fitting segue to the second volume under con-sideration here when she observes that Indiana and Mauprat "encourage us to penetrate further into [Sand's] imaginative world as it receives its most complete expression" in later writings, including her autobiographical Histoire de ma vie (85). In George Sand and Autobiography Hiddleston looks at that work, assessing the extent to which this "hybrid, androgynous text follows the conventions of the traditional (male) autobiography" (4).

Chapter 1, "Autobiographical Project," highlights the self-deprecatory tone that infuses Sand's opening pages and which is characteristic of autobiographies by women; Hiddleston wonders whether Sand may have been trying to "get her (male?) readers on her side" (15) and underscores the irony therein, since "the very writing of one's autobiography. . . presupposes a certain self-confidence . . ." (16). "[P]erhaps true modesty and the autobiographical project are incompatible," she muses, "or perhaps Sand is genuinely both diffident and arrogant at the same time, both 'female' and 'male' " (16). That the narrator tends to describe herself as unattractive and stupid, to frame her own narrative within those of men, and to downplay her gender [End Page 419] implies that Sand "largely conforms to male expectations of what a (woman's) autobiography should be" (27). Nonetheless, her "essential womanhood" occasion-ally shines through (27).

In Chapter 2, Hiddleston considers the portrayal of family relationships, focusing in particular on the...