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  • L’Écriture hospitalière: l’espace de la croyance dans les ‘Trois Contes’ de Flaubert
  • Mary Orr
L’Écriture hospitalière: l’espace de la croyance dans les ‘Trois Contes’ de Flaubert. By Cécile Matthey. (Faux titre, 316). Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2008. 228 pp. Pb €46.00; $64.00.

As Cécile Matthey acknowledges in her interrogation of previous work undertaken by critics such as Alain Montandon, the subject of hospitality as major theme and synonym for intertextual relations in the Trois Contes is not new. However, her reading of hospitality takes up this highly charged space in Flaubert’s tales as the intertextuality of ‘croyance’, using Pierre-Marc de Biasi’s definition for this key term as ‘l’origine de toutes les aliénations’ (p. 7). For Matthey, Flaubert’s treatment of various ‘croyances’ in each of the tales therefore constitutes so many deconstructions of the ‘histoire du mythe chrétien’ (p. 105) to leave not an intertextuality of religious iconoclasm, but of the encounter with the terror of Medusa hosted in the final image of each of the tales. Or at least this is one interpretative track through Matthey’s very dense set of ideas and amassing of intertexts drawn from the Classics and nineteenth-century writers such as Apuleius, Ovid, Creuzer, Maury, Michelet, Renan, from previous critics of Flaubert’s works, and from Flaubert’s other works and correspondence. And the basis for all this intertextual accumulation is a definition of ‘croyance’ with which one can readily take issue. What is particularly striking about Matthey’s study is that very little room is given to close reading of the actual texts of the Trois Contes, whether in direct quotation from them or in concerted sifting and interpretation of their contents for evidence supporting her thesis. The result may indeed be alienation, but of the common reader encountering Flaubert’s Trois Contes for the first time and in need of an Ariadne’s thread through their intertextual labyrinths. At the same time, Matthey is too close to her material (as revised doctoral thesis and published articles) and wealth of her scholarship to guide more knowledgeable readers step by step through her complex argument. This is therefore a deeply fascinating, but also frustrating, study, which paradoxically succeeds in re-mystifying the Trois Contes the more it seeks to de-mythify their religious import.

Mary Orr
University of Southampton


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