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Subversions of Verisimilitude

Reading Narrative from Balzac to Sartre

Lawrence Schehr

Publication Year: 2009

Subversions of Verisimilitude focuses on the ways in which a number of French literary narratives written in the realist tradition show a dynamic balance between the desire of the author/narrator to present a verisimilar world and the need for aesthetic balance. While the works studied-narratives by Balzac, Flaubert, Zola, Colette, Proust, and Sartre-range over the course of a century, from 1835 to 1938, they share a perspective on the relations between and the need to engage questions of realist verisimilitude and narrative interest and aesthetics. The book discusses some of the subversive paths taken in realism and, specifically, in canonical narratives solidly anchored in the tradition. The goal here is to analyze these realist texts, regardless of the narrative mode chosen, in order to see the deviations and detours from realism, mostly for aesthetic ends.The book contributes to our understanding of nineteenth- and twentieth-century narrative and furthers our knowledge of the ways in which critical theory illuminates such canonical works.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

In writing this book, I have benefited from the input, comments, and suggestions of many people. David F. Bell, Andrea Goulet, Armine K. Mortimer, and Franc Schuerewegen all read the entire manuscript and generously gave me recommendations...

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pp. 1-10

Even a cursory glance at the MLA Bibliography online reveals an interesting pattern in the conjunction of the terms ‘‘verisimilitude,’’ ‘‘French,’’ and ‘‘realism.’’ As might be expected by any literary critic familiar with Erich Auerbach’s epoch-making...

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1. Balzac: Enallages and Twists

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pp. 11-57

In this chapter on Balzac, I would like to focus on two of the less studied works in La Comédie humaine: Le Contrat de Mariage, an 1835 novel that is an étude de moeurs included in the Scénes de la vie privée, and the very cynical 1837 work...

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2. Flaubert and Zola: Challenges to Verisimilitude

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pp. 58-123

Each of the canonic realist novelists—Stendhal, Balzac, Flaubert, and Zola—takes a pessimistic view of human happiness. This position is consonant with the representation of the changing world of the nineteenth century in which the ever-advancing...

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3. Colette and Proust: Queering Modernism

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pp. 124-168

Despite serious differences in approaching narrative between the mainstream novelists of the nineteenth century and the high modernists of the early twentieth century and even the young Sartre who will follow them, there remains a seeming...

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4. Sartre’s Bodies

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pp. 169-197

In the film Sartre par lui-mȇme, directed by Alexandre Astruc and Michel Contat, Jean-Paul Sartre, along with the fastest talker in the universe, Simone de Beauvoir, reminisces about his life, work, and engagement in the politics and culture...

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pp. 198-200

To move from the retrospective and nostalgic view of the Restoration that is Balzac’s to the world leading to the Second World War that is Sartre’s is to cover a bit over a century of tumultuous change, industrial and economic revolution...


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pp. 201-230


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pp. 231-236


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pp. 237-241

E-ISBN-13: 9780823248490
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823231355
Print-ISBN-10: 0823231356

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 801848603
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Subversions of Verisimilitude

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • French fiction -- 19th century -- History and criticism
  • French fiction -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • Realism in literature.
  • Probability in literature.
  • Narration (Rhetoric).
  • Discourse analysis, Narrative.
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