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Mirages and Mad Beliefs

Proust the Skeptic

Christopher Prendergast

Marcel Proust was long the object of a cult in which the main point of reading his great novel In Search of Lost Time was to find, with its narrator, a redemptive epiphany in a pastry and a cup of lime-blossom tea. We now live in less confident times, in ways that place great strain on the assumptions and beliefs that made those earlier readings possible. This has led to a new manner of reading Proust, against the grain. In Mirages and Mad Beliefs, Christopher Prendergast argues the case differently, with the grain, on the basis that Proust himself was prey to self-doubt and found numerous, if indirect, ways of letting us know. Prendergast traces in detail the locations and forms of a quietly nondogmatic yet insistently skeptical voice that questions the redemptive aesthetic the novel is so often taken to celebrate, bringing the reader to wonder whether that aesthetic is but another instance of the mirage or the mad belief that, in other guises, figures prominently in In Search of Lost Time. In tracing the modalities of this self-pressuring voice, Prendergast ranges far and wide, across a multiplicity of ideas, themes, sources, and stylistic registers in Proust's literary thought and writing practice, attentive at every point to inflections of detail, in a sustained account of Proust the skeptic for the contemporary reader.

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The Modernist Traveler

French Detours, 1900-1930

Kimberley J. Healey

The Modernist Traveler considers figures whose writing about travel rebelled against a literary tradition of exoticism, adventure stories, and novelistic travelogues. Instead these writers initiated a modernist strain in travel writing and a shift in the literary establishment and the culture at large. Kimberley J. Healey focuses on those French writers and thinkers who traveled in order to experience a displacement of both the inner self and the physical body while writing against the prevalent tradition of travel literature.
 
The modern self, modern time, colonial spaces, and the physical body are Healey’s concerns as she reads works by Victor Segalen, Paul Morand, Blaise Cendrars, Henri Michaux, Saint-John Perse, Guillaume Apollinaire, Paul Nizan, Albert Londres, Andre Malraux, Valéry Larbaud, and Isabelle Eberhardt. This book shows how, in the field of French literature, these texts about travel best capture the modernist experience of being alone in a world of new technologies, cultural diversity, and anxiety about the self.

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Montaigne

Regards sur les Essais

Les Essais de Montaigne sont Poeuvre la plus indispensable pour quiconque veut comprendre l’histoire de la pensee occidentale depuis le 16e siècle (T.S. Eliot dixit). De par la grande diversite des themes explores, cet ouvrage s’adresse a tous ceux (specialistes et amateurs) qui s’interessent ce grand ecrivain-philosophe français. Parmi les aspects importants de l’oeuvre de Montaigne qui sont examines se trouvent l’Apologie de Raymond Sebond, l’autoportrait dans l’essai De la presomption, la poetique montaignienne, les rapports entre le texte et le lecteur, la metaphore de la balance dans Des livres et De trois commerces, le “desordre” des Essais, Porthodoxie religieuse de l’auteur, les rapports Montaigne/Descartes, la notion de l’ame, les “causes perdues” de l’histoire et les excipit des Essais.

Dans les onze communications que renferme ce volume, communications faites par des specialistes canadiens, americains et français lors du colloque organise en 1980 par l’Universite de Western Ontario à l’occasion du quatrieme centenaire de la publication des Essais, les auteurs ont aborde maints aspects de Poeuvre, tout en mettant a contribution les abondantes ressources de la critique de ces dernieres decennies. Tant d’analyses penetrantes ne manqueront pas de passionner tous les lecteurs des Essais de Montaigne.

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Montaigne's Politics

Authority and Governance in the Essais

Biancamaria Fontana

Michel de Montaigne (1533-92) is principally known today as a literary figure--the inventor of the modern essay and the pioneer of autobiographical self-exploration who retired from politics in midlife to write his private, philosophical, and apolitical Essais. But, as Biancamaria Fontana argues in Montaigne's Politics, a novel, vivid account of the political meaning of the Essais in the context of Montaigne's life and times, his retirement from the Bordeaux parliament in 1570 "could be said to have marked the beginning, rather than the end, of his public career." He later served as mayor of Bordeaux and advisor to King Henry of Navarre, and, as Fontana argues, Montaigne's Essais very much reflect his ongoing involvement and preoccupation with contemporary politics--particularly the politics of France's civil wars between Catholics and Protestants. Fontana shows that the Essais, although written as a record of Montaigne's personal experiences, do nothing less than set forth the first major critique of France's ancien régime, anticipating the main themes of Enlightenment writers such as Voltaire and Diderot. Challenging the views that Montaigne was politically aloof or evasive, or that he was a conservative skeptic and supporter of absolute monarchy, Fontana explores many of the central political issues in Montaigne's work--the reform of legal institutions, the prospects of religious toleration, the role of public opinion, and the legitimacy of political regimes.

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Mourning Glory

The Will of the French Revolution

By Marie-Helene Huet

Mourning Glory sheds light on troubled times as it shows how passion and prejudice, grief and denial all contributed to the continuing creation of a revolutionary legacy that still affects our understanding of the nature of language and history.

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My Beloved Toto

Letters from Juliette Drouet to Victor Hugo 1833-1882

My Beloved Toto, a collection of letters written by Juliette Drouet to her lover, Victor Hugo, tells the story of a life and of the great love affair that shaped it. From 1833 until her death half a century later, Drouet wrote to Hugo twice daily on average, resulting in thousands of letters. The 186 translated here—most appearing in English for the first time—offer insights into nineteenth-century French culture as well as an insider’s look at the character, behavior, working habits, and day-to-day life of France’s most monumental man of letters.

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My Father and I

The Marais and the Queerness of Community

"It is a living museum of a long-gone Jewish life and, supposedly, a testimony to the success of the French model of social integration. It is a communal home where gay men and women are said to stand in defiance of the French model of social integration. It is a place of freedom and tolerance where people of color and lesbians nevertheless feel unwanted and where young Zionists from the suburbs gather every Sunday and sometimes harass Arabs. It is a hot topic in the press and on television. It is open to the world and open for business. It is a place to be seen and a place of invisibility. It is like a home to me, a place where I feel both safe and out of place and where my father felt comfortable and alienated at the same time. It is a place of nostalgia, innovation, shame, pride, and anxiety, where the local and the global intersect for better and for worse. And for better and for worse, it is a French neighborhood."-from My Father and I

Mixing personal memoir, urban studies, cultural history, and literary criticism, as well as a generous selection of photographs, My Father and I focuses on the Marais, the oldest surviving neighborhood of Paris. It also beautifully reveals the intricacies of the relationship between a Jewish father and a gay son, each claiming the same neighborhood as his own. Beginning with the history of the Marais and its significance in the construction of a French national identity, David Caron proposes a rethinking of community and looks at how Jews, Chinese immigrants, and gays have made the Marais theirs.

These communities embody, in their engagement of urban space, a daily challenge to the French concept of universal citizenship that denies them all political legitimacy. Caron moves from the strictly French context to more theoretical issues such as social and political archaism, immigration and diaspora, survival and haunting, the public/private divide, and group friendship as metaphor for unruly and dynamic forms of community, and founding disasters such as AIDS and the Holocaust. Caron also tells the story of his father, a Hungarian Jew and Holocaust survivor who immigrated to France and once called the Marais home.

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Napoleonic Friendship

Military Fraternity, Intimacy, and Sexuality in Nineteenth-Century France

Brian Joseph Martin

Following the French Revolution, radical military reforms created conditions for new physical and emotional intimacy between soldiers, establishing a model of fraternal affection that would persist from the revolutionary and Napoleonic wars through the Franco-Prussian War and World War I.

Based on extensive research in French and American archives, and enriched by his reading of Napoleonic military memoirs and French military fiction from Hugo and Balzac to Zola and Proust, Brian Joseph Martin's view encompasses a broad range of emotional and erotic relationships in French armies from 1789 to 1916. He argues that the French Revolution's emphasis on military fraternity evolved into an unprecedented sense of camaraderie among soldiers in the armies of Napoleon. For many soldiers, the hardships of combat led to intimate friendships. For some, the homosociality of military life inspired mutual affection, lifelong commitment, and homoerotic desire.

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The Narrative Imagination

Comic Tales by Phillippe de Vigneulles

Armine Avakian Kotin

Philippe de Vigneulles (1471--1528), cloth merchant and hosier from the city of Metz, wrote a collection of comic short stories which he called Cent Nouvelles ou contes joyeux. The work constitutes an important step in the development of the nouvelle form in France. In an extended explication, Ms. Kotin analyzes the tales for the modern reader, historically, generically, structurally, and in terms of their human significance.

Inscribed in a tradition of short narrative forms in late medieval and early Renaissance France, these tales remake or recast traditional narrative patterns into new forms. Philippe de Vigneulles's tales constitute a "recit" of human life, supported by the sympathetic presence of the author and his beloved city of Metz.

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