Stendhal, 1783-1842 -- Criticism and interpretation -- History -- 20th century.
Feminist literary criticism -- United States.
Feminism in literature.
In the United States in particular, Stendhal received less and less attention from literary critics throughout the final quarter of the twentieth century. Many American feminist critics seem to have rejected the author Beauvoir called "ce tendre ami des femmes" in favor of more obviously political writers like Zola or, alternatively, women writers whose works merit rediscovery. Although Stendhal, whose heroines often find self-affirmation through passion, evinced a brand of feminism that may have been insufficiently militant for some late-twentieth-century American feminists, I contend that we still have much to learn from Stendhal's gender-bending representations of both femininity and masculinity. (LGZ)
Balzac's La Rabouilleuse (1842) exploits an innovative plot structure to insist on the changes taking place in France, especially the way the middle class was crushing the outstanding young people that France so desperately needed. Plot centered novels usually follow the actions of a central character or group. In La Rabouilleuse everyone and every action follows the inheritance from Paris to provincial Issoudun, and back to Paris. The narrator describes a society where religion had lost its power, where the local government was so inbred that change was impeded, where traditional families in a patriarchal system had been replaced by irregular couples, where, in short, mediocracy reigned. (AHP)
Hugo, Victor, 1802-1885 -- Political and social views.
Europe -- Politics and government.
In Hugo's texts, the "end of history" came to be embodied by what he called the United States of Europe. As a liberal republican, Hugo became increasingly concerned with the role of the People – as opposed to the exceptional Great Men, such as Napoleon, that he had long admired – in shaping this historical end. The vision of a united Europe became central to Hugo's providential projection of historical finality, his secularized version of Christian eschatology. Among all the prophets of European unity, Hugo delivered the most vivid and eloquent pronouncements, thereby producing impossibly high expectations as to its potential value. (EO)
Women -- France -- Social conditions -- 18th century.
The Goncourt brothers are famous for their pithy misogynistic pronouncements on the subject of women. However, despite their reduction in the novels and the Journal of all feminine types to the one monstrous femme with which dix-neuviémistes are all too familiar, there does exist her opposite. The Goncourt brothers cite the years from the death of Louis XIV to the execution of Marie-Antoinette as the period in which France was the capital of wit and style, as the period in which French artists produced uniquely French art, and as the only period in which French women sublimely ruled French society and culture. The brothers' treatment of women becomes more fully meaningful, therefore, in terms of the Goncourts historical and aesthetic idealization of the eighteenth century, an idealization in which the nineteenth-century could only represent a fall from grace. (JF)
Fromentin, Eugène, 1820-1876. Année dans le Sahel.
Algeria -- Description and travel.
The aim of this article is to demonstrate that the Algerian travelogues of Eugène Frometin (Un Été dans le Sahara, 1857 ; Une Année dans le Sahel, 1858), nowadays often regarded as a non-canonical author, form a part of a subversive tendency within mid-nineteenth century exotic French literature, alongside better-known authors such as Baudelaire or Flaubert. The Romantic use of "local color," often draws on a repertoire of stereotypical elements and commonplaces harbored by the collective imagery as regards the Other. Fromentin's abstract and figurative description of the desert can be perceived as a rejection of this use. Moreover his choice to focus on the indescribable and thus draw the attention away from the manifestations of French colonisation is significant because of its ideological implications. (In French VK)
This essay considers the role the Catholic confessional plays in manufacturing a more normalized masculinity for the effeminate hero of Zola's La Faute de l'abbé Mouret (1875). While many view Serge Mouret's erotic metamorphosis as an incomplete or even failed transformation, this article highlights the durability of those changes by comparing the masculine reputation of the priest both before and after he confesses his faute. A private act with public ramifications, the practice of auricular confession transmits in this novel a dominant moral vision of masculinity in which men are expected to lead lives of sexual excess, and in which normative male sexuality is assumed to be largely uncontrollable. (WE)
Dans "Un Cœur simple," la fonction narrative du père et de ses substituts s'articule à la crise de la religion confrontée à la modernité. Toujours du côté de la médiocrité, du désenchantement et de la déception, la figure du père constitue, cependant, au cœur de la narration, une autorité opératoire. L'inflation de l'instance paternelle va de pair ici avec l'image d'une croyance extravagante, une forme moderne du croire. En s'émancipant de tout intermédiaire, celle-ci crée son propre rapport à la transcendance. Elle ne s'arrache pas pour autant à l'adhésion collective de la foi. Il semble dès lors que, loin de s'ériger contre la croyance, le récit lui-même relève, au contraire, du besoin de croire, malgré l'effondrement des certitudes religieuses dans la seconde moitié du 19e siècle. (In French KV)
Villiers de L'Isle-Adam, Auguste, comte de, 1838-1889. Claire Lenoir.
Leroux, Gaston, 1868-1927. Mystère de la chambre jaune.
Vision in literature.
This essay connects Villiers de l'Isle-Adam's fantastic tale Claire Lenoir (1867/1887) and Gaston Leroux's detective story Le Mystère de la Chambre Jaune (1907) to contemporary debates in optical science. It argues that modern visual subjectivity is shaped less by photographic technologies than by new epistemological questions rooted in the anatomy of the eye. Both texts figure the retina as a troubled site of human knowledge through a link between domestic chambre and optical chamber: in Claire Lenoir, the purple-bordered wallpaper of Claire's hotel room exteriorizes the "retinal violet" of the eye's photochemistry, while in Leroux's tale, the central, mysterious "chambre jaune" reflects the retinal "tache jaune" debated in contemporary physiologies (AG)
Rachilde, 1860-1953 -- Criticism and interpretation.
Diseases in literature.
Sex in literature.
This article explores the significance of the medical discourse of hysteria, pathological sexuality and mental imbalance in Rachilde's works. The departure point is the hysterical attack she suffered about 1882, complicated by paralysis, and her treatment by the famous hysteria and paralysis specialist, Dr. Charles Lasègue. I trace the evolution in her works of the figure of leglessness as sexual renunciation/sexual perversion and argue that La Marquise de Sade contains a story of inherited physical and sexual abnormality with masked references to Drs. Blanche and Lasègue and to the deranged mass murderer Jean-Baptiste Troppmann. The article demonstrates how Rachilde's early sense of "writing as malady" was overtaken by the understanding that dreams and the unconscious could be a valid source of creativity (MRF).
The most taboo of perversions, necrophilia, is often incorporated into Decadent fiction as a theme testifying to the strength of a passion that defies corruption and endures everlastingly. In contrast to these elegiac celebrations of indestructible love, Rachilde's 1899 novel La Tour d'amour reintroduces the intense biological horror, the terrible sexual transgressivity of genuine necrophilia. Additionally, through a remarkable process of imaginary doubling, Rachilde uses her novel to stage a split in her authorial persona. Casting the helpless novice writer she was at the start of her career as the female corpse exploited by a pseudonymous male writer, she assumes the aggressive role in preying on her status as a victim. She thereby transforms herself into the necrophilic criminal whose violence is creatively reutilized as the shocking subjects of her books. (RZ)