Le Desir selon l'Autre: etude du Rouge et le noir et de la Chartreause de Parme a la lumiere du "desir triangulaire" de Rene Girard (review)
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviewed by
Alling Mörte, Annika. Le Désir selon l'Autre: étude du Rouge et le noir et de la Chartreause de Parme à la lumière du "désir triangulaire" de René Girard. Lund: Lunds universitet, 2003. Pp. 199. ISBN91-973886-4-5

Alling begins her ambitious and comprehensive study with a provocative commentary on the lack of love in the two Stendhalian novels she proposes to analyze: "Il y a peu d'amour réalisé dans Le Rouge et le noir et dans La Chartreuse de Parme de Stendhal." Whether due to the inaccessibility of the desired object, the constraints of nineteenth-century society, or the aesthetics of the realist novel, reciprocal love escapes in general the protagonists. Alling chooses to examine love and desire in these novels in relation to René Girard's Mensonge romantique et vérité romanesque because of its undeniable influence on subsequent Stendhalian studies, in addition to Girard's originality of explaining not only romantic desire but also jealousy, vanity, and other forms of mimetic desire by the same model, that of triangular desire. Alling's industrious study proposes to investigate and test in detail the validity of Girard's theories rather than accept them as uncontestable truth, often by drawing her own structural models. Although she concedes that much study has been done concerning Girard's work in the fields of Anthropology, Sociology, Religion, and Psychology, Alling situates the novelty of her endeavor in her concentration only on the literary implications of the triangular desire model. In her words: "En effet, excepté quelques articles de moindre envergure, il n'existe pas d'étude qui passe les interprétations proposées par Girard des romans de Stendhal au crible d'une confrontation systématique" [End Page 443] (183). For Alling, a theory that is at the same time "réducteur et fécond" raises several issues, such as the validity of Girard's contention that there is little evidence of spontaneous desire in these two novels, and the exact structure of his triangular model as well as the nature of the desire.

Chapter 1 presents a brief review of Girard's model of triangular desire, inter-spersed with certain criticisms of his theories, such as the lack of precision and attention that Girard devotes to Julien's internal mediators, and other ambiguities and contradictions in Girard's theories. One such ambiguity concerns the definition of the word "desire," especially given Girard's use of the term as a conscious, rather than unconscious, phenomenon. Linked to this is the problematic nature of love versus passion: in other words, if Girard concedes that "passionate" characters can love spontaneously, then does this indicate that the victims of triangular desire are only those who desire the object rather than those who love/desire passionately? If so, according to Alling, that implies a senseless conclusion: that love and passion can exist without desire. Other problems include the interaction between internal and external mediation, the consequences of triangular desire, and the supposed "conversion" at the end of the novels.

Chapter 2 considers "internal mediation," first in Le Rouge et le noir and then in La Chartreuse de Parme. In the former, before presenting her own analysis, Alling discusses Girard's analysis of the desire of M. de Rênal and M. Valenod to hire Julien as the tutor of their children, and Mathilde's imitation of Mme de Fervaques's desire for Julien. Although Alling agrees with Girard that M. de Rênal and M. Valenod both want to hire Julien, she would not describe them as mediators of each other's desires, but rather as "deux 'sujets' qui désirent les mêmes objets." As she does throughout her study, Alling draws her own diagram to illustrate this dynamic, placing the two male subjects at the same level since neither subject is superior to the other. Although Alling confirms that, especially in the beginning of the novel, Julien's desire conforms to the Girardian model, she adds that the structure of the desire is often not triangular but rather binary, without the presence of a mediator. Alling divides her examination of internal mediation in La...