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L'Esprit Créateur which it is Beckett's welfare or worstfare to refuse, save in the linguistic farewell of Worstward Ho, may be what Katz reverberates, in sum. Thomas Dutoit Université de Paris VII Christophe Lamiot. Littérature et Hôpital: Balzac Hugo Sue. Chilly-Mazarin: Sciences en Situation , 1999. Pp. 194. This book analyzes representations of the hospital in three important works of early- to midnineteenth -century French literature: Honoré Balzac's "Ie Colonel Chabert," Eugène Sue's Les Mystères de Paris, and Victor Hugo's Lev Miserables. The goal of Christophe Lamiot is not to analyze me extent to which these works reproduce or evade the reality of the space, practices and people that comprise the experience of the early nineteenth-century hospital. Rather, Lamiot, ambitiously drawing upon Derrida's notion of écriture, approaches me hospital as a primary site for the discursive production of subjectivity. In this sense, the hospital is not simply one of many institutions, but "l'institution par excellence, ou Institution" (38). These discursive practices account for the peculiar position of the hospital in the works considered by Lamiot, a presence at once obsessive and elusive. Its space, relations, and purposes remain hard to define—"enigmatic," "ambiguous," "reticent," "partial." Lamiot locates this problem of definition not simply in the obscure depictions dial characterize references to the hospital, but also in the multiple forms the hospital assumes in these works. The hospital is represented alternatively as hospice, dépôt de mendicité, clinic, asylum—to name the most prominent. Such an elusive existence might lead some scholars to write off the hospital as holding a rather unimportant role in these works. But Lamiot works hard and well to link die elusive existence of the hospital to an understanding of die ever present and ever unfinished task of conceiving the relationship of individual and society so central to these works. Thus, Lamiot seeks to understand Chabert's search for an identity in terms of his multiple and diverse interactions with various institutions of the hospital, beginning early on widi a foundling hospital, followed by his clinical encounter in the German Hospital Heilsberg and his final contemplation of the Hospice de la Vieillesse. The latter two are of utmost importance to Lamiot's argument, for they illustrate Chabert's attempt to secure a space for the articulation of his individuality within (and against) the socializing, policing proclivity of the hospital institution . Like Balzac, Sue is also interested in die problematic tension between the institutionalizing effects of the hospital and the expression of individuality. Lamiot describes Sue as pursuing nothing less than a "revendication administrative and sociale" (108) that made his work so central to discussions about the social problem of poverty in mid-nineteenth-century France. In contrast to Balzac and Sue, Hugo locates the relation between healdi and individuality outside die institution of the hospital. Lamiot sees the protagonist Valjean as embodying a hospital, exemplified by the assistance he provided during the social conflict of June 1832. In the guise of Valjean, Hugo personalizes and humanizes the functions of the hospital, avoiding widiout ever entirely displacing the disciplinary effects of that institution. Given the elusive references to the hospital in these works, and die complex theorized approach that Lamiot adopts to analyze them, a more comprehensive discussion of the works in question would have been helpful. It will be difficult for non-specialists and those unacquainted with the writings of Balzac, Sue, and Hugo to grasp the nuances of Lamiot's argument or of the works he sets out to analyze. This limitation aside, Lamiot has developed an innovative interdisciplinary approach, which holds promise for me much-needed task of refashioning the rigid disciplinary boundaries that all too often compartmentalize the fields of literature, history, and the history of medicine/science. Andrew R. Abenberg Scripps College 12 Summer 2001 ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
p. 112
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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