Savage Poetry: Torture and Cruelty in Mirbeau and Barbey d'Aurevilly
Abstract

Octave Mirbeau's Le Jardin des supplices and Barbey d'Aurevilly's L'Ensorcelée and Les Diaboliques depict a range of cruel attacks on the human body. These examples of violence, hitherto neglected by critical readers of the texts, have much to tell us not only about the authors' approach to violence, but also about the relationships between author, reader, and text that such representations of violence foreground. The notion of readerly pleasure theorized by Roland Barthes and linked to identity formation by Emma Wilson is associated with the witnessing or experiencing of pain in these texts. The reader is problematically positioned as both sadist, vicariously enjoying the suffering he or she is forced to witness, and masochist, taking pleasure in the authors' manipulations of them. These depictions of violated bodies ask whether and by what means violence can be represented in language, and this discussion leads to an analysis of the impact that such representations of violence have on the reader's experience of a text.