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220Women in French Studies American directorJulie Dash, would enrich anumberofthe conceptual groupings and the potential comparisons suggested in French-Speaking Women Film Directors. Carolyn A. DurhamThe College of Wooster Zeina Tamer Schlenoff. Le Bonheur chez la femme colettienne. New York: Peter Lang, 1997. 117 pp + bibliography. Zeina Tamer Schlenoff's study has a twofold purpose: to right the critical misperception according to which "les oeuvres de Colette...ont longtemps été considérées comme dépourvues de l'idée du bonheur" (10); and, to show that happiness in Colette's works is a uniquely female achievement, one her heroines accomplish through "la re-création de leur Moi" (2). The reader's reaction to Schlenoff's second goal will determine how sympathetic s/he will be to the book over all, since the author subscribes - at the outset, at least - to the kind ofpsychological finality and narrative resolution the successful "recreation of one's Self presumes. (Honesty requires that I reveal my disagreement with this premise. For me, the rich ambiguities ofColette's stories work against such a ideological reading ). Schlenoffherselfmoves away from this initial model ofpsychic coherence; her later chapters speak, rather, of "l'identité" as "un processus, constamment changeant"(84). While this conceptual shift in regard to Colette's heroines makes for a stronger analytic base, it also makes the book somewhat contradictory. Schlenoffdistinguishes between "le bonheur circonstanciel" and "le bonheur incirconstanciel": the former is dependent on external factors such as "l'amour, ... la carrière, ... Ia sensation et [les] simples plaisirs de la vie," whereas the latter is "le bien-être intérieur qui se suffit à lui-même" (2). Colette's women experience both, but only internal strength and lucidity, Schlenoff claims, bring lasting happiness and, through that, contest the "patriarchal culture" that would reduce them to despair. Ifthis paean to the clear-minded resilience ofColette's heroines sounds familiar , it's because numbers of feminist critics have already addressed it. Schlenoff herselfmakes this evident, albeit unintentionally, by quoting ideas from previous Colette studies that are very close to her own; equally unfortunate, the other critics' thoughts are often more evocative. As a consequence, Le Bonheur reads unnecessary citations, and would also have required Schlenoffto point up more sharply what, ifanything, is new in her analysis. The corpus from which Schloenoff draws her conclusions is thin:£a Vagabonde, L 'Entrave, Chéri, and Fin de Chéri. Her approach is to adopt Nancy K. Miller's technique of "overreading," developed in "Arachnologies," which Schlenoffdefines as "lire ce qui a déjà été lu comme si on le lisait pour la première fois, sans aucune référence à des interprétations antérieures" (10) (again, the plethora of critical references belies this method). Le Bonheur examines, first, Renée Néré and Léa de Lonval's "discovery" oftheir "subjectivity" through the Book Reviews22 1 trope ofthe much like a compendium ofbibliographic references. Good editing would have weeded out the many mirror. For example, "Renée, son Je et son Moi" are described as "trois différentes 'personae'" in a perceptual game that renders Renée "incapable de conceptualiser l'unité de son Moi" early in La Vagabonde (27). Schlenoff's use oflacanian precepts here, while not new, is a strong moment in the study, but a discussion of Renée's subsequent use of letter writing as a "mirror" should have appeared in this section, rather than in chapter three. In the following chapter, the role ofprofessional work and erotic pleasure in bringing Renée and Lea, respectively, to"circumstantial happiness" is explored. There are some suggestive points about the dynamics of the sexual "gaze" involved in Renée's music-hall performance. It is, however, hard to sort through the relations Schlenoff outlines between desire, love and happiness. Does Renée consent to a "relation normale" with Jean at the end ofL 'Entrave (6 1) and thereby accept defeat? If, as Schlenoff claims, "la femme amoureuse chez Colette n'est jamais heureuse" (65), how are we to interpret the statement several pages later that "à travers l'amour de Chéri, Léa tire un bonheur qui lui procure toute sa puissance dynamique" (74...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2166-5486
Print ISSN
1077-825x
Pages
pp. 220-221
Launched on MUSE
2016-04-06
Open Access
No
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