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WOMEN IN FRENCH STUDIES Breaking the Silence: Michèle Sarde's Histoire d'Eurydicependant la remontée Le mythe ne disait rien de l'itinéraire d'Eurydice après le retournement d'Orphée, après la mort d'Orphée, pas même, si cheminant seule sur un chemin de traverse, elle n'aura pas fini par atteindre le bout de la remontée. Michèle Sarde The past few decades have seen the emergence of what could be viewed as a new genre in fiction writing: the female-authored rewriting of a classic or mythic text. Grounded in the belief that what we read matters to the ways in which we conceive of ourselves, this type of rewriting, taking its point of departure in a muted character of literary history, aims at replenishing and supplementing our stock of available role models. Since "there is," as Jean Rhys famously claimed, "always the other side, always" (128), contemporary women writers attempt to devise alternative scripts to tell, in Molly Hite's phrase, "the other side of the story."1 Yet if their texts often resort to the strategy ofdisplacing or delegitimating a well-known tale2 to redress the gender asymmetries it embodies and reproduces, the re-appropriation of culturally sanctioned texts in fact serves a double purpose: it allows women (re)writers to inscribe their texts in a "high" literary tradition from which they in turn, in a gesture of mutual legitimation, derive authority and prestige (Ostricker 318; Purkiss 441); and it enables women (re)writers to intervene in that tradition in ways that effectively affect it. Women writers who choose to rewrite classical myths (rather than, say, Jane Eyre or the Bible), however, have to face an additional challenge: because a myth is an open structure whose pragmatic purpose is to be told and retold and whose fundamental character is therefore to be appropriated (Barthes 204), the supposedly transgressive gesture of its feminist reappropriation is, in effect, already anticipated. Obfuscating that its rewriting from yet another perspective is foreseen and hence forestalled, the apparent malleability of myth, masking a true rigidity, forces us to consider whether it is, then, possible to avoid the recuperative mythopoetic imperative. Or, to put it in Diane Purkiss' words, "how might women writers rewrite the discourses of myth while rewriting individual myths?" (448). In this article, I propose to look at Michèle Sarde's Histoire d'Eurydice pendant la remontée (1991) as an instance of women's rewriting of myth which succeeds in transforming a silenced and objectified character into a subject while altering our understanding of what myth is and 90 WOMEN IN FRENCH STUDIES does. As I will argue, Sarde's novel opens a discursive space for the emergence of a female subject of history through the twin strategies of a dialogic text that locates the protagonist's self-actualization in-between a scholarly grasp of the mythological tradition and its applicability to her own condition, and a metafictional text which demonstrates the living reality of myth and its power to shape human destiny. Recording the coming into being of a modern Eurydice, Sarah Solal (a.k.a. Sophie Lambert), Michèle Sarde's Histoire d'Eurydice pendant la remontée is as much a rewriting of the classical tale of fated love as it is an attempt to resist the ways in which, "pour tous les amants du monde, ce couple deviendra un modèle et leur histoire" (273). This resistance is dramatized in the novel's opening pages, wherein the reader is first introduced to the protagonist through the eyes of a man who had been following her through the streets of Paris, and is then made privy to her recollection of a conversation with her Parisian dissertation director. Setting the stage for the drama which is to unfold, this scene immediately casts the reappraisal of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice from a feminist perspective as a controversial issue. Although Sarah finally managed to have her dissertation title, "Fonction et symbolique d'Eurydice dans les arts lyriques," accepted—though not without compromise, for as she reflects, "les arts lyriques bornent trop le champ du mythe" (12...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2166-5486
Print ISSN
1077-825x
Pages
pp. 90-99
Launched on MUSE
2016-04-06
Open Access
No
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