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L ’E sprit C réateur In conclusion this book is both pleasant and useful reading, a significant addition to critical works about the recent nobel laureate in literature. D in a S h e rz e r University o f Texas at Austin Vera Lee. L ove & S tr a te g y in th e E ig h te e n th -C e n tu ry F re n c h N o v el. Cambridge, Mass.: Schenkman Books, 1986. Pp. 146. Paper $9.95, cloth $15.95. The objective of Professor Lee’s book is to provide a general overview of the eighteenthcentury French novel of manners. Written for the non-specialist, her collection of essays serves as a useful compendium of the common denominators which give definition to the novel of worldliness. Her main focus is on the novels which have been called rococo, realistic or worldly by various specialists. She prefers to define them as mirror novels, for she sees them as providing the reader with a glimpse “of the true milieu and moment behind the façade” of French society. They are said to “ mirror” the moral laxity under the regency of Philippe d’Orléans and the reign of Louis XV. The authors in the study include Voltaire, Marivaux, Prévost, Crébillon, Denon, and Duclos, as well as all the authors generally omit­ ted from the literary canon of the Enlightenment: Louvet, Mouhy, La Morlière, D’Argens and Cailhava de l’Estendoux join the ranks of the novelists worthy of note, albeit of a lesser order. Her work provides an inventory of the standard themes and topoi which constitute a novel as “Made in France” in the rococo period: The déniaisement of the young ingénu by the mature woman, heroines holding out for a best offer, the acquisition of money and status by various parvenus, hypocrisy as clever wit, the “battle of the boudoir” waged in a decor of ottomans and divans suitable for initiations or serial conquests, in secret anti­ chambers and pavilions, fashions which reveal more than conceal, and veiled faces which cover curious glances. The stock characters play their parts in the game of love: petitma îtres, chevaliers, abbés, courtesans, filles d’opéra, and wizened women. Lee’s lists aptly mirror the narrative techniques of the novels she describes, which consist of the “ promis­ cuous linking together of a series of episodes,” appropriate to the “novels of sexual con­ quests.” She describes them as “ a string of beads” and distinguishes them from the more polished works such as Manon Lescaut, La Religieuse and Les Liaisons dangereuses, which are likened to a “tightly woven knot,” although they are not as prevalent as the anecdotal model, they are considered the “ meticulously written masterpieces” of the century. At mid­ century, with the disfigurement of Madame de Merteuil and the madness of Madame de Tourvel in Les Liaisons dangereuses, and the publication of La Nouvelle Héloïse in 1761 a new morality was being heralded. “ By the 1760’s the stylish petit-maître had outworn his welcome,” explains Lee. The novels with their now predictable patterns of thought and behavior, and their rococo aesthetics, once the height of fashion in the townhouses of Madame de Pompadour’s Paris “could not enchant forever.” Although the two types of narrative, the idealistic romance and the realistic novel, coexisted in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, after Rousseau the romance of sentimental love and idealized virtue will carry the day. Lee contributes to our understanding of the literary trends which predominated in the rococo period and led to the reaction against gallantry by presenting works which although deemed second-rate, proliferated in the eighteenth century and influenced the decisions made by Rousseau whose antidote to worldliness would change the course of the genre. C a th e rin e A. B e a u d ry Columbia University 104 W inter 1987 ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
p. 104
Launched on MUSE
2017-07-05
Open Access
No
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