In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Bo o k R ev iew s such as Mary Stewart have not deformed the legend but have done for the twentieth century what Chrétien de Troyes did for the twelfth. D e b o r a h H u b b a r d N e l s o n Rice University Victor Hugo. Edited and with an introduction by Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1988. Pp. vii + 255. This critical anthology, purporting to represent the best of contemporary analyses, forms part of a collection of 200 plus classical and contemporary writers. These twelve pieces written over 25 years (1959-1984) represent a shift in perspective, if we believe the samplings, from Hugo’s poetry to his novels. Three entries are on poetry, one on theatre, and six concentrate on the novel. Poulet’s famous essay mixes poetry and prose in the man­ ner of Bachelard, and the late Henri Peyre’s ponderings of Hugo’s religious beliefs mix, as expected, society and literature, the man and his work. Putting together already published materials can have value. Most of these extracts sug­ gest Hugo’s “ modernity.” The contributions are uneven, however, and synthesis has to be made by the reader. The best essays are by Brombert, Nash, Houston, Poulet and Petrey. They are discussed as they should have been grouped. Poulet’s ideas on spatial/temporal imagery are rightfully placed as introduction. It proves Hugo’s Expressionism which I would relate to his drawings, similar to the work of Munch. Hugo’s investment of words with concrete reality contradicts modern semantic theory, but his cosmic vision, the chaos in his imagery, has its own order and stability, and is close to contemporary scientific speculation (Gleick). Poulet (also Houston and Nash) suggests affinities to Baudelaire and Proust (I would add Coleridge), allying Romanticism to Modernity. Peyre on Hugo’s religious beliefs could have been placed after Poulet for its clarifica­ tion of his eclectic religious system, interpreted as reaction to orthodoxy. Houston’s work amplifies Poulet’s through fine rhetorical and stylistic analyses. Hugo anticipates Mallarmé’s negative poetry. Houston clarifies Poulet, seeing “ a continual con­ flict between chaos and pattern” (47). Professor Nash’s work holds the test of time with its positive emphasis on the creative process, further elaborated in her contribution on NotreDame de Paris. Her ideas on “ building,” “ restoration,” and the “ subversive word” (187-88) are convincing. In spite of La Légende des siècles’viewing history as “ progress,” W ard’s essay seems to me to see Romanticism as looking backwards. The same for How arth’s essay on theatre. The Romantics wanted to be Realists, for sure, but his argu­ ments about Classicism and verisimilitude are not interesting, while his ideas on lyric poetry and opera are. Richard Grant’s work on Les Travailleurs de la Mer arrives at negative conclusions, seeing structural defects in its epic form (Northrop Frye). Jeffrey Mehlman’s argument on “ tocsin” and “ heliotrope” is fetching but gets lost in doctrinaire Freudianism. Closure in Professor Welsh’s discussion of Les Misérables wanders too much through Diderot, Kant, and Sartre. Sandy Petrey’s questioning of the term historical novel is innovative; there are other conventions than history (182). Victor Brombert’s concluding essay on Les Misérables, approached through the synthesizing and symbolizing of Waterloo, makes us now think of Hugo as the greatest novelist of the nineteenth century. This collection would have been more balanced in appraising Hugo had there been conVOL . XXIX, NO. 4 107 L ’E s pr it C r éa te u r tributions from Bachelard, Barrère, de Man, Gaudon, Glauser, Moreau, Riffaterre, Carol Rigolot, and Paul Zumthor. J o h n A . F r e y The George Washington University Christiane Papadopoulos. L ’E x p r e s s io n d u te m p s d a n s l ’œ u v r e r o m a n e s q u e e t a u t o ­ b io g r a p h iq u e d e M a r g u e r i t e Y o u r...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 107-108
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.