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La Canne de M. de Balzac: Parody at the Intersection of Politics and Literature Leyla Ezdinli I N HIS ARTICLE on the thematic, stylistic, and formalistic impor­ tance of eccentricity in the Romantic period, Daniel Sangsue con­ cludes: “ l’excentricité constitue une entrée privilégiée pour l’étude du XIXe siècle. Tandis que le récit excentrique permet une réévaluation des rapports du romantisme au roman et soulève les questions fondamen­ tales que l’on a (entre)vues, l’excentricité permet de repenser le rapport du XIXe à d’autres questions non moins essentielles: originalité vs imita­ tion, singularité vs type, problème de la folie, etc.” 1Unfortunately, in spite of his many insights into the ways in which the concepts of devia­ tion and deviancy structure literary production and reception in the nine­ teenth century, Sangsue does not recognize women writers’ participation in “eccentric literature,” nor does he address the role of gender in the construction of the category. Given that the nineteenth-century rhetoric of literary authority depended on a specific set of assumptions about the relationship between gender and literary creation, it seems crucial to pur­ sue the question of how gender and eccentricity implicate each other in the discourse of authorial identity. Feminist criticism has contributed much to efforts to analyze the rela­ tionship between literary authority and gender in the French Romantic period, a period typically represented by a parade of solitary male geniuses such as Chateaubriand, Lamartine, Vigny, Hugo and Balzac. The work of Nancy K. Miller, Naomi Schor, and Nicole Mozet, for example, has compellingly demonstrated that George Sand had a sub­ stantially different relationship to the novel from that of her male con­ temporaries, and that an awareness of this difference constantly inflects her writing. Little attention, however, has been given to other women writers of the period.2As a consequence, critics tend to generalize about women’s relationship to the novel in the Romantic period from the work of a singular literary figure, one whose experience was quite unique. Moreover, theories about women’s writing often ignore any work that strays far from the confines of the Bildungsroman. While such omissions are troubling for any period, they are especially problematic for periods of great literary experimentation and playfulness, such as the Romantic V o l . XXXIII, No. 3 95 L ’E sprit C réateur period, particularly during the 1830s. In order fully to critique the sexual politics of literary authority, it is also necessary to examine the sexual politics of literary genres. If we are to move beyond the blindspots gen­ erated by hegemonic representations of gender, we must turn to deviant and marginal literary forms in an effort to determine the ways in which gender shapes literary production. While critical interest in parody seems to flourish through and around postmodernism, critical attention to parody seems minimal for earlier periods. This seems to be especially true for feminist literary criti­ cism, which, in its efforts to establish and delineate female literary tradi­ tions, has largely overlooked the role of parody. I would argue that this results first from the assumption that parody is a derivative and parasitic genre, which makes it difficult to argue for the creative importance of the author of parody, and second from the fact that parody, as a genre, intertwines the woman writer’s text so intimately with that of the paro­ died text, whose author is often male, that the gender affiliation of the writing subject is radically destabilized. As Nancy Miller states in “ Arachnologies” : “ Only the subject who is both self-possessed and possesses access to the library of the already read has the luxury of flirting with the escape from identity—like the loss of Arachne’s ‘head’—promised by an aesthetics of the decentered (decapi­ tated, really) body.” 3Miller further argues that in the wake of the dead Author we might usefully distinguish between the discussions around patriarchal texts that move to dismantle the originating powers of authorship, and the readings of women’s writing that seek to establish the material and figurative grounds for elaborating a history o f female authorship. (289, n. 1) This distinction, it...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 95-103
Launched on MUSE
2017-07-05
Open Access
No
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