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Reviewed by:
  • Flaubert: les pouvoirs du mythe dir. by Pierre-Marc de Biasi, Anne Herschberg Pierrot et Barbara Vinken
  • Kate Rees
Flaubert: les pouvoirs du mythe, II. Sous la direction de Pierre-Marc de Biasi, Anne Herschberg Pierrot et Barbara Vinken. Paris: Éditions des archives contemporaines, 2017. 186 pp.

This collection of essays stems from a 2010 conference that brought together French and German colleagues working on nineteenth-century German mythography, and on the work of Flaubert. A first volume on the same topic was published in 2014; it included sections on the understanding and application of myth in Germanic culture, and articles exploring Flaubert's exploration of myth and religion in his own works (see my review in FS, 70 (2016), 449–50). The present study is even more eclectic in its breadth. An opening section includes a piece by Philippe Dufour comparing conceptions of symbolism, myth, and allegory in Georg Friedrich Creuzer, George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and Ernest Renan, along with articles on La Tentation de saint Antoine; the article by Dagmar Stoeferle foregrounds the ambiguity of Flaubert's representation of the queen of Saba in that text, both hagiographic and erotic. This is followed by a selection of essays on particular symbols or religious references in Flaubert's novels set in France. Barbara Vinken sees Madame Bovary [End Page 444] as a modern tragedy, rewriting the Christian concept of the scapegoat via the character of Emma. This is an echo of her own broader critical study, Flaubert Postsecular: Modernity Crossed Out (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015), which re-evaluates Flaubert's novels and contes, arguing that their modernity stems from a systematic ironizing of ancient and biblical sources, from a 'crossing out' of the significance of the cross. Déborah Boltz is persuasive in her article on religion—or its absence—in L'Éducation sentimentale, exploring the fakery of Christian symbolism in Dambreuse's funeral, the mass for which takes place in the Madeleine church, consecrated only a few years before the fictional 1851 ceremony. There is, too, a lengthy piece devoted to Emma Bovary's potentially vampiric tendencies, which focuses on the image of her sucking the blood from a finger pricked on her sewing needle, her desire to marry at midnight, and, more convincingly, from the jotting of the word 'vampire' in the manuscripts, at the point where Flaubert notes Rodolphe's increasing impatience with Emma's excesses. An essay by former co-director of the ITEM, Anne Herschberg Pierrot, closes the section on religion; she tracks the evolving quarrel between religion and science as manifested by changing versions of the abbé Jeufroy's debate with what is referred to as 'la science allemande' in Flaubert's sketches and avant-textes for Bouvard et Pécuchet. It is in the final section that the connections to the central theme of 'myth' become less clear. An essay by Renate Schlesier unpicking the (six) references to Flaubert across Proust's À la recherche makes for interesting but not necessarily mythical reading. Edi Zollinger's comparison between the schoolroom scene at the opening of Madame Bovary and a memory of schooldays recounted by Maxime Du Camp in his Livre posthume suggests that Flaubert may have been satirizing the output of his travelling companion, whose work he found 'pitoyable' (Correspondance, II (Paris: Gallimard, 1980), p. 200). This is quirkily intertextual, but seems disconnected from the broader theme of this diverse collection, which overall reminds the reader of Flaubert's thoroughgoing interest in Christian symbolism, and its frequent incorporation and destabilization across his work.

Kate Rees
Oriel College, Oxford


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pp. 444-445
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