By Tim Farrant
Everyone understands anything of nineteenth-century France - or do they? "Les Miserables", "The woman of the Camelias" and "The 3 Musketeers", "Balzac" and "Jules Verne" reside within the well known cognizance as enduring human records and cultural icons. but, the French 19th century used to be much more dynamic than the stereotype indicates. This fascinating new creation takes the literature of the interval either as a window on earlier and current mindsets and as an item of fascination in its personal correct. starting with background, the century's greatest challenge and capability, it seems to be at narrative responses to historic, political and social adventure, ahead of devoting important chapters to poetry, drama and novels - all genres the century notably reinvented. It then explores a number of modernities, methods nineteenth-century writing and mentalities look ahead to our personal, prior to turning to marginalities - topics and voices the canon normally forgot. No style was once left unchanged via the 19th century. This e-book might help to find them anew.
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Extra info for An introduction to nineteenth-century French literature
The various frames and narrators problematise perspective not just spatially, as it were, in terms of their relationship to each other in the present, but also in terms of their relationship to the past, in terms of wider social history, as in Musset’s Confession, or of their supposed textual status as a discovered manuscript, as in Adolphe; presenting the narrative as a manuscript literally turns it into an object for analysis. Such devices encourage us to try and establish what made their heroes act as they did.
But these very factors, the purposiveness, popularity and pointfulness of stories, along with their often rapid production and eager consumption by their readers, make many peculiarly vivid responses to their era, and enticing challenges to our own. Of several important stories about historical turmoil, such as Nodier’s Inès de Las Sierras (1837) or Balzac’s Un Épisode sous la terreur (1829), Balzac’s Le Colonel Chabert (1832) is one of the most telling. Beginning in 1819, Le Colonel Chabert opens with what is virtually a rewriting of history: the lawyer Derville’s clerks are copying, and mocking, the Restoration edict restituting property to aristocratic émigrés deprived of it by the Revolution and Empire.
The events are so rationally inexplicable that we are compelled to seek explanations elsewhere. One source of such explanations is the supernatural or the symbolic, the realm of absolute, mythic meanings and connections 47 48 Introduction to Nineteenth-Century French Literature of which the real is only a sign. ), or of reason and imagination. When Balzac’s Chabert turns up in Derville’s chambers, he removes his wig to reveal a scar across his skull, symbolising the loss of the memory on which the self depends, yet recalling also the Gothic monster or spectre returned from the dead.
An introduction to nineteenth-century French literature by Tim Farrant