The Sentimental Education of the Novel

The Sentimental Education of the Novel

by Margaret Cohen
     
 

ISBN-10: 0691095884

ISBN-13: 9780691095882

Pub. Date: 01/07/2002

Publisher: Princeton University Press

The nineteenth-century French novel has long been seen as the heroic production of great men, who confronted in their works the social consequences of the French Revolution. And it is true that French realism, especially as developed by Balzac and Stendhal, was one of the most influential novelistic forms ever invented. Margaret Cohen, however, challenges the

Overview

The nineteenth-century French novel has long been seen as the heroic production of great men, who confronted in their works the social consequences of the French Revolution. And it is true that French realism, especially as developed by Balzac and Stendhal, was one of the most influential novelistic forms ever invented. Margaret Cohen, however, challenges the traditional account of the genesis of realism by returning Balzac and Stendhal to the forgotten novelistic contexts of their time. Reconstructing a key formative period for the novel, she shows how realist codes emerged in a "hostile take-over" of a prestigious contemporary sentimental practice of the novel, which was almost completely dominated by women writers.

Cohen draws on impressive archival research, resurrecting scores of forgotten nineteenth-century novels, to demonstrate that the codes most closely identified with realism were actually the invention of sentimentality, a powerful aesthetic of emerging liberal-democratic society, although Balzac and Stendhal trivialized sentimental works by associating them with "frivolous" women writers and readers. Attention to these gendered struggles over genre explains why women were not pioneers of realism in France during the nineteenth century, a situation that contrasts with England, where women writers played a formative role in inventing the modern realist novel. Cohen argues that to understand how literary codes respond to material factors, it is imperative to see how such factors take shape within the literary field as well as within society as a whole. The book also proposes that attention to literature as a social institution will help critics resolve the current, vital question of how to practice literary history in the wake of poststructuralism.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691095882
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
01/07/2002
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
232
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations vii
Acknowledgments ix
Introduction Reconstructing the Literary Field
Out of the century's chaos 3
Realism in literary-political contexts 10
Genre is a social relation 16
Hors d'usage 20
Chapter I Conflicting Duties: Sentimental Poetics
What else is lost in Illusions perdues 26
Conflicting duties 34
The double bind of liberalism 40
Woman's destiny 46
A light touch 48
Few details, few manners, few portraits 50
Image of the heart 53
Sentimental blazon 54
". . ." 57
Beyond purely personal life 58
All should be clear 60
To interest, to instruct 62
Analysis of the heart 63
Oh torments of an uneasy conscience! 64
Tableau 65
A secure refuge 67
"Tragedy now is politics" (Napoleon, 1799) 70
Chapter II The Novel Is a Young Man of Great Expectations: Realism against Sentimentality
So women wrote under the Emperor? 77
Novels for chambermaids and salon novels 82
Woe to those who accept the social contract 87
An obstacle, a motive, a duty 90
A minor duty! A duty of little importance! 93
The way of the world 97
Just want it! 104
The goal of all her actions 106
What I understand as sacrifice 108
I write for men, not girls 112
Chapter III The Heart and the Code: George Sand and the Sentimental Social Novel
What will rule the novel? 119
The heart and the code 124
The tears of the oppressed 130
The political idea, the social idea 135
Victim of an unjust law 139
I am the slave and you the lord 143
The heart that directs her conduct 145
Huge heaps of manure 150
Physical and moral beauty's diverse and contrasting forms 153
The novelist is the real lawyer of abstract beings 155
Chapter IV A Compromised Position: French Realism and the Femme Auteur
He said, she said 163
The Muse of Limoges 165
"Rather death." "Rather life." 174
Une Fausse Position 185
Woman is the style 191
Select Bibliography 197
Index 211

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