Telling Glances: Voyeurism in the French Novel

Telling Glances: Voyeurism in the French Novel

by Dorothy Kelly
     
 

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In French novels from the seventeenth through the twentieth centuries, a particular plot structure constantly reappears. A man desires a woman who is enigmatic and unattainable: he desires to see her and to understand her, to know exactly what she is, what she desires--in a sense, he wants to possess her through the knowledge of her (and of woman in general)

Overview

In French novels from the seventeenth through the twentieth centuries, a particular plot structure constantly reappears. A man desires a woman who is enigmatic and unattainable: he desires to see her and to understand her, to know exactly what she is, what she desires--in a sense, he wants to possess her through the knowledge of her (and of woman in general) that he gains through the power of his gaze. Since the information he desires remains hidden, the man resorts to spying on the woman in order to obtain the information he so desperately seeks.  He thus becomes a voyeur.

In Telling Glances, Dorothy Kelly investigates the curious repetition of this plot in novels by Mme de Lafayette, Diderot, Balzac, Stendahl, Zola, Proust, Duras, and others. Drawing on theories of the primal scene and voyeurism, feminist psychoanalytic theory, deconstruction, and film studies, she investigates the various configurations of the voyeuristic scenario in the novels and how these scenes of voyeurism attempt to control and contain certain unruly elements in the text and sometimes to go beyond limitations of containment. On the one hand there are closed systems that attempt to define and entrap the "truth" of sexual identity, on the other there are narratives (such as Stendahl's) that see truth as necessarily complex and identities as multiple.  Kelly looks beyond the elements of plot and character relationships to issues of narrative control and the position of the narrator in relation to the text, and the implications for the reader of complicity in the act of viewing. This book is an import contribution to many fields of study.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780813518466
Publisher:
Rutgers University Press
Publication date:
09/01/1992
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
280
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

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