Site de Benoît Melançon / Thèses canadiennes en littérature française du XVIIIe siècle

Brissette, Pascal, «La malédiction littéraire : constitution et transformation d’un mythe», Montréal, Université McGill, thèse de doctorat, août 2003, xii/481 p. Ill. Dir. : Marc Angenot.

Long before the publishing of Verlaine’s Poètes maudits, it has been written and thought, in various circles and contexts, that writers of genius were doomed to an unhappy life. Nevertheless, it was only about 1760-1770 that the conditions allowing for the emergence of a myth of the unhappy writer were gathered. This myth affirms the christlike vocation of the author and associates greatness to unhappiness. This thesis seeks to understand this mythical phenomenon within a historical perspective. The first part recounts the three principal families of topoï associated, before 1770, to authorial unhappiness. These three series are those of melancholy, poverty and persecution. In the chapters concerning these topoï, the objective is to bring to light their specificity and also the representations and the exempla that they call to mind. Moreover, the goal is to identify the connections that are at work, in discourses, between melancholy and genius on the one hand, poverty and truth on the other hand, and finally persecution and merit. Even if one can’t already consider that these various discursive connections are sufficient to build a mysticism of the unhappy man of letters, they still can be studied, in their context, for what they are: a pool of topoï where the writers would soon draw some discursive materials, and from which this myth will get its historical acceptability, its obviousness. The second part of the thesis is devoted to the study of this obviousness. After Rousseau, some believe that unhappiness is inseparable from genius, and that litterary vocation is a curse spelled on the poet. From then on, the object of study is not anymore to follow each topos as if it was a separate thread, but instead, to see how all this acquires the value of commonplaceblieu commun) between 1770 and 1840, in addition to imposing itself as an horizon of meaning. The last chapter and the epilogue show that the myth lives on, during the second half of the nineteenth century, by transforming and strenghtening itself in reaction to the criticism coming from the post-romantic writers.

Keywords: Myth • Writer • Unhappiness • Legitimation procedures • Sociocriticism


Couverture de Pascal Brissette (2005)
Brissette, Pascal, la Malédiction littéraire. Du poète crotté au génie malheureux, Montréal, Presses de l’Université de Montréal, coll. «Socius», 2005, 410 p. Ill.

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