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Markovskaia, Luba, «La conquête du for privé. Récit de soi et prison heureuse dans les Mémoires du XVIIIe siècle français», Montréal, Université McGill, thèse de doctorat, novembre 2016, iii/288 p. Dir. : Frédéric Charbonneau et Pascal Bastien. URL : <>.

This dissertation investigates the shifts in the memoir genre throughout the French eighteenth century through the analysis of a specific trope, that of the «happy prison». The study of this topic in a limited corpus of memoirists, made up of Madame de Staal-Delaunay (1684-1750), Jean-François Marmontel (1723-1799), l’abbé Morellet (1727-1819) and Madame Roland (1754-1793), sheds light on a phenomenon that is generally accepted, but rarely studied directly in the texts: the gradual interiorization of the memoir genre. Previously restricted to great men and women who had taken part in historical events, the genre becomes more widespread during the Enlightenment, simultaneously moving away from the eyewitness accounts of public affairs and becoming more personal. This shift towards a more intimate type of life writing, closer to the modern autobiographies that flourished in the following century, is part of a larger redefinition of interiority.

The analysis of the merry imprisonment episode in each of the studied texts aims to help understand the function of this motif in the transformation of the memoirist ethos, which shifts during this period from an aristocratic one to a literary one. This dissertation’s hypothesis is that the prison narrative contributes to turning the traditional life narrative inward by limiting the memoirist to a more intimate account, on the outskirts of history. By transforming the imposed carceral space into a happy and voluntary prison, the memoirist mimics his own writing gesture, which traditionally aims to convert a disgrace from the court into a deliberate withdrawal from public affairs. The memoirists studied in this thesis create a peaceful retreat within the forced isolation of the prison walls, find a renewed sociability in their disgrace and a invent a new kind of freedom in their confinement. These transformations of the prison space by means of the life narrative match three great changes in the memoir genre during the Enlightenment: it becomes more interior, redefines its relation to sociability and frees itself from its subordination to history.


Couverture de Luba Markovskaia (2019)
Markovskaia, Luba, la Conquête du for privé. Récit de soi et prison heureuse au siècle des Lumières, Paris, Classiques Garnier, coll. «Correspondances et mémoires», 37, série «Le dix-huitième siècle», 7, 2019, 285 p. Préface de Frédéric Charbonneau. ISBN : 978-2-406-07492-2; ISSN : 2108-9884.

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