Site de Benoît Melançon / Thèses canadiennes en littérature française du XVIIIe siècle
In recent years, there has been a growing body of critical work focusing on the relation between gender and genre in the eighteenth-century novel. The centrality of the feminine as it relates to the rise of the novel is providing a rich field of enquiry from both an historical and a formal perspective. This study seeks to locate itself in the intersection between the historical and the formal, by exploring the ideological premises and historical implications—as they relate to the issue of gender—contained within the sentimental epistolary genre of the eighteenth-century. In particular, it will examine how letter-writing, as a private discourse, becomes critical to the articulation of class struggle and gender conflict within the sentimental novel. It will also show how the discourses of sentiment and virtue serve as a way of essentializing gender difference and of creating distinct boundaries between public and private space, thereby fixing the feminine within the domestic realm. This study is divided into four chapters, analyzing four novels drawn from the English and French traditions: Pamela, Clarissa, La Nouvelle Héloïse and Les Liaisons dangereuses. Clarissa and La Nouvelle Héloïse will be read in terms of their ideological similarities—their construction of the female subject as domestic heroine and sacrificial model—and in terms of their different relationships to the epistolary paradigm. Pamela, in turn, is being read as a narrative that is central to the relation between language and ideology within the sentimental epistolary tradition. Les Liaisons dangereuses, finally, has been chosen specifically because it does not fit neatly into the sentimental model and therefore serves to question the terms of the discourse from a literary perspective. This study seeks to question the limits as well as the formative aspects of sentimental epistolary discourse in order to understand the ways it articulates gender difference.
|Roulston, Christine, Virtue, Gender, and the Authentic Self in Eighteenth-Century Fiction. Richardson, Rousseau, and Laclos, Gainesville, University Press of Florida, 1998, xx/211 p. Ill. ISBN : 0-8130-1581-2.|
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