Flaubert’s Provocation

  • Jonathan Culler Cornell University
Keywords: Madame Bovary, novel, condition of women, provincial life, narrative technique

Abstract

Madame Bovary, which was scandalous in its own day for its focus on the adultery of a provincial woman, has had a strange, complex fate. Flaubert remade the image of the novelist, as pure artist, for whom style was all that mattered, and disrupted novelistic technique, in ways that critics and writers have found exemplary, treating this as the novel novelists cannot overlook; yet for readers Madame Bovary is not a “book about nothing” but provides a searing portrait of provincial life and of the condition of women. The vividness and complexity of the character Flaubert created here made Emma a type: a sufferer of “Bovarysme.” Flaubert’s revolutionary notion that a trivial subject was as good as a noble subject for a serious novel was taken to be connected to the democratic notion that every human subject is as worthy as another and allowed to have desires. Yet, while promoting Emma as a valid subject of literature, equal to others, Flaubert writes against the attempt to democratize art, to make it enter every life, and renders trivial the manifestations of this subject’s desires, while making her an exemplary figure.

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Jonathan Culler, Cornell University

Jonathan Culler (BA Harvard; BPhil and DPhil, Oxford), author of Flaubert: The Uses of Uncertainty (1974), was Fellow in French at Selwyn College, Cambridge, then University Lecturer and Fel­low in French at Brasenose College, Oxford, before moving to Cornell University in 1977, where he succeeded M. H. Abrams as Class of 1916 Professor of English. Former President of the American Comparative Literature Association, Chair of the New York Council for the Humanities, and Secretary of the American Council of Learned Societies, he is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Philosophical Society. He is the author of numerous books on contemporary critical theory, French and English, including Structuralist Poetics (1975), On Deconstruction (1983), and The Literary in Theory (2006). His Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction (augmented edition, 2011) has been translated into 26 languages. His latest book is Theory of the Lyric.

References

Allen, Woody. “The Kugelmass Episode.” Side Effects. New York: Random, 1980. 41–56. Print.

Bal, Mieke. “Over-writing as Un-writing.” A Mieke Bal Reader. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2006. 96–145. Print.

Bal, Mieke and Michelle Williams Gamaker. Madame B: Explorations in Emotional Capitalism. Video Exhibition. Cinema Suitcase, 2012–14.

Baudelaire, Charles. “Madame Bovary de Gustave Flaubert.” Oeuvres complètes. Paris: Gallimard, 1961. 647–57. Print.

Culler, Jonathan. Flaubert: The Uses of Uncertainty. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1984. Print.

d’Aurevilly, Barbey. Rev. of Antoine Quérard, by Charles Bataille and Ernest Rasetti. Les OEuvres et les hommes: IV. Les Romanciers. Paris: Amyot, 1865. Print.

Flaubert, Gustave. Correspondance. 5 Volumes. Paris: Gallimard, 1973– 2007. Print.

Flaubert, Gustave. Madame Bovary. Flaubert.univ-rouen.fr. Web. 8 July 2017.

Gaultier, Jules de. Le Bovarysme. La psychologie dans l’oeuvre de Flaubert. Paris: Éditions du Sandre, 2007. Print.

Gaultier, Jules de. Le Bovarysme. Suivi d’une étude “Le principe bovaryque” de Per Buvik. Paris: Presses de l’université Paris-Sorbonne, 2006. Print.

Heath, Steven. Madame Bovary. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1992. Print.

James, Henry. “Gustave Flaubert.” Literary Criticism vol. 2. European Writers. New York: Library of America, 1984. Print.

Lubbock, Percy. The Craft of Fiction. London: Cape, 1965. Print.

Merlet, Gustave. “Le roman physiologique, Madame Bovary.” Revue europeenne 15 (June 1860). Flaubert.univ-rouen.fr. Web. 11 Apr. 2017.

Pinard, Ernest. “Procès de Madame Bovary: réquisitoire d’Ernest Pinard.” Flaubert.univ-rouen.fr. Web. 8 July 2017.

Pontmartin, Armand de. “Le Roman bourgeois et le roman démocrate.” Le Corréspondant 25 June 1857: 289–306. Flaubert.univ-rouen.fr. Web. 11 Apr. 2017.

Rancière, Jacques. Et tant pis pour les gens fatigués. Paris: Éditions Amsterdam, 2009. Print.

Rancière, Jacques. “La Mise à mort d’Emma Bovary.” Politique de la littérature. Paris: Galilée, 2007. 41–60. Print.

Senard, Jules. “Procès de Madame Bovary: plaidoirie de Jules Senard.” Flaubert.univ-rouen.fr. Web. 11 Apr. 2017.

Vargas Llosa, Mario. The Perpetual Orgy: Flaubert and “Madame Bovary.” Trans. Helen Lane. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1986. Print.

Published
2017-10-16
How to Cite
Culler, J. (2017). Flaubert’s Provocation. Text Matters: A Journal of Literature, Theory and Culture, (7), 55-70. https://doi.org/10.1515/texmat-2017-0003