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Fictions du scandale: Corps féminin et réalisme romanesque au dix-neuvième siècle

Nathalie Buchet Rogers

Through her innovative application of the concept of "scandal," Nathalie Buchet Rogers has brought new life to the subject of women in the nineteenth-century French novel. This study investigates the nineteenth-century tendency to mythicize the feminine question, thus transforming everything related to it, especially feminine sexuality, into fiction. "Scandal," which Rogers defines in economic and historical as well as in symbolic and aesthetic terms, informed most discourses on women--be they political, scientific, medical, or openly fictional.

In the first part of the study, Rogers asserts that the nineteenth century was incapable of managing femininity. In the male unconscious, fantasies of feminine perversion and transgression came to crystallize the main anxieties that plagued the imagination: among them loss of political, social, and sexual differences in modern society; fears of degeneration and disease; and turn-of-the-century Freudian theories of castration. From an aesthetic point of view, Rogers shows scandalization to be a duplicitous textual phenomenon which threatens to contaminate and subvert any discourse that seeks to conquer it. Scandal is thus seen as realism's strongest thematic temptation as well as its potential aesthetic nemesis.

In the secons part of the study, Rogers examines the dynamics of scandal in seven novels that focus on female characters: Flaubert's Madame Bovary, and selected novels by Balzac, Sand, Zola, Barbey d'Aurevilly, les Goncourt, and Rachilde. Drawing on psychoanalysis, narratology, and deconstructionist and feminist theory, Rogers contributes to a better understanding of the strong yet ambivalent ties that link the representation of feminine energy and desire to realist and naturalist aesthetics.

Fictions du scandale will interest students and scholars of the French novel, comparative literature, and women's studies.

"Fictions du scandale makes exemplary use of literary theory to bring new life to the study of Realism, women, and scandal. Rogers argues in a complex but lucid series of readings that scandal is the Realist novel's not-so-secret fetish." Aimée Boutin, Nineteenth-Century French Studies

For the complete review, see Nineteenth-Century French Studies 29.1&2 (Fall-Winter 2000-01): 185-86.

"Calling on the works of theoreticians from René Girard to Naomi Schor, Rogers manages to give an overview of feminist reworkings of Freud--theories of perversion, schizophrenia, and hysteria--in a study at once lively and communicative. Scandal never had it so good." Mary Ann Caws, Graduate College, CUNY

"Fictions du scandale is an impressive work of scholarship. Rogers defines her terms precisely, applies them consistently, and justifies her readings with superb textual examples. In doing so, she provides a fresh and compelling approach to understanding modern representations of feminine desire and sexuality." Steven Hartlaub, French Review

For the complete review, see French Review 74.3 (Feb. 2001): 573-74.

"Son livre analyse un certain nombre de textes non-fictionnels et fictionnels du XIXe siècle français mettant en scène des héroïnes victimes et sources de scandale. … L'ouvrage a l'intérêt de rendre accessible en français une vision des développements de la critique américaine dans des perspectives féministe et psychanalytique, en particulier sur les questions du narcissisme et du fétichisme au féminin, et de montrer comment ces problématiques permettent de déplacer la lecture de textes très connu (Flaubert, Barbey), et de conférer lisibilité à des oeuvres longtemps dédaignées (Rachilde)." — Christine Planté, Revue d'Histoire Littéraire de la France

For the complete text, see Revue d'Histoire Littéraire de la France 104.4 (Oct.-Dec. 2004): 978-79.

Nathalie Buchet Rogers (d. 2007), Wellesley College, had published work focused on various aspects of the novel from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries as well as on issues relating more specifically to the nineteenth century, which was her area of specialization.

1-55753-123-4 In French.
1998. Vol. 16. xii, 324 pp. Cloth $29.95 PRICE REDUCED

Last Updated: August 11, 2009

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