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FLAUBERT Importance of Style
- Prose and poetry linked - 'donner à la prose le rythme du vers (en la laissant prose et très prose)'
- Style is inseparable from structure - 'le style est autant sous les mots que dans les mots.'
- Proust's A propos du style de Flaubert - 'un homme qui par l'usage entièrement nouveau et personnel qu'il a fait du passé défini, du participe présent, de certains pronoms et de certaines prépositions, a renouvelé… notre vision… de la Réalité du monde extérieur.'
- Barthes re Fl. - Writing takes over his life
- One of key elements is use of imperfect tense, the 'éternel imparfait' which 'change entièrement l'aspect des choses et des êtres' o Use of this tense allows style indirect libre so characters' words and thoughts merge with descriptions of surroundings ('il se disait heureux d'être échappé
aux affaires', E.S. I,i) - sil is easier to interpret when in a communicative discourse (''Certainement', dit Frédéric. C'était la consequence de ses habitudes sans doutes, il n'y avait pas songé, et peut-être que, dans des choses plus graves…' II,ii) ; other times, when no contextual clues are given, pronouns blur character and narrator ('Il lui découvrait enfin ne beauté toute nouvelle, qui n'était peut-être que le reflect des choses ambiantes…', III,i') o Imperfect shows how storytelling takes second place to description ('l'histoire, l'aventure d'un roman, ça m'est bien égal.') it's this lack of interest in narration, according to Genette (Silences de Flaubert), which makes Flaubert so modern o It also emphasises characters' lives as weary, lengthy, and passive - routine/boredom (M.B., 'Ensuite, on causait de ce qu'il y avait dans le journal. Homais, à cette heure-là, le savait presque pas coeur; et il rapportait intégralement avec les réflexions du journaliste…', II, iv) exaggerated use highlights routine of Emma's days, especially when it's extended to action that may not have happened regularly or more than once ('Souvent, on était en marche, lorsque son chapeau, d'un movement brusque, entrait dans la diligence pas les vasistas...' III, v) specific events have a sense of tedium/déjà-vu, nothing new can occur o Other use of imperfect is to change rhythm of a passage, when past historic has given impression of action, unexpected use of imperfect isolates a particular action from the sequence, slows it down and narrows focus onto a certain character (e.g. end of M.B. book I, 'le père Rouault' brings Emma and Charles a turkey, 'il resta trois jours...Emma lui tint compagnie. Il fuma... cracha... causa... si bien qu'elle referma la porte... avec un sentiment de satisfaction… D'ailleurs, elle ne cachait plus son mépris pour rien, ni pour personne ; et elle se mettait quelquefois à exprimer des opinions singulières…'
- action passes by quickly, focus back on Emma's psychological issues and will allow transition into her thoughts, 'elle enviait les existences tumultueuses, les nuits masquées…')
- Another key element of style is conjunctions, especially 'et', which sentences often begin with, creating dignity and solemnity ('Et il allait ainsi, plein de cette majesté
débonnaire que donnent la conscience d'un grand talent…', III, viii)
o Often called 'et du mouvement', culminating element that builds tension, although movement is one of slowing, isolating final clauses in tricolons Focalisation is part of Fl.'s 'subjective realism' (show how someone experienced something, deconstructs reality rather than reconstructing, awareness of reality only occurs through a subjectivity that transforms it) - zero focal. = omniscient narrator, no privileged p.o.v.; external focal. = narrator knows less than characters, indicated by characters' movements and words, presented without explanation/psychological analysis and reader has to interpret; internal focal. = reality described as character sees it, restrictions caused by their field of vision (verbs of perception such as 'paraître/disparaître') and limitations because of their subjectivity (verbs of feeling), reader shares this partial view o Flaubert = conscious of interior experience that allows him to perceive the outside world - the only 'true' thing is the manner in which we perceive things/relate to objects descriptions thus involve a spatial and temporal density that slows the rhythm, infuses them with a gliding motion that makes feelings clearer; mind, body, nature and life all participate in the moment (e.g. M.B. II,ix, 'le silence était partout; quelque chose de doux semblait sortir des arbres; elle sentait son coeur, dont les battements recommençaient, et le sang circuler... elle entendit, tout au loin, au-delà du bois... un cri vague et prolongé, une voix qui se traînait...') Memory interiorises a sensation that was not fully identified in the moment - it is triggered by an object and leads to a chain of memories (e.g. magic lantern in E.S.) and layers of images that keep their distinct forms but conjure up others - e.g. M.B., II,x, after reading letter from her father and noticing ash he used to dry wet ink, Emma sees him again, 'se courbant vers l'âtre pour saisir les pincettes'; step by step she remembers thing, 'des soirs d'été', up to the present moment, 'Quel bonheur dans ce temps-là!... quelle abundance d'illusions! Il n'en restait plus maintenant! [she had used them up...lost them continually along the way...]' (interesting rhythm in this passage suggests depth of duration, and the descending perspective means she has to 'relever la tête' to come back to reality) IRONY is main idea behind Flaubert's writing, novels deal with questions of reading and what we expect from literature, how interpretive models are not sufficient o Flaubert described literary criticism as a raped and disembodied woman with a half-smoked cigarette at her feet (when Frédéric meets Mme Arnoux for the last time, 'pour ne pas dégrader son idéal, il tourna sur ses talons et se mit à
faire une cigarette..') - e.g. M.B. II, ix, when Emma and Rodolphe have sex, pastiche of sentimental novel, where Emma gives herself up as easily as the sentimental novel can be parodied, and Rodolphe ends the passage, 'le cigare aux dents' despite everything that's just happened between them, following the motions of a typical Romance, when they go back to Yonville via the same path, nothing has changed around them; Emma thinks she is living her dream, but we know there is a huge discrepancy between reality and fantasy reality is muddy, there are animals which not only interrupt their romantic reverie, but which mirror Emma (the frogs jump away to hide, just as she hides her face before giving herself up), metaphors are not beautiful, matching insignificant characters who think their lives are so much more important than they are (Rodolphe had likened her to a Madonna on a pedestal, but less than a page later she's in the mud)
o Use of irony/parody - sentences are built up, only to drop into anti-climax ('défaillante, tout en pleurs, avec un long frémissement et se cachant la figure, elle s'abandonna.' Just like a Romance novel, there are gestures and words, but no substance.) dialogue, too, is vacuous, full of echoes, repetitions and ellipses; exclamations evoke drama, but the phrases are flat, as though the characters know their lines, but feel nothing ('Oh! encore, dit Rodolphe. Ne partons pas! Restez!'... 'J'ai tort, j'ai tort, disait-elle.'... 'Pourquoi ?...Emma !
Emma !', etc. etc.) M.B. - anti-novel? - appearance and outline of ordinary novels undermine the genre, while seemingly constructing a novel, narrator destroys it before our eyes, novel reflects upon its own nature
- Fl. declared his intention to be as impersonal and objective as possible, but there is no such thing as objective reality, every perception is someone's particular illusion - does this destroy the notion of an omniscient narrator? e.g. right from the beginning, problems of p.o.v., central position of Charles but view is that of a bystander watching the scene, as in last episode too, detached from inner motivations of characters - we then become Charles, but not intimately enough to have access to his dreams, but it is through him that we see Emma for the first time, until she becomes central figure - reader then continues with knowledge Charles will always have of Emma, but we realise she is actually quite different from how an outside perceives her
- Fl.'s originality is in merging author's p.o.v. with heroine's, the difficulty of such a technique is in making the shifts almost imperceptible - art of modulation, e.g. when Emma says goodbye to Rodolphe she watches him go and he doesn't turn around, 'he was already on the other side of the river... after a few moments, Rodolphe stopped', transition has taken place so we then stay with Rodolphe while he writes the letter that ends their affair
- Windows suggest tension between enclosed space where characters live physically and the endless expansion into which they escape mentally - Emma often stands in front of windows, representing both despair and dreams (e.g. considers suicide from the attic window) curtained/closed windows when Emma is 'present' in the real world of the novel, e.g. with Léon in Rouen, the carriage has its blinds drawn, and the hotel room has curtains drawn/door locked most notable use of windows is during 'les Comices' when Emma and Rodolphe look down on the proceedings, both the author's ironic detachment and emphasis on elevation that introduces Emma to a life of passion (their affair is almost entirely conducted outdoors, but there is always a sense of distance/depth perception)
- subject = 'médiocre', but it is Fl.'s style which infuses the work with beauty, e.g. Emma's relation to the world = very sensual, we feel what she does because her experience of the material world is through her sense ('elle grignotait')
- language = clichés, can be endlessly recycled, meaningless, doesn't correspond to reality; Emma just says things, Rodolphe has heard it all before so cannot pick out her particular feelings that make her different from other women he's had, it doesn't occur to him that she means what she says E.S., histoire d'un jeune homme - title and subtitle hint at more realism, but is ironic, Fl. uses genres in order to break them down
- 'roman d'apprentissage' - progression/personal development, Fl. distorts Balzac and Stendhal's model of creating cynical representation of society through one character's
eyes by having central character who cannot learn from his mistakes (imitation and variation on a theme) - adolescent becomes adult, and a wide range of social situations are included, from provinces to Paris (both side of the river) - but, Fl. fails to comply with notions of 'learning' in such a genre, Fréd. consistently fails, doesn't conquer Mme Arnoux and other liaisons aren't based on love - Bildungsroman is mocked, education is merely ironic 'roman historique' - protagonist in a particular historical context, broad framework without necessarily precise/true events - novel portrays events Fl.'s generation has lived through, so historical details become realism - but Fl.'s use shows true historical novel = impossible, Fréd. misses important events and is too passive (though seeing Revolution through his eyes allows objective depiction and implicit comment on part of author); history is background and not an interwoven theme 'livre sur rien' - has proper structure, but is fragmented and static at same time - story is avoided, Fréd.'s failures in love, writing, as an artist, lawyer, politician, etc., he achieves very little in the novel and ambitions are often shown to be chores - also, Fréd. seems to live in a dreamworld, there is no real 'histoire' Fréd. - opportunities are presented but he always fails/makes wrong choices, e.g. just to take female characters (Mme Arnoux, Mme Dambreuse, Rosanette, Louise Roque), he's hardly spoilt for choice, they belong to all social levels etc. and yet doesn't end up with any - - at the point of realising dreams he stops and runs away, parallels between episodes with Mme Arnoux and brothel - he also has an extraordinary capacity to lose focus and forget something as big as his obsession with Mme Arnoux Revolution - no character actually acts in accordance with their ideas, Fréd. is not even involved, his 'rêve d'amour' is more important than politics - they begin with ideals, but rather than failing they just go downhill, the more engaged they are with reality, the more degraded their jobs become (e.g. M Arnoux's 'Art industriel' ends up selling religious trinkets, criticism of art as business) structured so episodes mirror each other, e.g. II,iii and III,vi can be compared, in the first Frédéric cannot bring himself to declare his love for Mme Arnoux, in the second their love is presented as enduring o II,iii - clichés, Fréd. gets direction from a book which is there 'by chance', as though he just lets himself be guided - attempts to describe his passion to her, but she does not respond in kind, so he gives examples of those who committed suicide for love, 'exalta les grands types littéraires, Phèdre, Didon, Roméo, Des Grieux.', arbitrary list of people who can hardly be compared, and the last character didn't actually end up killing himself - 'Il s'enferrait.', IRONY, mocks his failure. - Mme Arnoux, in this passage, while telling Fréd. she doesn't understand 'énigmes', is presented as precisely that, like a sphinx, unmoving, 'son profil pur se découpait en pâleur au milieu de l'ombre.' (NB, Oedipus solved the Sphinx's enigma, hint at Fréd.'s love for a maternal figure...) - she is a mysterious figure, often seen in shadows, or described by what she wears, Fréd. is stopped from acting on his desire by 'une sorte de crainte religieuse' o III,vi - Two lovers meeting for last time, yet the ironising/mockingly sentimental passage makes us question whether they had anything in the first place - description at start seems intimate, they are wrapped up in their bubble surrounded by noise and chaos, yet 'ils allaient sans se distraire d'eux-mêmes, sans rien entendre' could emphasise how they don't understand each other, again Mme Arnoux has an enigmatic status, seen by her profile, in the shadows, and the last clause likening them to a couple walking 'sur un lit de
feuilles mortes' is not a beautiful image, deadens rhythm and ends anticlimactically - also, memories they mention are of other people such as Mme Arnoux's husband (!) whereas the 'autres choses plus intimes et plus profondes' are not detailed but Frédéric just mentions 'des soirs' and 'une rencontre', arbitrary events, and Mme Arnoux doesn't even seem to remember things that Fréd. tells her ('elle sétonnait de sa mémoire'), her words following this ('quelquefois, vos paroles me reviennent comme un echo lointain... il me semble que vous êtes là, quand je lis des passages d'amour dans les livres.') sound empty, he's just a figure in her fantasy, she just says it anyway as though it's a set piece to make him feel better
Is their love beautiful and enduring because it's false? Flaubert uses cliché but despises it, love-hate relationship with Romanticism, idealism vs cynicism, always covers anything sentimental with irony as though a defence mechanism (he was laughed at by his friends when he read them his first novel) Trois Contes - religion
- Hérodias - retelling a biblical story, people couldn't not know it, even Hugo wrote a play at the time, it was a part of 19th century culture - but Fl. changes it, even the name, things are left unexplained, the feast is chaotic, religious views are mixed up and meaningless, Iaokanann is not like a traditional saint defamiliarisation, emphasis is on different bits of a famous story
- religion = a way of understanding problems in society, characters need order in their lives so latch onto religion, but Fl. presents strange view of it, e.g. Félicité's ignorance means her view of dogma is different from that of an educated person in a social context like M.B. it is easier to see religion criticised (e.g. Homais & Bournisien sitting over Emma's body discussing science and religion), where in T.C. characters are somewhat saved from irony - unlike Fél.'s confusion of parrot with Holy Spirit, Emma's vision of God is criticised for how cliché it is, whilst the poor servant's faith is based more on instinct
- Fl. often associates very grotesque, physical imagery with sacred objects, illustrating materialism that comes with religion but is not real faith
Flaubert's Uses of Uncertainty, J. Culler
For Flaubert, agony of being an artist was in the writing process, search for 'le mot juste' He established novel as autonomous, free from social functions that determine it - but in doing so, the novel becomes problematic if novel is contact between author and reader, they rely on shared referential contexts so as to transmit a message; popular means to avoid this and separate author from his text were, e.g., claiming to be editor of letters; Flaubert goes even further, making novel an aesthetic, rather than communicative act, a whole without purpose, invalidating the communicative contract by shifting narrative perspectives, no authorial source of message can be identified; desire to 'dérouter le lecteur' so we are left not knowing what to think So, novel has new autonomy as a written object and not the physical manifestation of a communicative act - yet this poses problems for interpretation
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