The destructive influence of the past: A neglected theme in the novels of Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly

Ross, Margaret E (1980) The destructive influence of the past: A neglected theme in the novels of Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly. MLitt(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

After setting Barhey d'Aurevilly in his literary context, then discussing the research that has been carried out on various aspects of his work, with reference to his waxing and waning popularity as a writer, the thesis will demonstrate that in the novels of Barbey d'Aurevilly, the personal past of the character - that is, some major emotional upheaval in his past - acts as a powerful destructive force which ruins the character's chance of present and future happiness, as well as that of those around him. As Barbey progresses as a writer, this theme will be developed and enriched without being altered in any essential way; the earlier novels show the protagonists experiencing some passionate affair in their past which in the present renders them incapable of reciprocating the feelings of love they arouse in others and in turn, they "infect" these others with their own inability to love (Ce qui ne meurt pas - L'Amour impossible - Une Vielle Maitresse). In the later novels, this idea is widened to include other passions: pride in L'Ensorcelee and in Un Pretre marie; excessive patriotism in Le Chevalier des Touches, and the past, in the first novels a psychological burden within the characters, will develop into a malefic influence, with the underlying theme of fatality and this combination will lead to tragedy in the later novels. Barbey's own attitude to the past is illustrated by reference to his letters and diaries; he sees' 'the past as a necessary part of his artistic talent and in his later letters especially, admits the powerful influence that his own past has had on him. Ties of friendship, for example, seem to have an almost sacred importance to Barbey. This is the positive side of the past for him, but he also sees it as something we can never be rid of, using words such as "chaine" and "esclavage" to describe it. Memories are seen as a cause of deep pain, those which go furthest back being the most painful. His own unhappy love affair with his cousin's wife Louise marked both his fictional and non-fictional writings. There is an interesting parallel between Barbey's novels and his private writings. Those letters written at the same time as Ce qui ne meurt pas show the sane preoccupation with the personal past as does the novel; but when Barbey became involved with Madame de Bouglon in the early 1850, he deliberately denied the influence of the past in his letters and diaries of the period, in an obvious attempt to please her; however, at the same time, the theme of the destructive past in his novels becomes more complex and psychologically richer. The impression is of Barbey consciously suppressing something that was vital to him, so much so that it inevitably emerged in his fictional writings. All Barbey's novels express the same theme: upbringing and an emotional upheaval in the past of his characters invariably ruins their present happiness and that of those close to them. This reflected a deep preoccupation in Barbey d'Aurevilly himself, a preoccupation with the past, closely linked to his conception of his own literary talents.

Item Type: Thesis (MLitt(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Additional Information: Adviser: John HB Bennett
Keywords: French literature
Date of Award: 1980
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1980-74170
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 23 Sep 2019 15:33
Last Modified: 23 Sep 2019 15:33
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/74170

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