Some aspects of the reception of English literature in France, 1800-1840

Tarmal, Ali M. (1997) Some aspects of the reception of English literature in France, 1800-1840. MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The purpose of this study is to identify and to analyse some aspects of the reception of English literature in France during the period 1800 to 1840. Limiting the study to this period helps to focus more effectively on certain aspects of English influence on French literature. Naturally it is difficult to mention all the writers of this period who were concerned with English literature. It is for this reason that the field of study will be confined to those writers on whose work the influence of English literature is strongest. That does not however prevent the inclusion, on occasion, of references which are not directly related to the selected authors, but which come within the general framework of an examination of English literature itself and contribute to the broader understanding of the subject. It is well known that in the first half of the nineteenth century in France there was a great dispute between Classicists and innovators. The latter saw that adherence to the rules of Classical poetry was endangering the role of literature, which was becoming inflexible to the point of rigidity. Reality, the actual experience of living, could no longer be expressed if literature remained faithful to the subjects and techniques of the Classical period. It was not only in relation to English literature that French writers began to criticise the state of literature in France, but English literature was certainly one of the most important agents of change; if French writers wrote about England and the "literature of the North", it was not only to show their admiration for English literature but to point out the deficiencies in French literature and sometimes, by extension, to criticise more or less openly the political situation hi France. In order to bring about a revival in French literature, writers began to search for new, vigorous subjects which would reflect more modem experience and aspects of life neglected by Classical literature. And it was in the choice of subject matter that writers began to openly rebel against the status quo and assert the claims of what came to be called Romanticism. Madame de Stael and Chateaubriand played an important role in the development of the Romantic movement in France and the direction it was to take, although they rarely used the term itself. It was mainly thanks to these two writers that French literature found the path of Romanticism which English literature had already mapped out during the preceding years. Chateaubriand, 'le pontife du romantisme", as he was sometimes called, and Madame de Stael did not hesitate in recommending to the new generation of writers that they look to the mists of the North for their inspiration. Ossian, Shakespeare, Milton, and later Wordsworth, Walter Scott, Byron, Shelley and, to a lesser extent, Keats were the most important names inscribed by the French school on the banner of the new movement. They were acclaimed as the gods of the French Romantics, and French innovators eagerly drew their inspiration from the new ideas of these giants of English literature. It is important to note that these were not the only English writers who played an important role in the Romantic period, but given the limits of this study I have of necessity been obliged to leave aside, for example, writers such as James Thomson, author of Seasons, the Gothic novelists, the Irish bard Tom Moore and still others who were of significance. This source of inspiration marked a watershed in the development of the Romantic movement in France. In this study we shall examine the influence the selected writers had on French literature. It is important to take into account the fact that French literature benefited from English literature: even if direct borrowing is sometimes not particularly obvious, French literature benefited from an intellectual openness to English influence, a state of mind which moreover was not limited to France and in certain respects extended to the continent as a whole. Did the French accept the new ideas easily? We shall see how this new literature provoked a long confrontation with the ideas about Classical taste which had been dominant for so long. It remains to give an outline of the plan for this study. (Abstract shortened by ProQuest.).

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: English literature.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts
Supervisor's Name: Smethurst, Professor Colin
Date of Award: 1997
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1997-71762
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 17 May 2019 09:31
Last Modified: 05 Sep 2022 10:17
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.71762

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