The 'Superfluous Man' in Nineteenth-Century French Literature

Bedry, Susan M (1997) The 'Superfluous Man' in Nineteenth-Century French Literature. MLitt(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The 'Superfluous Man' in Nineteenth-Century French Literature The 'superfluous man' is a hero-type of paramount importance in nineteenth-century Russian literature. The term denotes a hero who is endowed with exceptional intelligence and sensibility and who is socially and politically idealistic, but who nevertheless remains fundamentally powerless to act - both because of the repressive nature of contemporary society and because of personal weakness. Although deeply disenchanted by the failure of contemporary society to meet his ideals, he is unable either to reconcile himself to this failure or to effect change. He is usually noble by heritage, but considers himself superior on the basis of his intelligence, sensibility, and talent rather than rank and is, in fact, deeply alienated from conventional society. With no role in the existing social structure and no constructive outlet for his abilities and idealism, he is reduced to futile transgression against social mores. Despite the futile nature of his rebellion, however, the superfluous man is of immense literary and social significance, for he is, above all, a powerful literary symbol of the breakdown of the traditional societal elite of the nobility and the formation of a new elite based, not on rank, but on intelligence, education, and political and social radicalism - an 'intelligentsia'. It is my contention that not only does a figure analogous to the 'superfluous man' exist in nineteenth-century French literature, but also that he is of similar significance as an indicator of the decline of the traditional societal elite of the nobility and the emergence of an identifiable intellectual elite in nineteenth-century France. Thus, by using critical categories commonly used to describe phases in Russian literature, we can examine aspects of nineteenth-century French literature and society from a new, unusual, and profitable angle. This thesis examines thirteen nineteenth-century Russian and French literary heroes within the context of the Russian model to establish both the existence of a French 'superfluous man' and his significance to the rise of a French intellectual elite.

Item Type: Thesis (MLitt(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Additional Information: Adviser: C Smethurst
Keywords: French literature, Comparative literature
Date of Award: 1997
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1997-74791
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 13 Nov 2019 15:58
Last Modified: 13 Nov 2019 15:58

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