Madame Bovary

Flaubert, Gustave

Gustave Flaubert (güstäv´ flōbĕr´), 1821–80, French novelist, regarded as one of the supreme masters of the realistic novel. He was a scrupulous, slow writer, intent on the exact word (le mot juste) and complete objectivity. The son of a surgeon, he studied law unsuccessfully in Paris and returned home to devote himself to writing. Because of a severe nervous malady, probably epilepsy, he spent much of his life at Croisset, near Rouen, with his mother and niece. Nonetheless, he also became an established figure in the Parisian social and literary world. In 1856, after five years of work, Flaubert published his masterpiece, Madame Bovary, in a Paris journal. Portraying the frustrations and love affairs of a romantic young woman married to a dull provincial doctor, the novel is written in a superbly controlled style. The book resulted in his being prosecuted on moral grounds, but he won the case. It was followed by Salammbô (1863), a meticulously documented novel of ancient Carthage; a revision of an earlier novel, L'Éducation sentimentale (1870); The Temptation of St. Anthony (1874); and Three Tales (1877), which contained the great short story "A Simple Heart." After his death his unfinished satire Bouvard and Pécuchet was published (1881). His correspondence, including that with George Sand and the letters to his niece Caroline, appeared in nine volumes (1926–33).

See The Selected Letters of Flaubert (ed. and tr. by F. Steegmuller, 1954); biographies by E. Starkie (Vol. I, 1967; Vol. II, 1971), G. Wall (2002), and F. Brown (2006); study by V. H. Brombert (1966); H. James, Notes on Novelists (1914), and F. Steegmuller, Flaubert and Madame Bovary (rev. ed. 1968).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Madame Bovary: Life in a Country Town
Gustave Flaubert; Gerard Hopkins.
Oxford University Press, 1998
Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary
Harold Bloom.
Chelsea House, 1988
Librarian’s tip: This is a book of literary criticism
Flaubert's "Mystery Play": A Day in the Life of Madame Bovary
Rogers, Peter S.
Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature, Vol. 57, No. 2, Winter 2005
Breaking the Chain: Women, Theory, and French Realist Fiction
Naomi Schor.
Columbia University Press, 1985
Librarian’s tip: Chap. I "For a Restricted Thematics: Writing, Speech, and Difference in Madame Bovary"
The "Dangerous" Potential of Reading: Readers and the Negotiation of Power in Nineteenth-Century Narratives
Ana-Isabel Aliaga-Buchenau.
Routledge, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Seven "A Little Woman Gone Astray: Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary"
Rhetoric: Readings in French Literature
Michael Hawcroft.
Oxford University Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: "The Trial of Madame Bovary" begins on p. 47
Money: Lure, Lore, and Literature
John Louis Digaetani.
Greenwood Press, 1994
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 15 "Economics as Lure in Madame Bovary"
Vital Signs: Medical Realism in Nineteenth-Century Fiction
Lawrence Rothfield.
Princeton University Press, 1992
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Two "Disarticulating Madame Bovary: Flaubert and the Medicalization of the Real"
The Novel in France: Mme de la Fayette, Laclos, Constant, Stendhal, Balzac, Flaubert, Proust
Martin Turnell.
New Directions, 1951
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Madame Bovary begins on p. 258
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