Stendhal's Italy: Themes of Political and Religious Satire

Stendhal's Italy: Themes of Political and Religious Satire

Stendhal's Italy: Themes of Political and Religious Satire

Stendhal's Italy: Themes of Political and Religious Satire

Synopsis

The essential thrust of this book is an examination of the origins and development of the satirical element of Stendal's writing in Italy, which culminates with the creation of what many critics consider to be his finest achievement, the novel La Chartreuse de Parme.

Tony Greaves adduces some of Stendhal's lesser-known, non-fictional 'Italian' works as essential ingredients in the understanding of 'where La Chartreuse comes from', telling how the different Italian themes of the novel emerge from their historical context.

Excerpt

Henri Beyle crossed the Alps into Italy in May 1800, clinging to the skirts of the French invading army. the seventeen-year-old who would be able in his mature days to write that ‘l’amour a toujours été pour moi la plus grande des affaires, ou plutôt la seule’ was about to embark on what would be the most intriguing of all his love affairs: that with Italy. the purpose of the present work is to trace the gradual transformation of this affair from a young man’s initial recording of things different into a narrative recollection which effectively offers a radical view of what the Restoration of 1815 signified to the whole of Europe. By this I mean that Stendhal comes to use this foreign country as a theatre-setting for raising questions which, in Restoration Europe, were off the official agenda. Over the years, Stendhal fashions Italy into an image where energy, a love of music, and frankness replace the vanity and acquisitiveness of elsewhere; an image through which the political, personal, aesthetic and moral standards of other countries, notably France, are questioned—only to replace this image in a grand gesture of defiance and resignation with the ‘impossible’ Italy of La Chartreuse de Parme. Michal Peled Ginsberg, in an article concerned specifically with a reading of L’Abbesse de Castro, highlights this ‘escape’ from the fettered political mood of the 1820s and ‘30s:

Ce qui est mis en question … (est) la possibilité qu’a une pratique
(littéraire ou autre) d’articuler un ailleurs du pouvoir de l’idéologie qui
ne soit pas déjà prévu et contenu par elle. En d’autres mots, la possibilité
non pas d’une opposition, mais d’une liberté, d’un espace de non
détermination.

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