Novel Stages: Drama and the Novel in Nineteenth-Century France

Novel Stages: Drama and the Novel in Nineteenth-Century France

Novel Stages: Drama and the Novel in Nineteenth-Century France

Novel Stages: Drama and the Novel in Nineteenth-Century France

Synopsis

The essays in Novel Stages examine the myriad intersections between drama and the novel in nineteenth-century France, a period when the two genres were in constant engagement with one another. The collection is unified by common intellectual concerns: the inscription of theatrical esthetics within the novel; the common practice among nineteenth-century novelists of adapting their works for the stage; and the novel's engagement with popular forms of theater. The essays provide insight into a specific aspect of the relationship between the theater and the novel in the nineteenth century. Their distinct perspectives form an overview of the literary landscape of nineteenth-century France, and demonstrate many ways in which all major nineteenth-century French novelists, including Hugo, Flaubert, Sand, and Zola, participated in the theatrical culture of their century.

Excerpt

It is a pleasure to welcome this new addition to a growing corpus of writings that focus on the intersections between narrative and dramatic literature in nineteenth-century France. Like the previous works on this topic (see the list of secondary sources cited at the end of the foreword), this volume makes a vital contribution to our understanding of the cultural history of nineteenth-century France. It reminds us of the important role theatrical esthetics and entertainments played in the period from the end of the French Revolution to the beginning of World War I and will, I hope, encourage American academics to restore dramatic texts to a more prominent place in the curriculum and in their scholarship.

As Susan McCready and Pratima Prasad indicate in their informative introductory chapter, virtually every writer in nineteenth-century France, from Pixérécourt to Émile Zola, was engaged, more or less successfully, in some type of theatrical enterprise. a great many writers—most now long forgotten— composed plays; others wrote drama criticism; and still others crafted short stories and novels that, as a result of their inherently dramatic and dialogistic character, would quickly be adapted for the stage. a few authors did all of these things.

Consider, for example, the case of poet, playwright, and novelist Alfred de Vigny. Frustrated that his novel Stello, first published in La Revue des Deux Mondes on 1 April 1832 and then printed in book form that same year, had failed to move readers to come to the aid of unrecognized and impecunious men of genius, Vigny recast his work as a drama, Chatterton (ThéâtreFrançais), two years later. Although this shift in genres was not without personal motives—the play offered his mistress, actress Marie Dorval, an important new role, Vigny’s transformation of the text seems to suggest both a belief in the persuasive powers . . .

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