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Flaubert’s Dig: From Fragments to Modernity's Emerging Form

Suzanne Braswell

Résumés

A cause de l'aspect fragmenté du narratif des romans La Tentation de saint Antoine et Bouvard et Pécuchet de Gustave Flaubert, ces deux œuvres se montrent comme des anomalies en comparaison de ses autres romans. Toutefois, l'auteur a passé des décennies à parfaire ses deux textes. En effet, il est retourné trois fois à La Tentation, un texte qu'il a déclaré « plus étrange que beau », et il a consacré des années à la recherche de la matière et de la forme de Bouvard et Pécuchet, ce qui suggère un projet auquel Flaubert n'a pas cessé de s'intéresser. Si ces deux romans semblent donc marquer un écart par rapport à l'œuvre du romancier, ils ont en fait résulté de deux lignes d'intérêt qui se manifestent à plusieurs reprises le long de son œuvre : des formes théâtrales et la potentialité poétique de la forme narrative. Cette analyse rend compte de la poétique de la discontinuité et de son rapport et aux formes du théâtre populaire au milieu du XIXe siècle et aux caractéristiques émergeantes de la modernité, notamment l'effet de la fragmentation sur la conscience moderne.

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  • 1  A version of this paper was presented at the 35th Annual Nineteenth-Century French Studies Colloqu (...)
  • 2  Gustave Flaubert, Correspondance: 1 janvier 1830 - mai 1851, tome 1, édition présentée et annotée (...)

1Flaubert's meticulous approach to researching the subjects and settings that animate his novels certainly bears the stamp of what might be called an archeological impulse1. Indeed, the comparison between the writer's task of researching sources and that of the archeologist who excavates the traces of history and civilizations did not escape Flaubert's attention. In his letter of 4 June 1850, written from Egypt to his friend and confidant Louis Bouilhet, Flaubert laments the misery of travel as he equates their shared situation to that of a scientist, an historian, and an archeologist: “Nous prenons des notes, nous faisons des voyages ; misère, misère ! Nous devenons savants, archéologues, historiens, médecins, gnaffes [sic] et gens de goût.”2As Flaubert's observation suggests, the act of taking notes (themselves the evocative but fragmentary product of reading and observation), like travel, is associated with misery. It immerses the writer in the collection of the particular while dilating the gap between discovery and the transformative work through which the author develops particulate traces into a coherent whole. In the same letter, Flaubert recognizes in the praxis of cultivating the particular the imprint of a malady. It plagues him, and more broadly still, it plagues his generation. In essence, it is a malady that has resulted from a surfeit of sources: “Ce qui nous manque à tous, ce n'est pas le style, ni cette flexibilité de l'archet et des doigts désignée sous le nom de talent. Nous avons un orchestre nombreux, une palette riche, des ressources variées [...] Ce qui nous manque c'est le principe intrinsèque, c'est l'âme de la chose, l'idée même du sujet.”

  • 3  Although writing less from the perspective of a shared aesthetic and more from that of an individu (...)
  • 4  Walter Benjamin, “Introduction”, Paris, Capitale du XIXe siècle, Allia, Paris, 2003, p. 8-9.

2Here, Flaubert acknowledges the plurality of voices and the stylistic mastery his contemporaries, who are quite aware of the “palette riche” and “ressources variées” available to them. Only the unifying effect of “the intrinsic principle” escapes them. In its stead, a sense of discontinuity obfuscates identification of a guiding and perhaps comforting unity3. Flaubert's allusions to the wealth of sources available to the poetic imagination of his era suggest a Benjaminian fantasmagoria4 of ideas, trends, texts, and sights whose very abundance seems to offer the promise of progress, but which in fact engenders a sense not of freedom of movement, but of paralysis. To arrive at a coherent whole, the modern writer is obliged to sift through a cornucopia of disparate elements, culled from a bewildering array of artifacts, whether they belong to the marketplace of popular culture or to history and the competing and ever-diversifying corpus of erudite texts and domains of expertise that compose the intellectual framework of modernity. In Flaubert's work, this lived reality will find what is arguably its richest expression in the cyclical immersion in and abandonment of systems of thought, belief, scientific practices, and so forth, that will engage the eponymous heroes of his last though incomplete opus, Bouvard et Pécuchet (1880-1881), a text to which we shall return later in this analysis.

  • 5  From Thibaudet's “Chronologie”, Gustave Flaubert, Œuvres, tome 1, édition présentée et annotée par (...)
  • 6  Flaubert, Correspondance: juillet 1851 - décembre 1858, tome 2, “Bibliothèque de la Pléiade”, Gall (...)
  • 7  Critical reception of La Tentation de saint Antoine was largely negative, however, during the fin- (...)
  • 8  Didier Philippot, Gustave Flaubert, op. cit.,  p. 173.

3Although in his letter of 1850 Flaubert laments the absence of “le principe intrinsèque” and the work entailed in collecting sources, his “misère” did not lead him to a sense of futility with respect to his writing. To the contrary, he had already begun to experiment with the poetic potential of the fragmentary and what might be termed the fantasmagoric in the first version of his novel La Tentation de saint Antoine (1849). In that text, Flaubert gathers discontinuous elements, culled from numerous sources, to create a hybrid of vivid visual elements and contrasting voices that animate dynamic tableaux. From this praxis of collection, he embarks upon an exploration of the aesthetic dimensions of discontinuity. This line of exploration will have formal implications in subsequent versions of La Tentation. But it will have a profound impact on his last though incomplete novel, Bouvard et Pécuchet, as well shall see later in this discussion. Indeed, undaunted by Maxime Du Camp's and Louis Bouilhet's recommendation to abandon La Tentation entirely5, Flaubert would pursue the poetic potential of fragmentary form in the second and third editions of that novel (1857 and 1874), despite his own frustration with and attraction to a text that he believed would always be “plus étrange que beau”6. Although recognition of this work would be delayed until the fin-de-siècle period, the originality of La Tentation was not without its admirers7. In his 1857 review of Madame Bovary and La Tentation de saint Antoine, which appeared in the review L'Artiste, December 1856 to January 1857, Charles Baudelaire, on reading the as-yet unbound fragments of La Tentation, expressed great admiration for “ce capharnaüm pandémoniaque de la solitude”, notably for its poetic qualities, which he called “les hautes facultés lyriques et ironiques manifestées sans réserve”8. Ever the astute reader of modernity, Baudelaire recognized the poetic force not only of the images that animated the text, but most particularly the evocative, demonic power of its heteroclite form, as is suggested by his characterization of the text: “ce capharnaüm pandémoniaque”.

4Moreover, Flaubert would return to fragmentary forms in his final novel Bouvard et Pécuchet, further cultivating a effects of discontinuity to create an unfinished but nonetheless monumental satire of the scientific, social, and aesthetic disjunctions of nineteenth-century France. In La Tentation de saint Antoine and in Bouvard et Pécuchet, the development of fragmentary elements plays a constitutive role, lending to these texts a highly visual dimension, while infusing them with characteristics that are more typical of the theatre than they are of a mid-nineteenth-century novel. It seems, therefore, reasonable to consider Flaubert's pursuit of fragmentary form more closely in view of understanding an aesthetic interest that remained an abiding interest for the author over the course of his lifetime.

Mobile Tableaux in La Tentation de saint Antoine

  • 9  This analysis draws upon the final versions, respectively, of La Tentation de saint Antoine (1874) (...)
  • 10  In his analysis of Flaubert and the theatre, Alan Raitt notes that La Tentation owes a great debt (...)
  • 11  Jacques Neefs, “Écrits de formation: L'Éducation sentimentale de 1845 et Le Portrait”, La Revue de (...)
  • 12  Charles Bernheimer, Decadent Subjects: The Idea of Decadence in Art, Literature, Philosophy, and C (...)
  • 13  Elizabeth Brunazzi, “La narration de l'autogenèse dans La Tentation de saint Antoine et dans Ulyss (...)

5A novel to which Flaubert would return three times, producing three editions over a duration of 28 years, La Tentation de saint Antoine merits particular attention9. In addition, the metaphor of an archeological dig is particularly apropos. For, analysis of this work's formal qualities and content reveals the traces of numerous antecedents. It also allows us to perceive the dynamic and forward-looking aspects of this text10. If scholars have proposed that, owing to its formal characteristics and its formidable display of erudition, La Tentation marks a “clear rupture” or “an exceptional case” in Flaubert's work11 or, owing to the same qualities it demonstrates Flaubert's abandonment of the “romantic ideal of ‘fierce originality’” noted by Charles Bernheimer12, this analysis proposes a reading of La Tentation that emphasizes neither its rupture with the larger body of Flaubert's work, nor its distance from the ideals of Romanticism, but its place relative to the gradual evolution of his engagement in the poetic potential of discontinuity, and the theatrical dimensions with which Flaubert infuses fragmentary form. As Elizabeth Brunazzi observes, La Tentation “dévoile un espace intermédiaire, un espace d'entre-deux, de transitions et de croisées dans l'écriture et dans la vie de Flaubert.”13

  • 14  For specific and excellent background notes on these very early texts, see especially the detailed (...)
  • 15  Flaubert's early fascination with legends and theology, especially those relating to medieval trea (...)

6In Flaubert's earliest works, which date from 1835, and therefore well before he first saw Pieter Breughel the Younger's painting, “The Temptation of Saint Anthony” in Genoa in 1845, the author's interest in religious themes was already evident. Among these early works are the very fragmentary theatrical study “Sixième soirée: Voyage en enfer” (1835), and the longer prose works, Rêve d'enfer (1837), La Danse des morts (1838), and Smar (1839), which were variously inspired by readings of François Villon, François Rabelais, and Gœthe's Faust. These works also owe a debt to Flaubert's abiding fascination with the open-air theatrical productions at the Saint-Romain fair, where (as a child) he saw the puppet master, Legrain, mount a version of La Tentation de saint Antoine with marionettes14. To these early inspirations, we might reasonably add the then-circulating popular literature compiled in the Bibliothèque bleue, which included numerous treatments of medieval texts, including a version of La Tentation de saint Antoine and a danse macabre. In addition to religious themes, a fascination with the forms of medieval theatre is also manifest, in particular the forms of the mystery and morality plays in which, for example, protagonists encounter the devil or undergo various ordeals leading to revelation.15

  • 16  Flaubert, La Danse des morts, Œuvres de jeunesse, op. cit., p. 442-43 and 409-10, respectively.

7Accompanying these interests is a tendency to experiment with fragmentary tableau-like sketches, which are also characteristic of certain medieval mystery plays. In Flaubert's sketches, the dead step forward to present their perspectives on life and death to Man, who is escorted by the Devil. Such an example occurs in chapter VIII of Flaubert's La Danse des morts in which we find interspersed between longer passages of prose, shorter soliloquies, formatted in the manner of a play. In these tableau-like presentations, figures such as Les Damnés, Néron, Les Amants, Les Prostituées, and Le Poète are called by Death to express their regrets (their particular form of the nocturnal dance in this text) before the “caravane funèbre” that they constitute returns them to their graves. Only L'Histoire, Satan and Le Christ remain at daybreak. Similarly, in chapter IV of the same work, a subtitle acts as a stage direction: “Âmes qui montent au ciel.”16 Following the direction, a series of seven numbered paragraphs mark the gradual rise of souls, released from the weight of the body.

  • 17  Marshall C. Olds, Au pays des perroquets: Féerie théâtrale et narration chez Flaubert, Éditions Ro (...)
  • 18  In his note 1 (p. 147) to Gérard de Nerval's novel Aurélia, Jean-Nicolas Illouz observes that in t (...)
  • 19  Patrick Berthier, “Des Catacombes au Vésuve: le spectaculaire romantique commenté par la presse de (...)

8In La Tentation de saint Antoine, Flaubert prolongs his exploration of such themes, while refining the theatrical aspects of the text. Similarly, he continues to refine his use of vivid scenery, conveyed through fragmentary elements that appear in succession. Flaubert will also integrate descriptive elements into the text that suggest aspects of the popular theatre of the July Monarchy. In his masterful analysis of Flaubert's engagement with the féerie genre of theatre and its impact on the novelist's approach to narrative and indeed to the genre of the novel in, for example L'Éducation sentimentale and Bouvard et Pécuchet, Marshall C. Olds associates the theatrical dimensions of La Tentation with the tableaux and fantastical aspects of the popular féerie productions of his era17. Olds' argument is a compelling one, and it reveals an area of vital interest in Flaubert studies. However, the hagiographic context of La Tentation, which is absent from the fairy plays of the 1830s through the mid-century, plays a central role in this curious text. Moreover, the religious focus of La Tentation is an amplification of themes, techniques, and indeed of imagery that Flaubert had already begun to develop in his earliest writings, notably in his Smar, Rêve d'enfer and La Danse des morts. Nevertheless, as Olds' analysis amply demonstrates, the impact of popular theatre on Flaubert's thinking and on aspects of his narrative technique must not be dismissed. To that end, the parallel between the Flaubert's cultivation of tableaux in La Tentation and such forms as they were developed in the Diorama and Panorama, with their cultivation of lighting effects and changing tableaux, and their growing popularity in France and across Europe during the 1830s and 1840s, seems particularly appropriate. To be sure, biblical scenes, depicting for example the Deluge, were not alien to the dioramas and panoramas of Flaubert's era18. Moreover, as Patrick Berthier has so justly observed, the visual effects cultivated in the panoramas and dioramas, like the vivid tableaux of the romantic theatre, corresponded to a desire for emotional contact with historical events, carried through a feeling of immersion engendered by a kind of totality, conferred by the grandiose nature of these kinds of spectacles19.

9In the following passage, which appears in chapter IV of La Tentation, the typographic disposition of character and the didascalia (the latter which are set apart by further indention) provides an illustration of the inherent theatricality and highly visual character of this text. It also provides an example of the way in which the movement of elements in this text recalls the visual shifts of tableaux in a panoramic or dioramic spectacle:

  • 20  Gustave Flaubert, Œuvres, tome 1, op. cit., p. 85
  • 21 Ibid., p. 86.

LE GYMNOSOPHISTE reprend.
Pareil au rhinocéros, je me suis enfoncé dans la solitude. J'habitais l'arbre derrière moi.
En effet, le gros figuier présente, dans ses cannelures, une excavation naturelle de la taille d'un homme.
Et je me nourrissais de fleurs et de fruits, avec une telle observance des préceptes, que pas même un chien ne m'a vu manger. [...]20
Mes austérités effroyables m'ont fait supérieur aux Puissances. Une contraction de ma pensée peut tuer cent fils de rois, détrôner les dieux, bouleverser le monde.
Il a dit cela d'une voix monotone.
Les feuilles à l'entour se recroquevillent. Des rats, par terre, s'enfuient.
Il abaisse lentement ses yeux vers les flammes qui montent puis ajoute:
J'ai pris en dégoût la forme, en dégoût la perception, en dégoût jusqu'à la connaissance elle-même, — car la pensée ne survit pas au fait transitoire qui la cause, et l'esprit n'est qu'une illusion comme le reste.21

10In the first passage indicated above, which belongs to Hilarion's prolonged mockery of Antoine's ascetic devotions and privations in the desert, the stage directions infuse the text with visual and polyphonic dynamism. As if to provide ocular proof in support of the Gymnosophist's claims, the fig tree in which the Gymnosophist claims to have lived surges forward (“le gros figuier présente”), effectively showing to doubting spectators (Antoine included) its bark and the crenellated recess in which the hermit had lived in seclusion. The remark “[e]n effet” draws our attention to the tree and serves to affirm the Gymnosophist's claim. Furthermore, this remark lends to the stage direction a particular voice. That is, “en effet” suggests the voice of a barker at a fair who draws our attention to an unfolding marvel on a stage. In this sense, this expostulation at beginning of the stage direction brings forward a decidedly populist voice that serves to verify the lamentation of the hermit. As such, in tone, it effectively leavens the high seriousness of the Gymnosophist's mystical lesson by casting it in the light of an attraction at a fair. This, of course, tends to undermine both the pathos of the lamentation and the seriousness of the scene.

11Similar theatrical effects, and the effects of oral and visual commentary on the hermit's privations, are repeated in the next set of stage directions, which belong to a later passage in the same tableau. Organized in three short paragraphs, the first of these didascalic references appears to be traditional in its function, indicating only the tone of voice of the Gymnosophist in the paragraph that immediately precedes the stage direction: “Il dit cela d'une voix monotone.” But the next reference, which is composed of two short sentences, is resolutely visual. (If read aloud, it is also remarkable poetic in its rhythmicity.) It insists on an evolving, dynamic scene of shriveling leaves, fleeing rats, and mounting flames that threaten to engulf the speaker, in the manner of the pre-cinematic, moving tableaux of the diorama. Even within the framework of the didascalia, the contrast could not be more striking. Against this highly visual and evolving scene of impending destruction, which functions as a visual reminder of divine punishment for the fierce pride of the ascetic Gymnosophist (and by extension of Antoine), the first stage direction emphasizes the blandness of the hermit's demeanor.

12One cannot help but notice the subtle irony, or to borrow Ross Chambers' terms, oppositional “duplicity” (Chambers 2-3) that is at play in the text-tableau interaction. If the monotone voice of the Gynmosophist provides the narration for an unfolding scene that is calculated to inspire awe, the first didascalic reference draws our attention to the hermit's detachment from the pathos of his own scene: the “Puissances” unleash their fury, causing great movement and destruction (“Les feuilles à l'entour se recroquevillent. Des rats, par terre, s'enfuient”). But his voice is monotone. Consequently, the “austérités effroyables” that he claims to have endured seem to lose their power to move us. The effect of detachment is further amplified by the very style of Flaubert's phrasing: “Mes austérités effroyables m'ont fait supérieur aux Puissances. Une contraction de ma pensée peut tuer cent fils de rois, détrôner les dieux, bouleverser le monde.” Here, Flaubert eschews conjunctions, preferring short, declarative sentences. This terse narrative style effectively isolates these sentences from each other: the first sentence does not flow easily into the next one. A staccato rhythmicity of the phrasing adds to this impression. These effects are carried out on the visual plane as well, in didascalia. That is to say, the Gymnosophist's voice is indicated on the first direction; the second direction is purely visual, showing us a dynamic tableau of shriveling leaves and fleeing rats; finally, the third direction returns to the Gymnosophist, suggesting not his voice, but only his gestures as he lowers his eyes in preparation for his next statement.

13Taken together, the didascalia seem to stand almost in isolation relative to the Gynmosophist's preceding declaration, in which he proclaims his sense of superiority to the “Puissances”. This spatial and stylistic difference creates a kind of pre-cinematic effect through which a disembodied voice comes to narrate a moving image (the first and second stage directions), concluding with the final focus directed toward the Gymnosophist, who lowers his eyes as he prepares to speak again. Like the “en effet” expostulation in the first stage direction (considered above), the fragmentary phrasing and monotonous voice in this passage carry an ironic force. That is, they tend to deflate the dramatic force both of the hermit's admonition to St. Anthony and the dramatic violence of the impending punishment, investing the scene with a comedic quality.

14In this roman-théâtre of a text, whose form deliberately plays with standard expectations for prose fiction, we see combined in a novel the apparatus of theatrical dialogue and stage directions; the intermingling of medieval and modern theatrical periods, which effectively juxtaposes the dynamism of a modern panoramic tableau against the monotonous and apparently traditional voice of the Gymnosophist; and an unfolding spectacle of Flaubert's encyclopedic research into spiritual beliefs (both eastern and occidental) of St. Anthony's era. The very presentation of the narrative, therefore, mocks expectations relative to form, perception and knowledge, which are of course the precise points raised by the scolding Gymnosophist in his admonition to Antoine: “J'ai pris en dégoût la forme, en dégoût la perception, en dégoût jusqu'à la connaissance elle-même.” Otherwise stated, the Gymnosophist's discourse is turned against him by the text's richness of wording, erudition, panoramic staging, and the comedic effects of popular theatre.

Vaudevillian Forms in Bouvard et Pécuchet

  • 22  Marshall C. Olds, Au pays des perroquets: Féerie théâtrale et narration chez Flaubert,op. cit., p. (...)
  • 23  Ibid., p. 88.

15In Bouvard et Pécuchet, Flaubert again borrows from popular theatrical traditions and exploits the poetic potential of discontinuity. In this sense, he prolongs and furthers interests and themes that were already at play in his earliest works, including Rêve d'enfer, La Danse des morts, Smar and La Tentation de saint Antoine. But in contrast to these earlier works, in Bouvard et Pécuchet, Flaubert abandons overt development of a religious framework, setting the drama in the modern and secular context of mid-nineteenth-century France. Additionally, he abandons textual conventions associated with of the theatre, such as overt didascalic references and direct, typographic identification of which character is speaking at a given moment. The text, however, remains highly theatrical. Indeed, Olds' analysis of this novel asserts that the tone and narrative style of Bouvard et Pécuchet refer explicitly to the féerie genre of theatre, on which Flaubert concentrated his attention during the 1861 to 1863 period22. As Olds proposes, like the féerie, an episodic and “ambulatory” structure prevails, in which “contiguity” is more marked than the smooth progression of “une seule idée”: “Ce dernier roman est imprégné de différentes séquences constituées en narrations enchaînées.”23

  • 24  In his discussion of Flaubert's féerie plays of 1861-1863, Olds notes that the novelist's concepti (...)
  • 25  Jacques Neefs, “La ‘haine des grands hommes’ au XIXe siècle”, MLN, 116, 2001, p. 752.
  • 26  Kate Rees, “‘Une tortue avec des ailes’: Progressing in Flaubert's Bouvard et Pécuchet”, French St (...)
  • 27  It should be stated that Hugh Kenner, who reveals a modern and comic stoicism in Bouvard's and Péc (...)

16However, as our discussion of La Tentation suggested, the féerie is not the only form of theatre that attracted Flaubert's attention. Other forms of theatre are clearly manifest in a number of Flaubert's earlier works, where we have seen direct allusions to the medieval mystery play with its episodic tableaux, an evocation of the barker's voice at an open-air fair, and the suggestion of pre-cinematic techniques exploited in the dioramas and panoramas. And again, unlike the fairy play, the narrative of Bouvard et Pécuchet is anchored resolutely in modernity, with realist representations of places, people, institutions, and texts. The fantastical excesses that it reveals and its darkly comic satire belong not to the fabulous realm of the fairy plays (an aspect of the féerie that, as Olds shows, troubled Flaubert24), but to the particular obsessions, conventions, and failures of modernity. Moreover, although the novel appeared posthumously and thus leaves us without an exact indication of how the author would have concluded this text, its existing structure appears to offer readers neither a clear-cut moral lesson, nor any resolution to the cyclical movement of the plot, as one might expect from the féerie genre. As Jacques Neefs has so eloquently described this novel: “C'est un livre de vengeance contre les trop envahissantes conventions, contre les valorisations et les admirations trop conformes [de l'époque]”.25It is also, as Kate Rees has proposed, a novel in which Flaubert explores that most nineteenth-century of notions: the progress of mankind, in this instance, explored through the vicissitudes of the quests undertaken by the eponymous heroes26. I would add to these observations that the mordant comedy and episodic structure of Bouvard et Pécuchet seem also to suggest a commentary, carried through vaudevillian staging and style, on the fragmentary consciousness that Flaubert decried in his 1850 letter to Louis Bouilhet: “Ce qui nous manque”, he wrote on 4 June, “c'est le principe intrinsèque, c'est l'âme de la chose, l'idée même du sujet.” It is to the vaudevillian and fragmentary dimensions of the text that we turn now27.

  • 28  During Flaubert's time, vaudeville was associated principally with popular theatre involving songs (...)

17The opening paragraphs of Bouvard et Pécuchet present to us what is effectively a deserted stage that depicts a portion of the boulevard Bourdon, in Paris, near the Canal Saint Martin. Sunlight illuminates the scene brightly. On the horizon, buildings appear in silhouette against a sky whose tint suggests the bright blue of some foreign land, and the noises of Paris are heard as “une rumeur confuse” in the distance. The details that animate this opening scene are calculated to evoke the impression of realism, but only on the surface. Indeed, closer scrutiny of the language of these opening paragraphs reveals a studied emphasis on the artificial, suggesting a stage set. For example, the narrator refers to the “réverbération du soleil”, accentuating an artificial source for the scene's sunlight, which “reverberates” as if from a lamp; the color of the sky is described in the manner of a purchased tint of paint (“en d'outremer”); in addition, the tint suggests not a Parisian sky, but that of a distant land; the contours of the buildings that stand against the sky are described essentially as cut-outs (“Au-delà du canal, entre les maisons que séparent des chantiers, le grand ciel pur se découpait en plaques d'outremer [...]”); and the sounds of the city are heard indistinctly, without reference to their source, as accompaniment or background sound to an opening scene. Indeed, the disembodied sounds of the city even suggest a subtle pun on “voix de ville” or vaudeville, which the narrative stages before our eyes28. Indeed, with the initial Parisian setting, which is supplanted from chapter II forward by the Norman setting of Chavignolles, the journey to the country faintly suggests a journey back to the roots of vaudeville: “vau de Vire”, a fifteenth-century term attributed to a form of popular poetry written by Olivier Basselin, evoking the “voices” (“vau”) of the Vire region of Lower-Normandy, where much of the plot takes place (see the “vaudeville” note, below). In summary, from the initial paragraphs of chapter I, the reader is led to perceive the décor not as real, but as a stage set whose realism is sufficient only to engender the thaumaturgic transformation that enables exposition of character and situation that is characteristic of a play, most notably of a vaudevillian production.

  • 29  Gustave Flaubert, Bouvard et Pécuchet, Œuvres, tome 2, texte établi et annoté par Albert Thibaudet (...)

18This impression is prolonged when, just as the descriptive paragraphs of the opening scene conclude, the next paragraph, composed of a single sentence (in the manner of a stage direction), announces the entrance of the two protagonists: “Deux hommes parurent.”29 Amplifying the suggestion of a vaudevillian episode, the two men appear from opposite ends of the stage (one from the Bastille and the other from the Jardin des Plantes), and meet “au milieu du boulevard”, at centre stage. The doubling effect of their meeting is subsequently mirrored in their gestures, all of which are coordinated to mimic the exaggerated synchrony and therefore comic absurdity of a vaudeville sketch: to wit, in synchrony and at centre stage, the two men sit down, side-by-side on the same bench, wipe their foreheads, remove their hats, which each man places at his side, and through sidelong glances, discover each other's names by reading inscriptions written inside their respective hats. At this moment, they break into dialogue as they register amazement at having had the same idea. On the basis of mutual habits and gestures, and the discovery that they are both copyists (Bouvard for a commercial enterprise and Pécuchet for the Marine Ministry), the heroes become fast friends and, ultimately, are linked together, presumably for rest of their lives.

19Owing to its setting and development, the allusion to vaudeville is striking. But the scene also suggests a subtle and comic attack on the notion of âmes sœurs, who, on reuniting with the heretofore lost half of themselves, at last find a sense of completion. But the received idea of a destined reunion that is implied in the notion of finding one's other half (a notion of which Emma also discovers the false promise in Madame Bovary) is undermined by the staging of this exposition, which suggests an aleatory, not a predestined meeting of the protagonists. Moreover, if Bouvard and Pécuchet unite their fortunes and their lives, their ambition affords them no rest, no real completion, not even in the relative ease promised by Bouvard's surprise inheritance from his actual father (but presumed uncle) and the resulting realization of their dream of retiring to the country. Indeed, instead of inaugurating a period of quiet retreat from the city, their move to their provincial residence in Chavignolles ruptures the relative calm of their lives as copyists. In Chavignolles, their ambition to attain greatness becomes an obsession that impels the protagonists to distinguish themselves in a panoply of domains, the sum of which would constitute a summary of emerging disciplines and trends that punctuate the nineteenth century, from agricultural developments, to the cultivation of romantically inspired landscapes, to archeology, the rediscovery of the Middle Ages, etymological research, and so forth.

  • 30  Gustave Flaubert, Bouvard et Pécuchet, op. cit., p. 733.
  • 31  Ibid., p. 739.

20By way of illustration, as their first Spring in Chavignolles approaches (chapter II), they are delighted to see an abundance of peas and asparagus growing in their garden (crops that were planted before their arrival), and conclude that because they understand gardening, they will surely succeed in agriculture: “Puisqu'ils s'entendaient au jardinage, ils devaient réussir dans l'agriculture ; et l'ambition les prit de cultiver leur ferme."30 This is only the beginning of a pattern that is repeated over much of the novel. Whether the episodic efforts of Bouvard and Pécuchet lie momentarily in the cultivation of, for example, the ultimate melon (“le summum de l'art”31) or in creating the perfect romantic landscape (chapter II), or in discovering the rarest of fossils and the origins of the earth (chapter III), or in distinguishing themselves in archeology or the mysteries of ancient Celtic culture, or those of the Middle Ages (chapter IV), their projects tend toward the grandiose. Although undertaken fervently, their projects will conclude as the bewilderment engendered by encounters with competing expert opinion gradually amount to insoluble aporia; disillusionment ensues, followed by abandonment of the project in hand, but the adoption of a new project as a new path to glory occurs to them.

  • 32  Ibid., p. 782-83.
  • 33  Ibid., p. 786.

21As if to comment on the fantasmagoria of the modern marketplace, consisting in this case of a widening array of disciplines and expert opinion, Flaubert's heroes have at their disposal a plethora of texts and opinions relating to their projects. But if the modern marketplace furnishes them with opinions and new areas in which they might shine, Bouvard and Pécuchet are not discerning consumers of opinion. Indeed, they tend to give equal weight to whichever text they are reading or whichever opinion they happen to encounter. For example, at the suggestion of their Parisian friend and correspondent, professor Dumouchel (who wishes to excite their interest in geology), they read the Lettres of Bertrand, the Discours of Cuvier, and decide to undertake geological excavations in search of prehistoric origins. But if they become engrossed in the findings of Bertrand and Cuvier, they are just as easily convinced by the passing remarks of the abbot Jeufroy, who on hearing that they are studying geology, tells them about the discovery of “la mâchoire d'un éléphant” in Villers, thinking that perhaps they will come to accept the biblical story of the deluge. Jeufroy's remark compels them to search for fossils on the “côte des Hachettes.”32 In summary, based not on following an abiding line of interest through which they might arrive at a deeper understanding, but on the chance occurrences of propinquity, they shift their attention from geology to archeology, and back to geology when (after a cursory examination of a cliff, which is interrupted by a custom's agent) they fail to find rare fossils dating from the time of the deluge. Subsequently, before embarking on fresh geological investigations (this time in Étretat), they happen to discover Boné's Guide de voyageur géologue, which informs them of the importance of acquiring the accoutrements of the well-appointed geologist so that they might avoid “cette apparence originale, que l'on doit éviter en voyage”33.

  • 34  Ibid., p. 787.
  • 35  And, here, the reader cannot help but notice that Bouvard and Pécuchet have readily assumed the ti (...)

22Unable to discern a marketing promotion in support of the then-flourishing vogue for travel from that which might actually be required for their geological excavations, Bouvard and Pécuchet postpone their trip until they have acquired the equipment, clothing, and role of “ingénieur”34 recommended by Boné's guide. Again, each source is treated with equally urgent importance: the spectre of negative public opinion with respect to their appearance as traveling geologists35 requires immediate attention, just as the abbot Jeufroy's story concerning the discovery of a mastodon fossil required them to visit Port-en-Bessin and the Hachettes coast, just as Dumouchel's recommendation that they read the work of Cuvier and Bertrand precipitated their entrance into the field of geology. The plight of Bouvard and Pécuchet in this instance, as in so many other adventures that animate the episodic chapters of this vast novel, is that under Flaubert's pen they embody the aspirations and habits of the bourgeoisie. In this respect, they provide an eloquent illustration of Flaubert's remark to Louis Bouilhet, in his letter from Damas (4 September 1850):

  • 36  Gustave Flaubert, Correspondance, tome 1, op. cit.

Où le bourgeois a-t-il été plus gigantesque que maintenant ? Qu'est-ce que celui de Molière à côté ? M. Jourdain ne va pas au talon du premier négociant que tu vas rencontrer dans la rue. Et la balle envieuse du prolétaire ? et le jeune homme qui se pousse ? [...] et tout ce qui bouillonne dans le cœur des gredins ?
Oui, la bêtise consiste à vouloir conclure. Nous sommes un fil et nous voulons savoir la trame36.

  • 37  For a superb discussion of the paradox of such aspirations in the democratic society of nineteenth (...)

23That is to say, Bouvard and Pécuchet, not unlike Homais or the “jeune homme qui se pousse” of Flaubert's 1850 correspondence, desire most profoundly the attainment of greatness and the public esteem that flows from recognition for having distinguished themselves37. Indeed, the discipline in which they hope to achieve greatness is less important than the objective, as is evident by their cyclical pursuit and abandonment of domains of expertise. Nevertheless, they are astute consumers according to the standards that Flaubert is targeting. Ever aware of the potential weight of public opinion, they take particular care to inform themselves of what notable personages regard as recognized opinion on a given subject, without, however, extending their inquiries beyond the initial recommendations. Professor Dumouchel is their enduring connection to the intellectual currents, or scientific “voix de ville” of the capital, just as the abbot Jeufroy and the notables of Chavignolles constitute the “vau de Vire” of Normandy.

  • 38  Gustave Flaubert, Bouvard et Pécuchet, op. cit., p. 759-760.
  • 39  Jacques Neefs, “La ‘haine des grands hommes’ au XIXe siècle”, op. cit., p. 752.

24In Bouvard et Pécuchet, the burgeoning marketplace of mid-nineteenth-century Paris, identified in Walter Benjamin's seminal Paris: Capitale du XIXe siècle, gives rise not to flâneurs who taste of the commercial displays of commodities and ideas with the discernment of a dandy. Rather, this narrative, in character and structure, stages a fragmented mentality that is buffeted and perhaps engendered by a surfeit of voices, the polyphonic array of “voix de ville” of that era. Each chapter is composed of multiple episodes that are related in many instances only tangentially: gardening in chapter II, for example, leads to agricultural experimentation, to landscape design, and ultimately to the protagonists' failed attempt to invent “une crème qui devait enfoncer toutes les autres”, “la ‘Bouvarine’.”38 The pattern of fragmentation is continued within, but also from chapter to chapter, culminating (posthumously) in the cacophonous “découpe des textes cités, et leur montage”39 of chapters XI and XII, noted by Jacques Neefs. In keeping with the emerging fascination, Flaubert's Bouvard et Pécuchet of course finds its corollary in the equally cacophonous, deliberately fragmented Dictionnaire des idées reçues, a work whose development accompanied that of Bouvard et Pécuchet.

25To borrow from our own era's terminology, Bouvard and Pécuchet surf the web of their time. Pursuit of their desires and passing interests presents them with a vast array of competing voices. They listen, assuredly, to the discourses of their day, whether from a guidebook or from the texts of Cuvier and Bertrand. But their attention span is limited, perhaps owing to a mode of consciousness that grows less suited to the cultivation of “le principe intrinsèque” (noted, above, in Flaubert's letter, 4 June 1850, to Louis Bouilhet) than to the accelerating rhythms and competing voices of modernity, and to the rapidly changing currents of the marketplace. In Bouvard et Pécuchet, that fragmentation of thought and action, with its evocation of vaudeville, becomes an integral part of the novel. But it does not arrive ex nihilo. Indeed, Flaubert's poetics of discontinuity belongs to a steady line of interest that is manifest throughout his work. We follow its traces in his earliest works, from those inspired by popular theatre of the open-air fair and medieval legends, to the panoramic tableaux developed most fully in the third and final version of La Tentation de saint Antoine, to the episodic, vaudevillian forms of Flaubert's last great novel, Bouvard et Pécuchet, in which the implications of modernity's fragmentation emerge, shaping form, content, and perhaps consciousness.

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Notes

1  A version of this paper was presented at the 35th Annual Nineteenth-Century French Studies Colloquium, 22-24 October 2009, Salt Lake City, Utah. I wish to thank my fellow panelists, Jean Christophe Ippolito, Luke Bouvier, and Anthony Zielonka, as well as Jacques Neefs and Catherine Nesci for their remarks and suggestions for this paper.

2  Gustave Flaubert, Correspondance: 1 janvier 1830 - mai 1851, tome 1, édition présentée et annotée par Jean Bruneau, “Bibliothèque de la Pléiade”, Gallimard, Paris, 1973.

3  Although writing less from the perspective of a shared aesthetic and more from that of an individual suffering from the celebrated mal du siècle, in 1836, Alfred de Musset offers a strikingly similar though more apocalyptic observation about his own generation, and about the disillusionment engendered by a culture of acquisition and eclecticism: “[...] l'éclectisme est notre goût; nous prenons tout ce que nous trouvons, ceci pour sa beauté, ceci pour sa commodité, telle autre chose pour son antiquité, telle autre pour sa laideur même; en sorte que nous ne vivons que de débris, comme si la fin du monde était proche”. This, of course, suggests that Flaubert (writing some 14 years later) was certainly not alone in his consideration of the impact of material abundance on consciousness. See Alfred de Musset, La Confession d'un enfant du siècle, préface de Claude Roy, “Folio classique”, Gallimard, Paris, 1973, p. 49.

4  Walter Benjamin, “Introduction”, Paris, Capitale du XIXe siècle, Allia, Paris, 2003, p. 8-9.

5  From Thibaudet's “Chronologie”, Gustave Flaubert, Œuvres, tome 1, édition présentée et annotée par Albert Thibaudet et René Dumesnil, “Bibliothèque de la Pléiade”, Gallimard, Paris, 1951, p. xvii.

6  Flaubert, Correspondance: juillet 1851 - décembre 1858, tome 2, “Bibliothèque de la Pléiade”, Gallimard, Paris, 1980, p. 62. Similarly, his correspondences with Louis Bouilhet (4 September 1850) and with Louise Colet (16 September 1852) declare, respectively, a particular interest in the inconclusive, and a belief that the future of art might lie in a gradual dissolution of currently recognized forms: “Oui, la bêtise consiste à vouloir conclure”, he states twice in his letter to Louis Bouilhet in 1850, and to Louise Colet, two years later, he writes that “Les œuvres les plus belles sont celles où il y a le moins de matière; plus l'expression se rapproche de la pensée, plus le mot colle dessus et disparaît, plus c'est beau. Je crois que l'avenir de l'Art est dans ces voies. Je le vois, à mesure qu'il grandit, s'éthérisant tant qu'il peu, depuis les pylônes égyptiens jusqu'aux lancettes gothiques, et depuis les poèmes de vingt mille vers des Indiens jusqu'aux jets de Byron. La forme, en devenant habile, s'atténue; [...] elle abandonne l'épique pour le roman, le vers pour la prose ; elle ne se connaît plus d'orthodoxie et est libre comme chaque volonté qui la produit.” See Jean Bruneau's edition of Flaubert's Correspondance, tome 2, op. cit., p. 31.

7  Critical reception of La Tentation de saint Antoine was largely negative, however, during the fin-de-siècle period, it attracted the admiration of the archivist and journalist Camille Pelletan and the theatrical inventor Henri Rivière at the Chat Noir cabaret who, in 1887, developed a vivid “féerie à grand spectacle” of La Tentation, consisting of two-acts and 40 tableaux. See Didier Philippot, Gustave Flaubert, “Mémoire de la critique”, Presses Universitaires de Paris-Sorbonne, Paris, 2006, p. 343-49, and Sophie Lucet, “Tentation des ombres à l'époque symboliste: l'attraction du Chat Noir”, Le Spectaculaire dans les arts de la scène du Romantisme au Symbolisme, Isabelle Moindrot et al. (éds.), CNRS Éditions, Paris, 2006, p. 143-45.

8  Didier Philippot, Gustave Flaubert, op. cit.,  p. 173.

9  This analysis draws upon the final versions, respectively, of La Tentation de saint Antoine (1874) and Bouvard et Pécuchet (1880-1881).

10  In his analysis of Flaubert and the theatre, Alan Raitt notes that La Tentation owes a great debt to Flaubert's fascination with theatrical forms, but that it also prefigures “les innovations du cinéma surréaliste.” Similarly, in his superb analysis of the decadent sensibility, Charles Bernheimer opines that while La Tentation “is actually based entirely on printed and graphic sources” (a point with which this analysis respectfully disagrees), it reveals an “ambivalent” and decadent attitude that finds increasing inspiration in “the already said”: an argument that has much in common with Michel Foucault's (untitled) reading of La Tentation, Dits et écrits I, 1954-1975, édition présentée par Daniel Defert et al., “Quarto”, Gallimard, Paris, 2001. Moreover, Bernheimer proposes that Flaubert's cultivation of “a more radical aesthetic representation of just that decadence” leads to a work that “fractures the aesthetic, cultural, and epistemological paradigms of his age” while laying the groundwork for decadence, modernism and postmodernism. With this latter point, we agree. See Alain Raitt, Flaubert et le théâtre, Peter Lang, Berne, 1999, p. 152, and Charles Bernheimer, Decadent Subjects: The Idea of Decadence in Art, Literature, Philosophy, and Culture of the Fin de Siècle in Europe, edited by T. Jefferson Kline and Naomi Schor, “Parallax” series, Johns Hopkins University Press, London and Baltimore, 2002, p. 36-37.

11  Jacques Neefs, “Écrits de formation: L'Éducation sentimentale de 1845 et Le Portrait”, La Revue des lettres modernes, édité par Claude Jacquet et André Topia, “Scribble” 2: Joyce et Flaubert, 1990, p. 86, and Alan Raitt, Flaubert et le théâtre, op. cit., p. 152.

12  Charles Bernheimer, Decadent Subjects: The Idea of Decadence in Art, Literature, Philosophy, and Culture of the Fin de Siècle in Europe, op. cit., p. 36.

13  Elizabeth Brunazzi, “La narration de l'autogenèse dans La Tentation de saint Antoine et dans Ulysses”, La Revue des lettres modernes, éditée par Claude Jacquet et André Topia, “Scribble” 2: Joyce et Flaubert, 1990, p. 124.

14  For specific and excellent background notes on these very early texts, see especially the detailed editorial “Notes”, Gustave Flaubert, Œuvres de jeunesse, édition présentée et annotée par Claudine Gothot-Mersch et Guy Sagnes, “Bibliothèque de la Pléiade”, Gallimard, Paris, 2001. For a discussion of Flaubert's childhood fascination with theatrical productions at the Saint-Romain fair, see René Dumesnil's “Introduction” (p. 8-10) in the same edition of Œuvres de jeunesse. Although I have found no concrete evidence for it, Flaubert's choice of the title Smar certainly suggests that he may have read Charles Nodier's fantastic tale, “Smarra ou les démons de la nuit” (1821 and 1832), in which Nodier defines a Smarra in the “Préface” to the 1821 edition as “le nom primitif du mauvais esprit auquel les anciens rapportaient le triste phénomène du cauchemar.”

15  Flaubert's early fascination with legends and theology, especially those relating to medieval treatments these phenomena, is entirely characteristic of French writers of the Romantic era, from Nodier, Balzac, and Hugo to Baudelaire and Flaubert. As Yvonne Bargues Rollins observes the grotesque, interpreted as the “alliance de la laideur, de la bizarrerie et du comique”, remained an enduring element of Flaubert's own literary aesthetic. It was already evident in his earliest works, notably in those mentioned here, and would persist through Bouvard et Pécuchet. See Yvonne Bargues Rollins, “Vertiges et vestiges de la danse macabre dans l'œuvre de Flaubert”, Nineteenth-Century French Studies, 16, 3-4, Spring/Summer, 1988, p. 329.

16  Flaubert, La Danse des morts, Œuvres de jeunesse, op. cit., p. 442-43 and 409-10, respectively.

17  Marshall C. Olds, Au pays des perroquets: Féerie théâtrale et narration chez Flaubert, Éditions Rodopi, Amsterdam et Atlanta, 2001, p. 50-51, 68-86.

18  In his note 1 (p. 147) to Gérard de Nerval's novel Aurélia, Jean-Nicolas Illouz observes that in the 15 September 1844 edition of the L'Artiste, Nerval published a review of a Diorama spectacle in which the image of the Deluge played a part. Indeed, at the end of chapter VIII of Aurélia (part one), Nerval's language is entirely suggestive of the “capharnaüm pandémoniaque” that Baudelaire so greatly admires in the fragments of Flaubert's La Tentation de saint Antoine, suggesting contemporary literary interest in this kind of popular theatre for both Nerval and Flaubert: “Á travers les vagues civilisations de l'Asie et de l'Afrique, on voyait se renouveler toujours une scène sanglante d'orgie et de carnage que les mêmes esprits reproduisaient sous des formes nouvelles”. See Gérard de Nerval, Aurélia in Aurélia, Les Nuits d’octobre, Pandora, Promenades et souvenirs, édition de Jean-Nicolas Illouz et Gérard Macé, “Folio classique” , Gallimard, Paris, 2005, p. 148. In his recent work, Michael Marrinan observes that “visitors to Louis Daguerre’s Diorama in Paris literally entered a spectacle in which controlled lighting, a large visual field of changing imagery, and the viewer’s physical placement inside the specially rigged auditorium combined to produce powerful physiological responses”, which engendered a sense of lived experience by immersion. Sweeping landscapes, natural phenomena, and biblical scenes were among the images that visitors enjoyed. See Michael Marrinan, Romantic Paris: Histories of a Cultural Landscape, 1800-1850, Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, 2009, p. 211-212. For detailed information on the Panorama and the Diorama, see especially Barbara Maria Stafford and Frances Terpak, Devices of Wonder: From the World in a Box to Images on a Screen, Getty Publications, Los Angeles, 2001, and Bernard Comment, Le XIXe siècle des Panoramas, Adam Biro, Paris, 1993.

19  Patrick Berthier, “Des Catacombes au Vésuve: le spectaculaire romantique commenté par la presse de la Monarchie de Juillet”,  Le Spectaculaire dans les arts de la scène: du Romantisme à la Belle Époque, sous la direction de Isabelle Moindrot, CNRS Éditions, Paris, 2006, p. 54-60.

20  Gustave Flaubert, Œuvres, tome 1, op. cit., p. 85

21 Ibid., p. 86.

22  Marshall C. Olds, Au pays des perroquets: Féerie théâtrale et narration chez Flaubert,op. cit., p. 87-99.

23  Ibid., p. 88.

24  In his discussion of Flaubert's féerie plays of 1861-1863, Olds notes that the novelist's conception of the féerie departed from that of his friend and collaborator, Louis Bouilhet. In particular, Flaubert wanted to create a new féerie that would be a “worthy” object of theatre, and that would not exclude from its intrigue the “materialism” and “science” of his time. See Marshall C. Olds, Au pays des perroquets: Féerie théâtrale et narration chez Flaubert,  p. 57.

25  Jacques Neefs, “La ‘haine des grands hommes’ au XIXe siècle”, MLN, 116, 2001, p. 752.

26  Kate Rees, “‘Une tortue avec des ailes’: Progressing in Flaubert's Bouvard et Pécuchet”, French Studies, LXIII, 3, 2009, p. 271-282.

27  It should be stated that Hugh Kenner, who reveals a modern and comic stoicism in Bouvard's and Pécuchet's cyclical engagement in and abandonment of grandiose projects, also interprets the comic dimensions of the text as a “burlesque of fiction”. But the burlesque, while it is a form of comedy that was contemporary to Flaubert, lays particular emphasis on the absurd, the ridiculous, and the “bouffon”, Flaubert's text does not really make light of texts, erudite and otherwise, in this novel. Rather, he satirizes facile and uncritical consumption of their arguments and truths. Additionally, it is perhaps an act of “couper le cheveu en quatre”, but the comedy of Bouvard et Pécuchet, while it often draws our attention to the absurd, it is more often deeply and darkly ironic. Furthermore, its complex presentation of the ideas and intellectual trends of Flaubert's era effectively draws our attention to the multitude of contemporary voices (erudite, commercial, and quotidian) that animated debate and received opinion during the mid-nineteenth century. As such, the link to vaudeville as “voix de ville” seems particularly appropriate. See Hugh Kenner, “Gustave Flaubert: Comedian of the Enlightenment” in Flaubert, Joyce and Beckett, Beacon Press, Boston, 1962, p. 1-29.

28  During Flaubert's time, vaudeville was associated principally with popular theatre involving songs, dances, and light comedy “fertile en intrigues et rebondissments” (Le Petit Robert dictionary) whose focus was on contemporary society. As the Dictionnaire de l'Académie française (1832-35) indicates, up until 1835: “Vaudeville, se dit plus ordinairement d'une pièce de théâtre où le dialogue est entremêlé de couplets faits sur des airs de vaudeville ou empruntés à des opéras comiques”, or more in a more figurative sense, “une pièce de théâtre ou d'une brochure qui a pour sujet un événement présent” (vol. 2, p. 912). But by the eighth edition of the Dictionnaire (published between 1932 and 1935), the meaning of vaudeville had changed to signify “une pièce destinée à amuser et qui est caractérisée par des procédés tels que la complication de l'intrigue et l'emploi du quiproquo” (vol. 2, p. 709). In all cases, by the nineteenth-century, the term “vaudeville” is assumed to originate from the expressions associated principally with contemporary theatre, notably the actual Théâtre Vaudeville, and the sounds of the city, or “voix de ville”. The latter association is of long date: “voix de ville” (attributed to Adrian Le Roy and Du Bellay during the sixteenth century, in Littré, vol. 1.3), “vaux de ville” (attributed to La Fresnaye and carrying slightly pejorative connotation) and finally, the earliest recording of the term in the dictionaries consulted, “vau de Vire” (referring to the valley of the Vire river in Normandy, attributed, also in Littré, to Olivier Basselin, a fifteenth-century poet and song writer).

29  Gustave Flaubert, Bouvard et Pécuchet, Œuvres, tome 2, texte établi et annoté par Albert Thibaudet et René Dumesnil, “Bibliothèque de la Pléiade”, Gallimard, Paris, 1952, p. 713.

30  Gustave Flaubert, Bouvard et Pécuchet, op. cit., p. 733.

31  Ibid., p. 739.

32  Ibid., p. 782-83.

33  Ibid., p. 786.

34  Ibid., p. 787.

35  And, here, the reader cannot help but notice that Bouvard and Pécuchet have readily assumed the title of geologist because they have read two works on the subject, they are interested in the subject, and there is a book written just for them. In a similar and laconic manner, at the beginning of chapter IV, the narrator will declare, without further comment: “Six mois plus tard, ils étaient devenus des archéologues”, p. 798.

36  Gustave Flaubert, Correspondance, tome 1, op. cit.

37  For a superb discussion of the paradox of such aspirations in the democratic society of nineteenth-century France, with particular reference to Flaubert's deep irony in Bouvard et Pécuchet, see Jacques Neefs, “La ‘haine des grands hommes’ au XIXe siècle”, op. cit., p. 750-69.

38  Gustave Flaubert, Bouvard et Pécuchet, op. cit., p. 759-760.

39  Jacques Neefs, “La ‘haine des grands hommes’ au XIXe siècle”, op. cit., p. 752.

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Suzanne Braswell, « Flaubert’s Dig: From Fragments to Modernity's Emerging Form », Flaubert [En ligne], 5 | 2011, mis en ligne le 12 juillet 2011, consulté le 21 juillet 2017. URL : http://flaubert.revues.org/1341

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Suzanne Braswell

University of Miami, Coral Gables

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