Family-friendly : homo-affinity in the French sentimental novel, 1770-1850
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This dissertation investigates the central significance of desire for the self defined as different-than-the-self––of an affect I articulate as homo-affinity––within the domains of Romanticism, Romantic love, and the French Sentimental novel. As expressed in my Introduction, this project is predicated on an analysis of the erotics of sameness, the literary trace of outlaw desire, and the exploration of a queer archive of feelings in the French Sentimental novel. Chapter One pertains to François-René de Chateaubriand’s Atala/René (1801), in which I outline the Romantic topos that serves as a forerunner to the ideal of homo-affinity in the French Sentimental novel. In keeping with Chateaubriand’s autobiographical mode of fiction, the enchanteur’s reliance on reflexive metaphors yields a chiasmatic mirror through which his protagonists might envision another version of themselves and that, as such, conditions the experience of an expansive desire that encompasses passions toward incest, homosexuality, and narcissism––if not a newfound libertinage. In Chapter Two, I examine archival documents that obtain to the manuscripts of Claire de Duras’s Olivier, ou le secret (1821-1824) in order to expose the author’s careful treatment of the closet, which revolves around her creation of a linguistic polari that could furtively portray the eponymous secret and its relevance among writers and intellectuals of Restoration France. Finally––in Chapter Three––I go on to posit that Stendhal, in Armance (1828), deliberately reinscribes and multiplies the erotically charged bonds that figure between knights in pre-Revolutionary novels and chivalric lore, so as to forge a trope for the expression of homosexuality––and even that of a homosexual subject––within his satire of Romanticism. Throughout these chapters, I illustrate how the interconnectivity of these topoi (such as the chiasmatic mirror, parlor polari, and Romantic chevalerie) constitutes a coherent expression of homo-affinity that spans the formation of the French Sentimental novel. In the end, I conclude that the prevalence of a (now queer) attraction toward sameness in Sentimentalism and Romanticism intertextually colored a handful of subsequent literary movements and, ultimately, determined the emergence of homo-affinitive (and equally non-heterosexual) narratives across the evolution of the French novel in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.