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15 - Private Pain and the Public Temper: The Personal Novel and Beyond

from Part III - After the Revolution: The Novel in the Long Nineteenth Century

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 February 2021

Adam Watt
University of Exeter
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The chapter describes the emergence of the personal novel in the first decade of the nineteenth century and its subsequent evolution thirty years later in parallel with the rise of the historical novel in France. These developments were shaped by changes in book production and readership after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, leading in the 1830s to the increasing professionalization of writing. While maintaining a narrative focus on the experience of insoluble personal conflicts, the personal novel is as much concerned with the transformations and conflicts of post-Revolutionary life as with an altered private domain. Though eclipsed by the realist novel in the middle part of the century, it exerted a prolonged influence, formal as well as thematic, on fiction in Europe and beyond for 100 years or more. The kinds of motivations to which the protagonists of the personal novel appeal, because these imply a break with received belief systems, tend to be sources of scandal. The fictions themselves border on scandal in representing the reasons for these outcomes and also show how challenging it is for those who witness such actions to evaluate or respond to them. The forms through which fiction performs this role would prove to be adaptable to the representation of quite different subsequent social changes. Thus, from the 1830s the novel displays increasing ideological militancy, notably in the work of Sand.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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Further Reading

Bales, Richard, Persuasion in the French Personal Novel: Studies of Chateaubriand, Constant, Balzac, Nerval and Fromentin (Birmingham, AL: Summa, 1997)Google Scholar
Brombert, Victor, Victor Hugo and the Visionary Novel (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984)Google Scholar
Cohen, Margaret, The Sentimental Education of the Novel (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cohen, Walter, A History of European Literature: The West and the World from Antiquity to the Present (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017)Google Scholar
Coleman, Patrick, Reparative Realism: Mourning and Modernity in the French Novel, 1730–1830 (Geneva: Droz, 1998)Google Scholar
Dufief-Sanchez, Véronique, Philosophie du roman personnel de Chateaubriand à Fromentin (Geneva: Droz, 2010)Google Scholar
Hamnett, Brian, The Historical Novel in Nineteenth-Century Europe: Representations of Reality in History and Fiction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011)Google Scholar
Merlant, Joachim, Le Roman personnel de Rousseau à Fromentin, 2nd edn (Geneva: Slatkine, 1970)Google Scholar
Moretti, Franco, The Way of the World: The ‘Bildungsromanin European Culture, trans. by Sbragia, Albert, 2nd edn (London and New York: Verso, 2000)Google Scholar
Moretti, Franco (ed.), The Novel, Volume ii: Forms and Themes (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006)Google Scholar
Pearson, Roger, Unacknowledged Legislators: The Poet as Lawgiver in Post-Revolutionary France: Chateaubriand – Staël – Lamartine – Hugo – Vigny (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Segal, Naomi, Narcissus and Echo: Women in the French ‘récit (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1988)Google Scholar
Starobinski, Jean, Action et réaction: vie et aventures d’un couple (Paris: Seuil, 1999)Google Scholar
Thorel-Cailleteau, Sylvie, Splendeurs de la médiocrité: une idée du roman (Geneva: Droz, 2008)Google Scholar

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