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Guilt and Shame

Essays in French Literature, Thought and Visual Culture

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Jenny Chamarette and Jenny Higgins

As theoretical positions and as affective experiences, the twin currents of contrition – guilt and shame – permeate literary discourse and figure prominently in discussions of ethics, history, sexuality and social hierarchy. This collection of essays, on French and francophone prose, poetry, drama, visual art, cinema and thought, assesses guilt and shame in relation to structures of social morality, language and self-expression, the thinking of trauma, and the ethics of forgiveness. The authors approach their subjects via close readings and comparative study, drawing on such thinkers as Adorno, Derrida, Jankélévitch and Irigaray. Through these they consider works ranging from the medieval Roman de la rose through to Gustave Moreau’s Symbolist painting, Giacometti’s sculpture, the films of Marina de Van and recent sub-Saharan African writing. The collection provides an état-présent of thinking on guilt and shame in French Studies, and is the first to assemble work on this topic ranging from the thirteenth to the twenty-first century. The book contains nine contributions in English and four in French.

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Emilia Wilton-Godberfforde Guilt’s Reconfiguration of Time and Relational Ties in Seventeenth-Century French Theatre: A Study of Molière’s Dom Juan, Rotrou’s Cosroès, Tristan L’Hermite’s La Mariane and Racine’s Phèdre 71

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Emilia Wilton-Godberfforde Guilt’s Reconfiguration of Time and Relational Ties in Seventeenth-Century French Theatre: A Study of Molière’s Dom Juan, Rotrou’s Cosroès, Tristan L’Hermite’s La Mariane and Racine’s Phèdre The critic Madeleine Bertaud rightly declares that ‘[l]a présence du senti- ment de culpabilité apparaît bien comme une constante dans la tragédie classique’.1 She therefore objects to Racine’s Phèdre being used as an arche- typal model of guilt operating in the tragic sphere, asking ‘[p]ourquoi cependant prendre Phèdre comme la tragédie par excellence?’2 It is certainly true that the tortuous self-recrimination which haunts the protagonist has been extensively examined by critics, deflecting attention from other works which engage with the issue.3 In this article, the example of Phèdre will not be ignored, but I also aim to show other striking instances of guilt felt by characters in the tragic genre. I will reveal how the presence of guilt operates as a structuring dynamic which playwrights can exploit for dramatic effect. My approach will investigate how the expression of guilt is used as a device to construct temporal and relational frameworks within the plays. The feeling of guilt maps characters’ ways of conceiving the past, the present and the future, and their position within this continuum. Expressing guilt does not create 1 Madeleine Bertaud, ‘Ah! Je suis l’auteur de ce meurtre inhumain …’, Travaux de Littérature 8 (1995), 102. 2 Travaux de Littérature 8, 102. 3 For a...

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