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The Beautiful and the Monstrous

Essays in French Literature, Thought and Culture


Amaleena Damlé and Aurélie L'Hostis

The composition of aesthetic beauty and its necessary correlation with the counterparts of ugliness and monstrosity have been the primary concerns of artists and philosophers through the ages. This collection of articles, selected from the proceedings of a conference on the theme of The Beautiful and the Monstrous that took place at Cambridge University in April 2008, seeks to reassess conceptualizations and representations of beauty and monstrosity and offers a timely critical evaluation of the relationship between the two. By means of a variety of theoretical approaches and methodologies, the authors provide rigorous analyses of philosophical and artistic expression from medieval to contemporary literature, thought and culture from France and across the French-speaking world. Throughout, they seek to challenge traditional approaches by addressing a diverse range of questions that relate to the beautiful and the monstrous: from formal, metaphysical and ethical considerations of aesthetics, to the threat of the monstrous in realms of psychoanalysis and politics; from figures of beauty and monstrosity as prescriptive social and identitarian categories, to transformations and metamorphoses which challenge the boundaries between human and monstrous other. Engaging with discourses on aesthetics, metaphysics, ethics, politics, psychoanalysis, feminism and postcolonialism, and discussing a spectrum of figures from angels to zombies, this collection offers a fresh range of perspectives on a fundamental transgeneric and transdisciplinary topic.
Contents: Amaleena Damlé: Introduction – Kristy Guneratne: Beauty and the Place of the Subject: Reading Merleau-Ponty after Kant – Dominique Chaigne: The Beauty of ‘Lame’ Sonnets – Fiona Gatty: Beauty and Monstrosity in Nineteenth-Century French Art Criticism 1801-1824 – Cécilia A. Falgas-Ravry: A Dance of Angels and Monsters: Victor Hugo’s Caducean Aesthetics – Catherine Markey: ‘Une œuvre barbare et délicate’: Hervé Guibert and the Limits of Representation – Anna Magdalena Elsner: Uncanny Balbec: Crypts, Nightmares and Phantoms in ‘Les intermittences du cœur’ – Nicolas Valazza: The Flower and the Monster: On Huysmans’ Painters – Klem James: Surrealism and the Sublime or the Vertiginous Plunging into the Real – Martin Llewellyn: Neither Beast nor Man: ‘Qu’est que c’est qu’un monstre’ ? – Miranda Griffin: The Beastly and the Courtly in Medieval Tales of Transformation: Bisclavret, Melion and Mélusine – Ruth G. Vorstman: Diane as Beauty: Three Seventeenth-Century Examples – Jennifer Yee: The Black Maid and her Mistress in Manet and Zola – Elizabeth Lindley: The Monstrous Female: Images of Abjection in Marie NDiaye’s Hilda – Andrew Asibong: Haitian Bride of Frankenstein: Disintegrating Beauty, Monstrousness and ‘Race’ in Jacques Stephen Alexis’s ‘Chronique d’un faux-amour’.