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Madame Bovary - Representations of the Masculine


Mary Orr

Through close readings of the male characters of Madame Bovary this book opens up the sociological and legal contexts of Flaubert's famous novel and its heroine in new ways. Current gender and masculinities theory is combined with attention to the 19th-century French codification of sex as defined by the Code Napoléon to frame central questions about male privilege, male roles, «successful» manhood, masculinity, and male identity formation. Throughout, the traditional and problematic literary notion of character itself is rethought within the wider generic context of how the masculine is represented in the Realist Novel. Not only does this study then offer a new approach to a well-known novel in its French context, but it also opens up a method whereby the canonical 19th-century European novelists can be reevaluated through their various treatments of the masculine. The tragedy of suppressed and unexpressed individuality so central to both Emma and Charles Bovary as defined in this study then has much to say to the «crisis in masculinity» as experienced in the late 20th-century.
Contents: This study contextualises the novel's Fathers against the very male cameo worlds of La Vaubyessard and Les Comices so that the novel's Sons can then be compared and contrasted to the role models set before them. As the male characters negotiate shifting values of the masculine, one generation in Madame Bovary plots the status of the other. Explicit judgement and implicit criticisms of male failures emerge across the board, not least in the final part of the analysis. Here, the social conditioning of the three women who share the name 'Madame Bovary' conveys much about expectations of men in their respective generations.