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Stendhal’s Parallel Lives

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Francesco Manzini

This book deals with the important and hitherto neglected relationship between the works of Stendhal and Plutarch’s Parallel Lives. Stendhal’s readings of Plutarch are shown to inform his literary representations of Revolution and Empire, Restoration and Orleanism, as well as his theorizations of Romanticism. In particular, the Plutarchan concept of Parallel Lives is used to analyse one of the major themes of Stendhal’s writing: the self-construction of individual identity, whether (auto)biographical or fictional, by means of the emulation (as distinct from the imitation) of heroic exemplars. As a consequence, the balance between irony and idealism often identified by critics in Stendhal’s work is shown rather to be an imbalance, weighted in favour of an idealism derived from Plutarchan conceptions of heroism, particularly as they are represented in the Lives of Julius Caesar and Marcus Brutus.
Contents: The works of Stendhal (1829-42) – Plutarch’s Nachleben in Western Europe – Romantic theorizations of influence – Neo-Plutarchan readings of the French Revolution and Empire – The function of emulation and imitation in the works of Stendhal – Marcus Brutus, Julius Caesar, Epaminondas and the Stendhalian hero – Anecdote, biography, autobiography and the Stendhalian novel – France and Italy in the works of Stendhal – Politics, history and cultural memory in the works of Stendhal – Biographical Sketches: Promenades dans Rome, Vie de Henry Brulard, Souvenirs d’égotisme, Mémoires sur Napoléon, Historiettes romaines, Voyages en France – Imaginary Biographies: Armance, Le Rouge et le Noir, Lucien Leuwen, La Chartreuse de Parme, Lamiel.