Flaubert's Language: Limits and Trancendence

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Nielsen, Emily
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University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee , Scholarship Sewanee 2011 , Undergraduate research , French literary analysis , Gustave Flaubert , Linguistic reliability , Irony
This presentation, the culmination of an independent study in French literary analysis, examines the presentation of language in the work of the 19th-century novelist Gustave Flaubert. It draws on his novel Madame Bovary (1856) and his short story Un Coeur Simple or A Simple Heart (1877), both of which create a theme of language. Language, as it is used both by the characters and the narrator, is often portrayed as limited, as conveying meaning only partially or not at all. This is seen, for example, in passages which consist of stereotyped expressions devoid of meaning, in speech which distorts reality in order to manipulate others, and in problems of interpretation. Similarly, the narrator’s use of techniques such as irony further calls into question the validity of linguistic reliability. However, this presentation argues that this bleak view is not the only portrayal of language found in Flaubert’s works; rather, the very emptiness of language can allow it to be filled with emotional reality, and thus to transcend the limits of expression. The presentation currently lasts for approximately 30 minutes.