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The Private Eye: The Depiction, of Introspection in Selected Works by Gustave Flaubert and Theodor Fontane

Peck, Thomas; (1996) The Private Eye: The Depiction, of Introspection in Selected Works by Gustave Flaubert and Theodor Fontane. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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The introduction sets out the thematic concerns which I wish to explore in Fontane's and Flaubert's fiction. It also incorporates a review of previous comparative literature which has focused on these two authors. Part I contains five sections, one from each of the novels I wish to discuss (Schach von Wuthenow, Madame Bovary, Irrungen, Wirrungen, L'education sentimentale and Effi Briest). Each section depicts moments of crisis and intense inwardness on the part of the characters which are analysed according to the criteria outlined in the introduction. The basic issue in each case is the same; what is the status and nature of these seemingly private moments? Part II develops the issues raised in the close readings: i. The nature of the characters' perception both of 'outer' and 'inner' worlds (the environment and the self) is investigated, especially in those moments when characters undergo personal crises. Whereas Fontane's characters' introspection is marked by an initial critical insight into social prejudices followed by a fading of such clarity of insight and a reassertion of the values of the status quo, the reaction of Flaubert's characters to crises is a striking absence of interior debate. By investigating the expectations of the characters, which are revealed in this depiction of 'inwardness' throughout the novels, I suggest that all the characters indulge in self-manipulation of one kind or another, a process to which I apply (in modified form) Gaultier's term bovarysme: the ability to conceive of the self other than as it truly is. ii. Such expectations have a profound effect on the characters' experiences throughout the novels. Their aspiring to experience emotional validation through 'bedrock feeling', a perceived touchstone for the self-understanding of the individual, can be viewed as a hope for authenticity. However, the characters' experiences and states of being do not validate such expectation, and the novels reveal that, in Fontane's case, the resultant inauthentic nature of experience is governed by internalised social values (the 'private' persona is revealed to be dominated by a 'public' discourse) whereas in Flaubert's case, it is governed by internalised sentimental/Romantic values. This goes to the heart of the question of why the protagonists in the major novels of Fontane and Flaubert express a deeply-rooted dissatisfaction with the experiences of their lives. Finally, the Concluding Comments briefly outline how the themes of this thesis are pertinent to an assessment of each of these authors in the broader context of European Literature of the nineteenth century.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: The Private Eye: The Depiction, of Introspection in Selected Works by Gustave Flaubert and Theodor Fontane
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10100583
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