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March 2012 Feminist Fiction book club Madame Bovary

(46 Posts)
StewieGriffinsMom Thu 09-Feb-12 13:48:38

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AIBUqatada Thu 15-Mar-12 11:45:04

Yes, that sounds right -- that he did like Emma. I think I was caricaturing Flaubert a bit.

We are often hardest on the people we identify with most (I think part of Tolstoy's vileness to poor Anna Karenin originates in his horror of his own sexual needs), and perhaps part of the reason Flaubert was hard on Emma was because he felt a little closer to her than to his other characters (even if the c'est moi thing is a bit of a fiction)

And even by focussing on how awful she was (and she is awful isn't she?), he is perhaps indicating the awfulness of her circumstances, the circumstances that shaped her to be what she was. The sad unparented plight of little Berthe does suggest a story in his mind of how Emma might have been let down from the very beginning, and never stood a chance.

I don't know, though. I find it so very hard to parse any part of the novel, because I read it so shaped by English novels of nineteenth-century womanhood, which map so poorly onto the French scene, particularly in respect of sex I think. And her class position is hard to parse, too -- lower than an Austen gentrywoman, higher than Hardy's women. I feel disorientated. Much more disoriented than I do when reading, say, a Russian 19-c novel, because things are MORE different there, so I don't feel the need to "translate" features to their English equivalents.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Wed 14-Mar-12 22:21:36

Berthe ends the novel with holes in her stockings and a worrying cough, I'm afraid.

I wrote about this book for my MA and it's all coming back to me now.

My perspective would be that no, Flaubert didn't much like any of his characters (or anyone he knew, really ) but I actually think if he liked anyone it was Emma. Yes she's an idiot, but I think we feel for her as being so much better than her surroundings ever allow.

She's badly educated, half arsedly brought up and married to a well meaning idiot, desperate to feel Big Passionate Love but never meets anyone who can give her that. But she has innate taste and delicacy of feeling, whilst being fatally condemned by her essentially weak nature.

'Madame Bovary, c'est moi' was an exasperated response to people asking F which real woman he'd based her on, iirc. Meaning, she comes from nowhere but my own imagination and there isn't a real one somewhere whom I have libelled!

Fuck all happens to the DD IIRC

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 14-Mar-12 22:12:00

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ElephantsAndMiasmas Wed 14-Mar-12 22:07:12

Ha Unnamed grin Yes please do.

It's Readers' Nude Wives, basically.

She's insatiable, and the dry people around her can only stare in wonder and horror. And that includes the author.

Can we have more fun by imagining alternative endings for her? What would she have enjoyed do you think?

I'd like it if a beautiful Argentinian man had come through town and swept her away to help run his tango academy. She'd have liked that.

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 14-Mar-12 22:07:05

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StewieGriffinsMom Wed 14-Mar-12 22:01:40

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I love (and agree with) your post Elephants. Shall I make that the focus of my essay? grin

SweetTheSting Wed 14-Mar-12 21:57:00

I am really surprised it could be anyone's favourite book. DO you know why he liked it?

ElephantsAndMiasmas Wed 14-Mar-12 21:56:51

I remember some old perv of a writer on that series on the novel a couple of years ago repeating the story that Flaubert had an erection the entire time he was writing Madame Bovary. Whether that's true or not it certainly chimed with the sort of ghastly pleasure the novel seems to take in examining Emma's sexual behaviour with a catsbumface while secretly stroking its thighs at the very idea. Like a prim neighbour getting various thrills from a woman "no better than she should be" Flaubert finds Emma disgusting in her physicality and wholehearted lust for life and sex and affection, while simultaneously finding it a turn on.

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 14-Mar-12 21:51:33

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ElephantsAndMiasmas Wed 14-Mar-12 21:50:39

Oooh how exciting - I was recommended this by my former housemate as it was his favourite book. I found it faintly nauseating.

SweetTheSting Wed 14-Mar-12 21:44:41

Emma was really 'romantic' about life in the convent too, wasn't she? And then got bored there, I think, as it was too much of a good thing almost.

These are some questions to consider froma 'body' perspective:

Part One: Chapter 2
• What do you make of the physical descriptions of Emma and Heloise? How are the women’s bodies characterised?
Part Two: Chapter 2
• How is Emma’s pregnancy described?
Part Two: Chapter 4
• What is the significance of clothing in the novel?
Part Two: Chapter 5
• How is female desire portrayed in the text?

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 14-Mar-12 21:38:28

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I'm not sure. I wonder if my tutor is here? I have emailed her. I will just see if the lecture slides are up.

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 14-Mar-12 21:25:57

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I've just checked my kindle and I have made 92 notes: none of which are jumping out at me right now.

SweetTheSting Wed 14-Mar-12 21:17:24

Yes, I think Charles is very shallow - he fell for Emma because she was young and curvy and subservient (compared to the thin, long-toothed widow who he'd hoped would let him use her money and leave him alone). I don't think he had any interest in either of them as people!

highlandcoo Wed 14-Mar-12 21:15:33

Didn't Flaubert famously say : "Madame Bovary, c'est moi" ?

This would suggest, not necessarily that Emma Bovary was an admirable character, but that he did identify with her closely for whatever reason.

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 14-Mar-12 21:14:51

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StewieGriffinsMom Wed 14-Mar-12 21:11:41

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SweetTheSting Wed 14-Mar-12 21:06:04

PS I am supposed to be finishing a work letter so will flick in and out!

SweetTheSting Wed 14-Mar-12 21:05:12

Interesting posts, AIBU and Catita!

From what I've read so far, Flaubert does seem very contemptuous of all his characters - Charles's father and mother get a fair amount of vitriol too - Flauibert said about them that (approx quote) "his wife had adored him once but bored him with a thousand servilities that estranged him" - charming!

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 14-Mar-12 21:00:57

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