Situer Stendhal biographe : Analyse textuelle, comparative et générique de quatre "vies" stendhaliennes

Guibal, Antoine, French - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Krueger, Cheryl, Department of French, University of Virginia

This dissertation analyzes the generic questions raised by Stendhal’s biographies. Just as critics have brought to light questions of literary genre suggested in Stendhal’s novels and have uncovered the main trends with which novelistic elements can be associated, this study aims at contextualizing The Life of Haydn (1814), The Life of Napoleon (1817-1818), The Life of Rossini (1823) and The Life of Henry Brulard (1835-1836) within the evolution of the biography genre throughout time, and more particularly at the beginning of the Romantic era in France. Through remarks about ‘lives,’ biographies and the genres that are related to them–panegyrics, funeral orations, notices, histories, etc.–this study deals with topics that go beyond the field of literature, such as history and historiography, philosophy, musical criticism and autobiography. It also addresses issues related to style, method, memory and commemoration, and the relationship between the author, the reader and posterity. Using a close reading analysis, this dissertation addresses questions pertaining to literary history and the evolution of genres that represent life writing. The thesis is divided in four chapters.
In Chapter I, “ Du journal à l’épitaphe, du je au il,” I go back to the source of Stendhal’s interest in life narratives to analyze the implications–both in terms of quantity and quality–of the transition from the first person (je) to the third person (il) in his journal and intimate writings. This transition also corresponds to a shift from autobiography to biography.
The second chapter, “Émotion et instabilité générique dans la Vie de Rossini,” takes the etymology of the word “émotion” as a starting point and establishes links between, on the one hand, the various forms that movement takes in this ‘life,’ and on the other hand, the generic blur that this work manifests.
The third chapter, “Le ‘style de l’Histoire’ dans les Vies de Napoléon, de Haydn et de Rossini,” uncovers the slightly archaic side of Stendhal’s ‘lives’ and pays close attention to their style and rhetoric, both influenced by hagiography and the Holy Scriptures at times. As such, this chapter questions the very modernity of Stendhal’s biographical project.
Finally, the fourth chapter, “ La Vie de Henry Brulard, ou le creuset des genres,” highlights the elements of the text and the paratext that discredit the idea that this ‘life’ belongs to a single, definite genre. It exposes the various influences of Stendhal’s main autobiography, which is all at once memoirs, confessions, drama, a novel, a chronicle or a fresco.
By offering to give these ‘lives’ their due and to situate them within the history of biography–a genre in which Stendhal’s contribution is still perceived as minor–this dissertation shows the importance of these works as key components of a thriving but problematic literary genre in the 19th century. Furthermore, it demonstrates that Stendhal’s approach to biography remains as significant to literary studies as his innovative approaches to the novel or theater.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Stendhal, biography, biographie, biographer, biographe, autobiography, autobiographie, Romantic biography, biographie romantique, Haydn, Rossini, Napoleon, Henry Brulard

Dissertation defended on April 24, 2017

Issued Date: