As he demonstrates that narratives of seduction function as a master plot for French literature in the eighteenth century, Paul Young argues that the prevalence of this trope was a reaction to a dominant cultural discourse that coded the novel and the new practice of solitary reading as dangerous, seductive practices. Situating his study in the context of paintings, educational manuals, and criticism that caution against the act of reading, Young considers both canonical and lesser-known works by authors that include Rousseau, Sade, Bastide, Laclos, Crébillon fils, and the writers of two widely read libertine novels. How these authors responded to a cultural climate that viewed literature, and especially the novel, as seductive, sheds light on the perils and pleasures of authorship, the ways in which texts interact with the larger cultural discourse, and what eighteenth-century texts tell us about the dangers of reading or writing. Ultimately, Young argues, the seduction not in the text, but by the text raises questions about the nature of pleasure in eighteenth-century French literature and culture.
Table of Contents
Contents: Introduction; Reading, writing, and seduction; Moving beyond pleasure: writing (in) the libertine novel; Looking inside: the ambiguous interiors of La Petite Maison; Seducing the reader? Perversion and disruption in La Nouvelle HéloÃ¯se; When excess isn't enough: secrets and silences in the Sadean text; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.
'This well-written and nuanced book connects aptly the erotic novels of the eighteenth century with the rest of the more well-known novelistic corpus. The author provides the tools to read these novels in the context of a homogeneous repressive culture and of institutions that organized to stifle them. More specifically, Young manages to show how writing for these authors emerges as a place of affirmation and pleasure, and imagination. He gives us a lot to chew on and opens up the corpus of erotic texts to cultural questions beyond just textual interpretation. We can be grateful for that.' Eighteenth-Century Fiction ’... offers subtle and illuminating readings of some of its canonical and less well-known primary sources.’ Journal of Eighteenth-Century Studies