In his engagingly written and original book, Scott Carpenter analyzes multiple manifestations of the false in nineteenth-century France. Under Carpenter's thorough and systematic analysis, fraudulence emerges as a cultural preoccupation in nineteenth-century literature and society, whether it be in the form of literary mystifications, the thematic portrayal of frauds, or the privileging of falseness as an aesthetic principle. Focusing particularly on the aesthetics of fraudulence in works by MĂ©rimĂ©e, Balzac, Baudelaire, Vidocq, Sand, and others, Carpenter places these literary representations within the context of other cultural phenomena, such as caricature, political history, and ceremonial events. As he highlights the special relationship between literary fiction and fraudulence, Carpenter argues that falseness arises as an aesthetic preoccupation in post-revolutionary France, where it introduces a blurring of limits between hitherto discrete categories. This transgression of boundaries challenges notions of authenticity and sincerity, categories that Romantic aesthetics championed at the beginning of the nineteenth century in France. Carpenter's study makes an important contribution to the cultural significance of mystification in nineteenth-century France and furthers our understanding of French literature and cultural history.
Table of Contents
Contents: Introduction: caveat lector; Violent hoaxes: MĂ©rimĂ©e and the booby-trapped text; Political prostheses and imperial imposters; The ghosts of kings; Balzac's skillful disguise; Vidocq and the image of the counterfeit; False genders: Sand's Gabriel; Baudelaire and the originality of the copy; National effigies and counterfeits: Baudelaire's Pauvre Belgique!; Conclusions: futures of the false; Bibliography; Index.
Scott Carpenter is a Professor of French at Carleton College (Minnesota). His other works include Acts of Fiction: Resistance and Resolution from Sade to Baudelaire (1996) and Reading Lessons: An Introduction to Theory (2000).
'Scott Carpenter takes his readers for a ride: under the guise of a lively and witty excursion through nineteenth-century literary frauds and hoaxes, he provides rich and subtle readings of political caricatures and texts by MĂ©rimĂ©e, Balzac, Sand, Vidocq, and Baudelaire (his analyses of Baudelaire's prose poems are especially penetrating). Along the way, he explores issues in the nature and aesthetics of mystification that are at the heart of the literary enterprise itself.' Carol Rifelj, Middlebury College, USA âScott Carpenter est un lecteur trĂšs fin: il perĂÂ§oit les nuances du texte, propose des rapprochements Ă©clairants entre les diffĂ©rents ouvrages de MĂ©rimĂ©e ainsi qu'entre ces ouvrages et la culture et l'histoire contemporaines. Non seulement il propose des interprĂ©tations originales et convaincantes de textes bien connus, mais s'attaque aussi ĂÂ un problĂšme que nous ont rendu familier les rĂ©vĂ©lations d'innombrables impostures, tricheries et fraudes scandaleuses ou canulars comiques qui viennent de jalonner la derniĂšre dĂ©cennie.â Cahiers MĂ©rimĂ©e â... a wealth of scholarship on a theme that would become, of course, even more relevant in the last decade of the century, which culminated in the momentous shams of the Dreyfus Affair.â French Studies '... Carpenter draw outs some striking resemblances between the two emperors, and he provides a brilliant technical analysis of the workâs literariness, thereby establishing its status as a fake... The other chapters of the book are also highly successful, demonstrating the analytic power of Carpenterâs thesis and method of reading. By focusing on fraudulence as his analytic prism, Carpenter has accomplished two things: he has produced new insights about well-known texts while opening the canon to a range of lesser-known fraudsÂ. His point is not the banal one that we should expand the notion of textÂ or literatureÂ to recuperate excludedÂ texts for the sake of recuperat