Text, Image, and the Problem with Perfection in Nineteenth-Century France : Utopia and Its Afterlives book cover
1st Edition

Text, Image, and the Problem with Perfection in Nineteenth-Century France
Utopia and Its Afterlives

ISBN 9781138379817
Published September 10, 2018 by Routledge
228 Pages

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Book Description

In the decades after the French Revolution, philosophers, artists, and social scientists set out to chart and build a way to a new world and their speculative blueprints circulated like banknotes in a parallel economy of ideas. Examining representations of ideal societies in nineteenth-century French culture, Daniel Sipe argues that the dream-image of the literary or art-historical utopia does not disappear but rather is profoundly altered by its proximity to the social utopianism of the day. Sipe focuses on this persistent afterlife in utopias ranging from François-René de Chateaubriand’s Amerindian utopia in Atala (1801) to the utopian spoof of J.J. Grandville’s illustrated novel Un autre monde (1844). He proposes a new reading of Etienne Cabet’s seminal utopian novel, Voyage en Icarie (1840) and offers an original perspective on the gendered utopias of technological inspiration that authors such as Charles Barbara and Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam penned in the second half of the century. In addition, Sipe considers utopias or important readings of the century’s rampant utopianism in, among others, Victor Hugo, Alfred de Vigny, Théophile Gautier, Charles Baudelaire, and Gustave Courbet. His book provides the historical context for comprehending the significance and implications of this enigmatic afterlife in nineteenth-century utopian art and literature.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Utopian displacement, irony, and the Romantic imagination; from Chateaubriand’s Atala (1801) to Hugo’s ’Fonction du poëte’ (1840) ; Testing the limits of utopian narrative in Cabet’s Voyage en Icarie (1840); Suspending the referent, upending the world in J.J. Grandville’s Un autre monde (1844); The aesthetics of work and madness in Courbet and Baudelaire; Gendered utopias and female automata; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.

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Daniel Sipe is Associate Professor of French at the University of Missouri, USA.


'... articulate, engaging and wide-ranging study ... Very readably integrating phases of close reading with robust theoretical appetite, it is particularly successful in engineering a dialogue between elements of a contemporary, largely Anglo-American, ’utopian studies’ perspective and its primary French-language corpus, balanching historical sensitivity with analytical energy in the process.' Michael G. Kelly, Modern and Contemporary France '[Sipe’s book] makes an original and highly important contribution to the study of utopian thought in modern French culture.' Greg Kerr, Modern Language Review