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Title: Representing the body in the novels of Crébillon fils
Author: Griffiths, Susan Mary
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2004
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The thesis examines the representation of the body in the work of the eighteenth-century French libertine novelist Claude Prosper Jolyot de Crébillon, known as Crébillon fils. In addition to its close concern with a specific historical period and genre, it is located within the broader context of recent theoretical work on corporeal representation, an area that has been dubbed ‘body criticism’. Methodologically, close textual analysis converges with a study of the historically-situated scientific and philosophical discourses of medicine, rhetoric and the visual arts that Crébillon integrated into his novels. The study engages with and troubles the traditional (‘Wattian’) view of the evolution of the eighteenth-century novel as fundamentally concerned with the psychological emergence of the bourgeois subject. Despite the underlying sexual stakes of the libertine novel, many critics have assumed that physical description is a minor aspect of the genre, preferring instead to focus on an author’s creation of abstract ‘mental’ qualities. The thesis contends that bodily depiction is a significant site for the expression and diffusion of social and philosophical debates: a position that has characterised more recent historiography. While there is indeed little direct description of characters’ physical features in Crébillon’s works, an underlying preoccupation with corporeality can be discovered in his texts through an analysis of displaced instances of bodily representation such as those found in iconographical supplements, rhetorical figures of speech or references to medical and physiological theories. The three major areas investigated by the thesis are those of prose description and portraiture, sentiment and emotion, and visual or pictorial depiction. Within each of these areas, the intellectual and historical context surrounding representations of the body is surveyed, eludicating literary usage through a study of its sources in discourses conventionally judged ‘exterior’ to fiction. The thesis employs a revised methodology for the study of eighteenth-century prose fiction that is sensitive to the permeability of the boundaries between genres and permits an exploration of the interpenetration between fiction and non-fiction that structured early Enlightenment conceptions of identity. It advances an increasing awareness that Crébillon was not merely a frivolous pornographer, but a writer who reflected and even shaped the philosophical debates of his day.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available