Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2011

Document Type

Thesis

Department

French

First Advisor

Maxime Goergen

Abstract

Nineteenth century literature in France encapsulates many of the changes that accompanied the birth of this new era. The post-revolutionary society brought about a new conception of literature, which was particularly interested in its status within society and the relationship between author and reader. Alfred de Vigny is a poet from the early nineteenth century that devoted much of his work to examining the identity of a poet within society, and to illuminating for his readers the value in such work. The corpus of this thesis thus considers how poetical identity is defined through Vigny in the first half of the nineteenth century in France. Vigny’s conception of the poet is someone who is marginalized socially, economically, and most importantly – linguistically. The poet understands the world differently, in a highly emotive and profound manner. His creative nature separates him from a society of bourgeois, placing him on the outside of the social world. Similarly, his economic goals and habits seem to contradict the norm – he works through divine inspiration and therefore is not solely interested in monetary gain or productivity. He uses literature to create a counter-economy against a society whose goals are strictly productive; he establishes literature as an antagonistic force to this economy. Vigny is especially interested in the idea of a linguistic market (a concept that was drastically new to nineteenth century France).. Vigny finds himself in the midst of a period where the tension of these two viewpoints is beginning to appear. His art therefore is an act of opposition against the reign of economy. Much of his poetry is an attempt to verbalize this tension and to rally support for his conception of language. The corpus of the thesis is divided into three parts following three different forms of Vigny’s work: theater, poetry, and personal journals. In doing so, I examine how these various forms address questions in different manners.

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