Aesthetics of Fraudulence in Nineteenth-Century France: Frauds, Hoaxes, and Counterfeits,
Farnham: Ashgate Publishing, 2009, 204 p.
Focusing particularly on the aesthetics of fraudulence in works by Mérimée, Balzac, Baudelaire, Vidocq, Sand, and others, Scott Carpenter analyzes manifestations of the false in nineteenth-century French literature. Placing literary representations within the context of cultural phenomena such as caricature, political history, and ceremonial events, Carpenter argues that the problem of fraudulence involves a blurring of limits between hitherto discrete categories, challenging Romantic notions of authenticity and sincerity.
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 Mérimée, 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.
- Contents: Introduction: caveat lector; Violent hoaxes: Mérimée 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.
- About the Author: 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).
- Reviews: ‘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 Mérimée, 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
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