Colwell, David John (1984)
Flaubert's view of language and its implications for the meaning of the novels.
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The aim of this thesis is to further the inquiry into Flaubert's insights into language and their implications for the meaning of novels. In the perspective of assumptions underlying the eighteenth-and early nineteenth-century views of language, the novelist's own attitudes towards language are examined. Discussion of his early autobiographical works focuses ' particularly on the problem of inarticulacy and how it is ultimately objectified into a literary theme in the mature works. The thesis then considers the attractions and dangers which Flaubert recognises in accepting language as a means of ordering what is external to us. The problems inherent in the idealistic search to match experience and words derive in Flaubert's view from the inorganic nature of words themselves and from the idealist's unawareness of the distance between verbal reality and the world he inhabits. By contrast, the bourgeois response is to use language as a self-generating, stereotyped system. A discussion of the complex problem of Flaubert's use of speech in the novel shows the author to be subverting not only the conventions of literary speech, but also the possibility of communication between characters. The discussion of Bouvard et Pecuchet, in the perspective of Flaubert's mistrust of the significance of words, seeks to highlight his belief in the absurdity, of epistemological conceptualisation, in the last chapter, the subject of silence in the novels is considered: employed in an original way by Flaubert, it serves to illustrate the emptiness of human experience.
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Institution: University of London, Royal Holloway College (United Kingdom).