Barrow, Jean Dorothea (1957)
Gustave Flaubert in quest of the absolute.
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The present study, in describing the various aspects of Flaubert's search for truth, seeks to illustrate the evolution and implications of Ms thought. With the exception of references in Chapter two to an unpublished MB, it is based on Flaubert's published work, and not on any new material. It is concerned with the familiar facts of his biography only in so far as they influence or explain in some measure his personal evolution end the development of his ideas. The first four chapters, in a detailed study of the Oeuvres de Jeunesse, with particular reference in Chapter Three to the first Education sentimentale, describe Flaubert's attempts, considerably influenced by Romantic doctrine and by Spinozist pantheism, to arrive at an understanding of his personal destiny and to discover some satisfactory philosophy of existence. The first of these problems was at least partially solved in the discovery of his artistic vocation and in the formulation of an aesthetic which was not only a literary doctrine, but a rule of life. The second continued to preoccupy him throughout life, and receives its fullest expression in the philosophical fantasy, la Tentatlon de Saint Antoine. This work is considered in its three successive versions in Chapter Five. Chapter Six a study of the characters of the three great novels and the Trois Contes, seeks to elucidate still further Flaubert's conception of man and society, whilst the two remaining chapters are concerned to show, with particular reference to the unfinished Bouvard et Pecuehet, that his final position represents the same uneasy combination of idealism and scepticism that was evident in the adolescent writings. For Flaubert's quest for the Absolute led him only to the Unknowable.
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Institution: University of London, Royal Holloway and Bedford New College (United Kingdom).