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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Emma être les lignes : réceptions, lecteurs et lectrices de Madame Bovary de Flaubert Marpeau, Anne-Claire


This work carries on reading Madame Bovary by Flaubert. Although reading the novel threatened to be prohibited when it was first published in 1857, it progressively became mandatory in French studies in French high schools and at French universities and Anglo- American universities. The thesis explores the « classicisation » process of the novel as well as the reception of its principal character by three interpretive communities: journalists and critics who were Flaubert’s contemporaries, French and Anglo-American academics between the sixties and eighties, and high school French students in 2016. The work thus examines the making of dominant interpretations and the dynamics of identifications at play in relation with the aesthetics of the author. Readers discourses are indeed shaped by self-legitimation purposes and by the universal « differential valency of genders » that Françoise Héritier conceptualized. Masculine reading is thought to be the template of « good » readings of the novel, while all readers’ demeanours perceived as « feminine » are invalidated. This situation results in a specific framing of pedagogical expectations, expectations of which the thesis intents to decipher the assumptions and effects on French high-school readers. To do so, the researcher used a variety of methodologies. She analyzed articles published in newspapers when the book was first published as well as the judiciary speeches and texts written during the trial of Madame Bovary. She also analyzed academic papers and structuralist, post-structuralist, reader-response and feminist theories. She used literary close reading to understand the aesthetics of Flaubert and confront his writing to the reactions of his readers. Finally, she gathered and analyzed empirical data through a survey, reading diaries and interviews with a class of French high school students. This thesis therefore belongs to the field of cultural studies, in the sense that it uses various academic approaches to understand a cultural object and its effects on its readers and because it tries to shift the epistemological viewpoint from which a classic such as Madame Bovary as been examined in Western culture.

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