Taming the Gypsy: How French Romantics Recaptured a Past
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CitationCarter, Elizabeth Lee. 2014. Taming the Gypsy: How French Romantics Recaptured a Past. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
AbstractIn this dissertation, I examine the evolution of the Gypsy trope in Romantic French literature at a time when nostalgia became a powerful aesthetic and political tool used by varying sides of an ideological war. Long considered a transient outsider who did not view time or privilege the past in the same way Europeans did, the Gypsy, I argue, became a useful way for France's writers to contain and tame the transience they felt interrupted nostalgia's attempt to recapture a lost past.
My work specifically looks at the development of this trope within a thirty-year period that begins in 1823, just before Charles X became France's last Bourbon king, and ends just after Louis-Napoleon declared himself Emperor of France in 1852. Beginning with Quentin Durward (1823), Walter Scott's first historical novel about France, and the French novel that looked to it for inspiration, Victor Hugo's Notre-Dame de Paris (1831), I show how the Gypsy became a character that communicated a fear that France was recklessly forgetting and destroying the monuments and narratives that had long preserved its pre-revolutionary past. While these novels became models in how nostalgia could be deployed to seduce France back into a relationship with a particular past, I also look at how the Gypsy trope is transformed some fifteen years later when nostalgia for Napoleon nearly leads France into two international conflicts and eventually traps the French into what George Sand called a dangerous "bail avec le passé." In new readings of Prosper Mérimée's Carmen (1845) and George Sand's La Filleule (1853), I argue that both authors personify the dangers of recapturing the past, albeit in two very different ways. While Mérimée makes nostalgia and the Gypsy accomplices, George Sand gives France an admirable Gypsy heroine, a young woman who offers readers a way out of nostalgia's viscous circle. I conclude by arguing that nostalgia and this Romantic trope found their way back into France at the dawn of a new millennium, and the Gypsy has once again been typecast in art and politics as deviant for refusing to dwell in or on the past.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:13064929
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