This study examines the ways in which Stendhal's treatment of maternal figures is both revolutionary and prophetic. It contends that Stendhal was the first French writer to give mothers the opportunity to be both maternal and sexual beings simultaneously, breaking the traditional mould of the Madonna/whore dichotomy. Approaching the question of maternal identity from a perspective of feminist psychoanalytic criticism, based on the theories of Nancy Chodorow and Julia Kristeva, among others, the study begins with an overview of maternal figures in French literature form Rabelais to Rousseau, stressing the traditional Western image of the Madonna and its corresponding psychoanalytic paradigms. It then examines maternal figures from the Stendhalian novel, including Armance, Mme. De Renal, and Clelia Conti, concluding with a detailed analysis of Stendhal's portrayal of mothers that marks him as a revolutionary figure in feminist literary history.
Publisher: The Edwin Mellen Press Ltd