CHARLES NODIER AND DEVIANT ROMANTICISM

CLARE THERESE BRANDON, Fordham University

Abstract

The author undertakes the present study of Charles Nodier in an effort to deepen an interest in and an appreciation of a nineteenth-century writer, whose contributions to literature are too often lightly dismissed. At the same time, she pursues an investigation of an aspect of his work that is as little valued as the man himself. Because Nodier's career is rarely described, she opens with a survey of his life as it influenced his literary creativity. She then proceeds to an examination of the sociological conditions that spawned a new literary movement--Romanticism--and concentrates at some length on Nodier's personal contribution to its development.^ The burden of the study, however, centers around the years from 1819 to 1822, when the vampire lore that he had imbided during his time in Illyria infiltrated itself into his writing. Nodier's name is associated with three major productions on the vampire theme. The first, Lord Ruthwen ou les vampires, from which the melodrama, Le Vampire, was derived, draws attention because of the uncertainty of its authorship. Nodier's involvement from his initial review of the work in the faulty first French translation to the mounting of his play is delineated in considerable detail. Next, attention shifts to the conte that it sometimes rated as the writer's chef-d'oeuvre and which unveils both his technical skill and his originality as few other of his works do. Smarra, with its dream-like ambience foreshadows--without Nodier's being aware of it--the surrealistic trend in the twentieth century. The preoccupation with sleep and with dreams is a theme that runs like a thread through most of the writer's work. Smarra, because Nodier leaves it open-ended, invites further literary criticism. The final essay into the country of vampires was the publication of L'Infernaliana, which deserves interest only as an example of the writer's leanings.^ The last chapter of the study attempts to signal the motivation behind Nodier's penchant for the macabre. It is admitted that pragmatic considerations encouraged him to indulge his fascination, but that the real reason for his absorption was a growing curiosity of the relationship of the frenetique with Romanticism itself. The conclusion of Nodier, as identified by this study is that Romanticism is highly individualistic; that it permits freedom to the emotions; that it encourages the cult of "moi"; that it is served by the foreign and the exotic. Deviant Romanticism strays from the main path by, not simply expressing the emotions and giving free rein to sensitivity, but by stimulating and exciting violent psychic reactions. It is not restrained within the place for the grotesque within Romanticism that both Hugo and Nodier recognize. When the concentration is predominantly on death and its trappings, it is revelatory of an unhealthy morbidity, which, paradoxically, can serve as a cathartic for sick emotions. Consideration is given to the question that existed in the writer's own mind about the validity of the horrific's being lodged under the mantle of Romanticism. At the same time, there is probing of the religious dimensions of the vampire theme, since such an investigation is justified by the mental attitude of Nodier at the time of his writing and by the subsequent developments in the legend.^ The present study, far from being conclusive, aims at becoming an impetus for further exploration of the literary creativity of a man who explored linguistics before it became a science; who urged the abolition of capital punishment when no one else did; and who delved into "le pays des reves" long before Freud. ^

Subject Area

Romance literature

Recommended Citation

BRANDON, CLARE THERESE, "CHARLES NODIER AND DEVIANT ROMANTICISM" (1980). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8020051.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8020051

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