Stendhal’s Less-Loved Heroines
Fiction, Freedom, and the Female
'Stendhal', Marie-Henri Beyle
Research Monographs in French Studies 37
Legenda: Oxford, 2013
Who are the real heroes of Stendhal’s fiction? Stendhal’s Less-Loved Heroines overturns accepted ideas about the place of men and women in his novels and shorter stories. It challenges the notion that French Realist fiction is peculiarly and intrinsically hostile to female freedom, arguing that it is criticism itself that has marginalized Stendhal’s non-compliant heroines and condemned them as self-centred. Mina de Vanghel, Vanina Vanini, Mathilde de La Mole, and Lamiel are self-seeking in the fullest possible sense, committed to the pursuit of their own happiness and the realization of their freedom in a world where these were seen as incompatible goals for women. Scott contends that the philosophy of freedom championed by Sartre and Beauvoir enables an alternative reading of Stendhal’s less-loved heroines, one that finally does justice to their formidable power of — and pleasure in — self-invention.
Maria Scott is Lecturer in French at National University of Ireland, Galway.