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Gendering Cultural Memory: Balzac's Adieu
Linköping University, Department of Culture and Communication, Swedish Studies and Comparative Literature. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
2013 (English)In: Culture Unbound. Journal of Current Cultural Research, ISSN 2000-1525, Vol. 5, 239-249 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In this essay I examine the en-gendering of cultural memory in Honoré de Balzac´s story Adieu (1830), which proceeds from a repressed trauma originating inhistorical events. Balzac wrote the story in the spring of 1830, i. e. at a time whenthe French discontent with the Restoration regime was soon to explode in the JulyRevolution. The story is considered to claim that the Restoration regime’s repressionof revolutionary history will recieve serious consequences in the present. Butthe question is how the now of the Restoration can best be linked to the then of theRevolution and the Empire? How can history be represented in a productive way,without silencing traumatic memories? My suggestion is that the abyss betweennow and then has to be met with an ethically informed respect for difference. Stéphanie,the protagonist, dies when Philippe creates an exact replica of the traumaticsituation in which they were separated many years ago. She then became a sexslave to the retiring French army, dehumanized during the hard Russian campaign,an experience that also dehumanized her. This Philippe refuses toacknowledge, since he wants to retrieve the woman he knew. That can of coursenever happen, but in insisting on it, I would claim that he actually renders Stéphanieslife after the trauma impossible. Instead of emphasizing the distinction betweenpast and present, Philippe overlooks it, with the severe consequence of Stéphanie’sdeath. In my analysis I relate to pertinent discussions in the interdisciplinaryfield of cultural memory studies (an expanding field of research within thewider frame of cultural studies), but since it rarely discusses gender aspects I findit essential to relate also to feminist scholars who continually have scrutinizedissues concerning memory and history writing.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2013. Vol. 5, 239-249 p.
Keyword [en]
Cultural Memory, Gender, Balzac, Adieu, Napoleon, French Revolution
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-95891DOI: 10.3384/cu.2000.1525.135239OAI: diva2:639384
Available from: 2013-08-07 Created: 2013-08-07 Last updated: 2014-04-15Bibliographically approved

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Fjelkestam, Kristina
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