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Publication Date

Summer 2010

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


World Languages and Literatures


Danielle Trudeau


19th century, bourgeoisie, Fantasy, French literature, French society, short story

Subject Areas

Literature, General


During the 19th century, France underwent tremendous social transformation: the bourgeoisie became the dominant social class, superseding the aristocracy. As a result, the bourgeoisie became the target of heated criticism mostly for its social, financial, and political ambition, especially by those who were its victims. As expected, 19th century French novels reflect these changes. The analysis of horror and fantasy short stories of three 19th century French writers - Prosper Mérimée, Charles Rabou, and Erckmann-Chatrian - reveals a critique of the bourgeoisie in a genre considered to be lighter and mostly entertaining in comparison to the romantic novels of the period. In "La Vision de Charles X," Mérimée draws our attention to the States-General session (Séance des États généraux) of 1789 using a fictitious event in Sweden. Then in his "La Vénus d'Ille," we observe a similar critique of the bourgeoisie that underscores the alliance between the French masses and the newly-established Republic. In "Le Ministère public," "Le Mannequin," and "L'Homme aux échéances" by Rabou, we examine the law's arbitrary nature and the lack of personal responsibility by officials. We also note the emergence of a new role for the artist as defender of the law and of the people. These themes are further explored in "L'Esquisse mystérieuse" and "La Montre du doyen" by Erckmann-Chatrian. The artist is no longer a parasite of society, but an essential part of it, a person endowed with exceptional insight and gifts as if sent by Providence. By the middle of the 19th century, the French artist had freed himself from the bourgeoisie.