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"A Dream of Stone": Fame, Vision, and Monumentality in Nineteenth-Century French Literary Culture

by Michael D. Garval

        Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2005

         ISBN: 978-1611492507

         Published in 2004


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With democratization of fame in the wake of the French Revolution, writers enjoyed ever greater celebrity status. But in nineteenth-century France, the availability and perceived impermanence of such renown cheapened it, and prompted longing for enduring fame, exemplified by monuments—commemorative sculptural or architectural works, helping a nation in flux define itself, its past, and anticipated future. Within this cultural climate, there evolved an ideal of great writers and their work as immortal that envisioned literary greatness through the metaphor of monuments and monumentality. In reconstructing such a pervasive "dream of stone," this interdisciplinary study draws upon wide-ranging evidence, from journalism to poetry, caricature to statuary. Focusing on the lives, work, and fame of Honoré de Balzac, George Sand, and Victor Hugo, it uncovers the salient features, and traces the rise and fall of this monumentalizing vision of literary greatness, largely forgotten today, yet so central to nineteenth-century French culture. Illustrated. Michael D. Garval is Associate Professor of French Studies at North Carolina State University.

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