The Sublimity of Charles Bovary

Literary Imagination 15.2 (2012): 1-8.

7 Pages Posted: 18 Oct 2012 Last revised: 25 Oct 2012

See all articles by Rebecca Gould

Rebecca Gould

Professor, Islamic World & Comparative Literature, College of Arts & Law, University of Birmingham; Harvard University - Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies

Date Written: 2012

Abstract

From Henry James to Jacques Ranciere, readers of Madame Bovary have assumed that the novel’s narrative crux depends on the author’s complete identification with Emma Bovary. This essay argues for the importance of Charles Bovary, both as a foil to Emma’s self-absorption and as an alternative way of envisioning human affection. Charles’s selfless love anticipates that of Félicité of “A Simple Heart”: both are gifted with an empathetic imagination more profound than that of every other character in their fictional universes. Looking beyond the stereotype of Charles as a bungling idiot, I shed light on the sources of Emma’s tragedy, which begins not with the oppression induced by her marriage but rather with her fear of her husband’s forgiveness.

Keywords: Flaubert, characterization, prose narrative, irony, holy fool, Dostoevsky

Suggested Citation

Gould, Rebecca Ruth, The Sublimity of Charles Bovary (2012). Literary Imagination 15.2 (2012): 1-8.. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2162992

Rebecca Ruth Gould (Contact Author)

Professor, Islamic World & Comparative Literature, College of Arts & Law, University of Birmingham ( email )

College of Arts and Law
Birmingham, UK, Birmingham B15 2TT
United Kingdom
https://rrgould.hcommons.org/ (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/rebeccagould

Harvard University - Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies ( email )

1730 Cambridge Street, 3rd Floor
Cambridge, 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://daviscenter.fas.harvard.edu/about-us/people/rebecca-gould

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