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L’image de Henry de Montherlant dans l’histoire littéraire
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of French, Italian and Classical Languages.
2002 (French)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Readers, be they researchers, critics or the general reading public, seldom succeed in keeping the life and works of an author separate. The mechanisms of literary history shape and hand down pictures of authors that frequently are quite remote from textual and historic fact. Literary theories based on internal analysis seldom aid scholars in their struggle to free themselves from the influence of the established canon, and we thus may speak of an intertextuality of literary research, wherein even entire judgements may at times be uncritically passed on to succeeding generations. Literary scholars do not remain aloof and neutral observers, but are to a great extent creators of a tradition of literary history.

The present dissertation investigates how the French author Henry de Montherlant (1895-1972) has been depicted in literary research and criticism. Montherlant’s literary production covers a succession of decades and embraces many different genres and narrative techniques, while nevertheless containing examples of a provocative attitude vis-à-vis his public and the critics. This indicates that he is an illustrative example of the stereotypes that coalesce around a well-known author.

The dissertation concentrates on three particularly important and problematic aspects of the image of Montherlant: his literary début, the view of women seen in his texts and his actions during the German occupation. It is clear that a series of stereotypes concerning his person and works began to accumulate as early as the 1920s, and that the biographical details that appeared — regardless of how true they might be — have been afforded major significance by critics and scholars even up to the present day, particularly in identifying Montherlant with certain characters in his texts. The Montherlant principle of syncrétisme et alternance, first expressed in 1927, defends a life style where completely opposite feelings and views can exist in one and the same person and literary work. Critics and scholars, however, have often interpreted the expression of such ideas as self-contradictory or simply emphasized only the quotes and texts that appear to be unambiguous. This has particularly unfortunate results for our view of Montherlant as regards his views on women and the problem of wartime collaboration. As regards his views on women, commentators have produced a biased selection of texts and uncritically equated Montherlant and certain of his literary figures. As regards collaboration, Montherlant and his texts have rarely been regarded in a sociohistorical context where many French authors in various ways had dealings with the German occupational forces while nevertheless not being labeled collaborators by literary historians.

The present investigation illustrates the risks literary scholars run whenever they allow their judgment to be affected by established tradition and stereotyped pictures of authors.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholms universitet, Institutionen för franska och italienska , 2002.
Forskningsrapporter / Stockholms universitet, Institutionen för franska och italienska: cahiers de la recherche, ISSN 1654-1294 ; 18
Keyword [en]
Montherlant, stereotypes, literary canon, author image, intertextuality, mechanisms of literary history, French
National Category
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Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-9987OAI: diva2:176506
Public defence
2003-01-31, Hörsal 3, hus B, 14:00 (French)
Available from: 2009-02-27 Created: 2007-11-21 Last updated: 2009-12-16Bibliographically approved

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