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    Sex, sensibility and sociability: illustrating Marivaux's 'La Vie de Marianne' in the eighteenth century

    Lewis, Ann (2008) Sex, sensibility and sociability: illustrating Marivaux's 'La Vie de Marianne' in the eighteenth century. Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies 31 (3), pp. 331-375. ISSN 1754-0194.

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    In his classic study of ‘the novel of worldliness’, Peter Brooks claims that reading La Vie de Marianne in terms of sensibility ‘distorts the novel through the adoption of a mistaken historical perspective’ involving ‘the mistaken application to Marivaux of irrelevant concepts of literary history’.* However, the relationship between worldliness and sensibility is more complex than Brooks’s account gives credit for, since sensibility and, in particular, compassionate pity, were at the heart of contemporary theories of sociability. How were these themes received in the eighteenth century? This article examines the contemporary reception of the novel and its worldly/sentimental themes, by analysing a selection of different series of illustrations to the novel, and their depiction of various types of social relationship. The focus is scenes representing the family, relations of bienfaisance, and love scenes, and their provocation of various effects (within the characters depicted): pity, eroticism and/or sentimental affection. I focus in particular on the question of gender relationships as represented in these images, and the representation of public, semi-public and intimate spaces. There has been little critical work on the illustrations to La Vie de Marianne (especially by comparison with the illustrations to Prévost’s Manon Lescaut and Rousseau’s La Nouvelle Héloïse), and no comprehensive study of its different series. The main part of this article compares the two eighteenth-century series (by Schley and Fokke, 1736-42, and Chevaux, 1782) with two series accompanying English translations of the novel (G. L. Smith, 1765, and Stothard, 1784); while a concluding section draws attention to the specificity of the treatment of these themes of sensibility and sociability in the eighteenth-century by reference to a very different economy of representation at work in two twentieth-century series (from 1939 and 1952 respectively). * Peter Brooks, The Novel of Worldliness: Crébillon, Marivaux, Laclos, Stendal (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), p.132.


    Item Type: Article
    Additional Information: This article appears within a special issue of 'JECS', entitled 'Text, Image and Contemporary Society', edited by David Adams.
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): Sensibility, sentimentalism, Marivaux,'La Vie de Marianne', book illustration, eighteenth-century novel
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Creative Arts, Culture and Communication
    Research Centres and Institutes: Gender and Sexuality, Birkbeck (BiGS), Social Research, Birkbeck Institute for (BISR), Aesthetics of Kinship and Community, Birkbeck Research in (BRAKC)
    Depositing User: Ann Lewis
    Date Deposited: 29 Nov 2013 09:42
    Last Modified: 09 Aug 2023 12:32


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