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Guest Otto Krat

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Guest Otto Krat

Hi, I have been lurking here for years now, did'nt post much though. So this time I am asking the community some help about a translation I have to make from french to english. I am in my fifth year of studies in french literature, in France, and I have to make a short presentation in english of what my thesis (or dissertation, never understood how you call that) is about. So I did translate a quite complex french text I wrote to english and tried to make it simplier, but still there is certainly a huge amount of both syntax and words translations mistakes, especially because my subject, as you'll see, deals with very abstract concepts.


Of course it a long text (one page only but can be boring for most readers I guess), so if you could just highlight the huge mistakes, or the things that really aren't understandable, well I'll consider myself happy. And yes, my english is shitty. Also I'll reward those who really help by posting pictures of myself. That is it. Thank you.




Presentation: Ecstasy in the aesthic of Flaubert


Last year my thesis was entitled Flaubert and the Crowd: it focused on how Flaubert's aesthetic deals with the problem of relationship between the individual (the artist) and the crowd, a vast concept that included the People's myth, the public opinion, the rioting crowds or even the figure of the barbarians as in Salammbô. At this time I mainly focused on how this problematic of the connection between the individual and the collectivity could enlightens some fondamental aspects of Faubert's politic of the text (a concept developed by Jacques Rancière that points out that even if the writers focus on the pureness of their art, this pureness in itself has a political meaning).

So after working last year on the links between individual and collectivity, this year I am trying to widen the subject to the question of the relationship between individual and the whole, or to say it with other words, between man and infinity, between the artist and the things.

One of the main themes of Flaubert's letters and of his youth works is that man is unable to match a direct contact – nearly in the sense of a melting - between him and things. The young romantic Flaubert, and that is clear in such works as Mémoires d'un fou and the first Tentation de Saint-Antoine, is obsessed with the problems of the infinite and the absolute: in such works he develops a lot the theme of frenesy – a frenesy which is both for knowledge and for sensual pleasure. By exhausting the pleasures, the writer or the hermit – a character with whom Flaubert often identify himself – has no choice but to face the emptiness of human's condition. So contrary to many romantic writers, the young Flaubert does not seek knowledge of the self but rather he tries to achieve a knowledge of the non-ego. His works often evoke some kind of a nostalgia for an originary mud and develops the idea of the supremacy of things over man: a good example is the end of the last Tentation de Saint-Antoine (1874), where Saint-Antoine shouts "being the matter" before actually melting into the creation. Such thematic also raise the question of the connection betwen vision and sensation, which has already been partly answered by Proust and Jean Pierre Richard analysis of Flaubert's works.


Then why choose ecstasy? Because it is only time where the limits between vision and sensation, between past and present, between man and things, between starring and telling, vanish. So in Flaubert's works you have on one side such protagonists as Emma Bovary, Frédéric Moreau, Bouvard and Pécuchet that exhaust sensations without being able to satisfy themselves and reach ecstasy – and their sickness has a name: "bovarisme" – ; and on the other side, some "simple" characters as Saint-Julien, Saint-Antoine or Félicité which are able to access a devinitive ecstasy. Of course, what is interresting is also how this is in total contradiction with the medical thoughts of the nineteenth century about hallucinations.


Then also comes the more complex question of the application of ecstasy to Flaubert's writing practice. Such characters as the hermit, the tyrant or the destroyer are ecstatic figures as opposed to the writer which face the passing of time and things and the impossibility to appropriatly tell them. Working for example on Flaubert's letters reveals how the tension between rationality and irrationality, and also between distantiation and contact is important to understand Flaubert's aesthetic. If the practice of writing was initially perceived by the young author as ecstatic, he soon enough rejected his own lyrism, but at the same time his poetic of impersonality implied an even greatest intimacy with the litterary material itseld: one might think for example about the letter where Flaubert tells that while writing Emma's poisonning, he himself felt the taste of poison in his mouth and then in consequence suffered several indigestions during the following days.


Of course there are formal consequences of this intimacy between the artist and his material. Georges Poulet, in his Etudes sur le temps humain, wrote that "objectivity, far from being a discipline that Flaubert would have acquired, is for him a naturel condition": getting further, we could also wonder about the famous "on", the french indefinite pronoun that has no equivalent in english and that is widely and newly used by Flaubert to achieve the first attempt to achieve a neutral writing, and if this "on" isn't also somehow ecstatic. The fact is that if Flaubert 's aesthetic tends over the years to distantiate from the objects he describes, at the same time and paradoxically it tends to spread always deeper into them. "The artist", wrote Flaubert, "must stand in his work like God in the creation, invisible and almighty; we must feel him everywhere but he is nowhere to be seen".



PS: if you're fluent in french and wants the french text well just ask.

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