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Modernity and Its DiscontentsMaking and Unmaking the Bourgeois from Machiavelli to Bellow$
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Steven B. Smith

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780300198393

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300198393.001.0001

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Flaubert and the Aesthetics of the Antibourgeois

Flaubert and the Aesthetics of the Antibourgeois

(p.223) Chapter 11 Flaubert and the Aesthetics of the Antibourgeois
Modernity and Its Discontents

Steven B. Smith

Yale University Press

Madame Bovary is not a political novel, but it displays all of the contempt for the new bourgeois order that would become a staple of high European modernism. Flaubert saw in his age not the Enlightenment’s dream of progress, reason, and freedom but a world of shallowness, hypocrisy, and stupidity. It was the age of the bourgeois as captured in the loathsome character of the apothecary Homais, a tireless (and tiresome) advocate for public health and a believer in all the nineteenth-century platitudes about progress. Emma Bovary is the mouthpiece of Flaubert’s protest to this world, although her failures signal Flaubert’s profound pessimism about change. He adopted a view of redemption through art that signaled a retreat from the world of society and politics to the private sphere of art and culture.

Keywords:   Bouvard and Pécuchet, Flaubert, Gustave, Little Children (Tom Perrotta), Parnassian liberalism, Redemption through art

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