Reading Mathilde de La Mole in the Age of Protest Feminism
Copyright © W. S. Maney & Son Ltd 2015
Reason for embargo
This article analyses the critical reception, over time, of Stendhal’s unconventional heroines, attempting to identify and challenge some of the assumptions and prejudices that have been active in the extensive secondary literature devoted to the author. It focuses on critical responses to Mathilde de La Mole, with a view to showing how the attitudes of readers of Le Rouge et le Noir have changed over time, and in order to make a case for their further alteration. Stendhal’s early critics judged her character as lacking in verisimilitude; some celebrated the implausible aspects of her character, while others saw them as literary shortcomings. While such criticisms certainly conveyed an implicit moral judgement, later critics focused far more explicitly on what they perceived as Mathilde’s moral deficiencies, more specifically her failings as a woman and a person; there is also a small but growing number of readers and critics who have read her moral character in a highly favourable light. It will be argued in this essay that different evaluations of Mathilde’s character are authorized by the plural perspectives offered by the text.
Vol. 19, Iss. 1, pp. 33 - 48