During the French Revolution, traditional literary forms such as the sentimental novel and the moral tale dominate literary production. At first glance, it might seem that these texts are unaffected by the upheavals in France; in fact they reveal not only a surprising engagement with politics but also an internalised emotional response to the turbulence of the period. In this innovative and wide-ranging study, Katherine Astbury uses trauma theory as a way of exploring the apparent contradiction between the proliferation of non-political literary texts and the events of the Revolution. Through the narratives of established bestselling literary figures of the Ancien Régime (primarily Marmontel, Madame de Genlis and Florian), and the early works of first generation Romantics Madame de Staël and Chateaubriand, she traces how the Revolution shapes their writing, providing an intriguing new angle on cultural production of the 1790s.
Katherine Astbury is Senior Lecturer in French Studies at the University of Warwick.
‘Katherine Astbury’s welcome monograph includes within its purview a range of now forgotten texts and successfully questions the established view that the Revolution had little impact on novels written in the years following 1789.’ — Michael Tilby, French Studies 67.4, October 2013, 566
‘Astbury offers an original theoretical approach to the fiction of the 1790s and sheds new light on many of these forgotten texts. Her study will be welcomed by eighteenth-century scholars.’ — Ruth P. Thomas, New Perspectives on the Eighteenth Century Spring 2014, 11.1, 86-88
‘One of the great merits of the book is that Astbury has actually read, rather than glossed, these unloved novels. As a result, she can demonstrate how ostensibly escapist fiction was saturated with contemporary references... The book provides fresh and detailed exposition of key novels within the revolutionary corpus, and triumphantly succeeds in making a case for the political sub-currents bubbling away within some seemingly innocuous fiction.’ — Tom Stammers, French History March 2014, 28.1, 126-27
‘Astbury’s account of 'The English Novel and the Literary Press in France during the Revolutionary Decade' is the center and triumph of her book. In this chapter, she makes a 'systematic examination of editors' and translators' choices' that reveal a dynamic, cross-Channel conversation about the convulsions in France and their consequences.’ — Gina Luria Walker, European Romantic Review 25.4, 2014, 522-27
‘Astbury’s clear, elegant prose engages the reader and Astbury convincingly shows how the fiction of the Revolutionary decade, while perhaps not overtly political, nonetheless responded to Revolutionary events—whether through portrayals of moral regeneration in 1791 or through tales of exile in 1797.’ — Annie K. Smart, Nineteenth-Century French Studies 43.1-2, 2014
‘Succeeds in changing the terms of a debate that had relegated a decade of literature to virtual oblivion. Astbury is absolutely right to insist on the historical and literary significance of the fiction of the 1790s. Given the historical impact of these years, it seems extraordinary that later generations of scholars have expressed such little interest in these works.’ — Lesley H. Walker, Modern Language Review 110.2, April 2015, 547-48 (full text online)
‘Katherine Astbury’s Narrative Responses offers a fascinating counterpoint to the many studies that have focused on literary culture in pre-revolutionary France. Astbury asks important questions about novels produced during the Revolution: What kinds of texts did contemporaries want to read? How influenced were their authors by current events? And, finally, how political were those texts?’ — Mette Harder, Eighteenth-Century Fiction 28.3, Spring 2016, 593-94
‘Le livre de Katherine Astbury mérite incontestablement d’être recommandé. Fondé sur une approche théorique et méthodologique clairement définie, il explore avec minutie un corpus de textes souvent méconnus (en laissant délibérément de côté les œuvres de Sade et Rétif) et a le mérite de ne pas proposer une lecture myope des œuvres de la période qui, pour n’être pas toutes ouvertement consacrées à l’écriture des événements, n’en livrent pas moins un regard sur l’Histoire et la Révolution.’ — Paul Kompanietz, Dix-huitième siècle 46, 2014, 724-25
Astbury, Katherine, Narrative Responses to the Trauma of the French Revolution (Cambridge: Legenda, 2012)
First footnote reference:35 Katherine Astbury, Narrative Responses to the Trauma of the French Revolution (Cambridge: Legenda, 2012), p. 21.