Who are the real heroes of Stendhal’s fiction? Stendhal's Less-Loved Heroines overturns accepted ideas about the place of men and women in his novels and shorter stories. It challenges the notion that French Realist fiction is peculiarly and intrinsically hostile to female freedom, arguing that it is criticism itself that has marginalized Stendhal’s non-compliant heroines and condemned them as self-centred. Mina de Vanghel, Vanina Vanini, Mathilde de La Mole, and Lamiel are self-seeking in the fullest possible sense, committed to the pursuit of their own happiness and the realization of their freedom in a world where these were seen as incompatible goals for women. Scott contends that the philosophy of freedom championed by Sartre and Beauvoir enables an alternative reading of Stendhal’s less-loved heroines, one that finally does justice to their formidable power of — and pleasure in — self-invention.
Maria Scott is Lecturer in French at National University of Ireland, Galway.
‘Maria C. Scott’s work can be considered as highly suggestive in the sense that, upon closing the book, one cannot help continuing to contemplate the various hypotheses put forward. Freedom, joy and self-invention are such essential imperatives for Stendhal, who had no qualms in referring to himself as “Mr. Myself,” that one is tempted to extend the book’s premise to his other fictional characters. In itself, this is a powerful testimony to the fact that this critical work has more than earned its place on the shelves among the rich collection of Stendhalian criticism to date.’ — Martine Reid, H-France 14, 2014
‘In this well-documented and cogently argued study Scott seeks to redress the balance [of Stendhal criticism] in favour of a female point of view, citing in her defence Stendhal’s own belief in the inevitable partiality of the reader... Her book should help to make these figures better understood and loved than they have sometimes been in the past.’ — Sheila M. Bell, French Studies 68.3, July 2014, 400-01
‘It is literally impossible to imagine the current state of European literary studies in this country without the achievements of Legenda. And within that output, its Research Monographs in French Studies, sponsored by the Society for French Studies, has played a particularly cherished role... The thirty-seventh volume in the series, by Maria Scott, follows in the wake of some excellent nineteenth-century volumes by the likes of Christopher Prendergast, Diana Knight and Jennifer Yee; and it sits well among such company.’ — Nicholas White, Journal of European Studies 44, 2014, 293-94
‘This is a concise, elegant, and original reassessment of some of Stendhal’s most important and, as it turns out, misunderstood heroines that will be of equal interest to both specialist scholars and students keen to challenge the dominant critical view of these female characters as limited and frustrated by their narrative possibilities.’ — Susannah Wilson, Modern Language Review 109.4, October 2014, 1084-85 (full text online)
‘Disons-le d'entrée, et sans barguigner: ce livre, petit par le volume, est un grand livre... une étude aussi originale que pertinente, propre à renouveler en profondeur l'approche des personnages féminins stendhaliens... M. Scott a l'insigne mérite de s'attaquer intrépidement aux textes majeurs, de dominer l'ensemble des commentaires et d'apporter "du nouveau" dans des domaines depuis longtemps reconnus et parcourus, et qu'on croyait à jamais connus.’ — Yves Ansel, L'Année stendhalienne 13, 2014, 441-47
‘Engaging reading. As the title suggests, the author gets personally involved and defends these fictional characters almost as if they were friends, women whose company she would like to keep, and she wants us to love them too. The style is alert, the tone optimistic, and while she necessarily has her work cut out for her convincing us that less-loved characters are lovable, her writing has the type of energy that makes readers love Stendhal.’ — Brigitte Malhuzier, Nineteenth-Century French Studies 43.1-2, 2014
‘Offering a “sympathetic reading of [Stendhal’s] heroines that have often been seen as unsympathetic or unworthy of the love of the heroes and readers alike”, Scott approaches her analysis from a feminist perspective, using French existentialism— particularly Sartre’s and Beauvoir’s notions of freedom—as her theoretical framework... Written in an approachable style, this thought-provoking study offers a new perspective on Stendhal’s work, and is sure to be of interest to scholars and readers of the nineteenth-century author.’ — Kathryn M. Bulver, French Review 89.1, 2015, 280
Scott, Maria C., Stendhal's Less-Loved Heroines: Fiction, Freedom, and the Female, Research Monographs in French Studies, 37 (Cambridge: Legenda, 2013)
First footnote reference:35 Maria C. Scott, Stendhal's Less-Loved Heroines: Fiction, Freedom, and the Female, Research Monographs in French Studies, 37 (Cambridge: Legenda, 2013), p. 21.