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Le voyage n’est nécessaire qu’aux imaginations courtes.

— Colette

French 126: Senior Seminar — George Sand Novels, Music, and Politics

George Eliot wrote of George Sand: “I cannot read six pages of hers without feeling that it is given to her to delineate human passion and its results  . . . with such truthfulness such nicety of discrimination such tragic power and withal such loving gentle humour that one might live a century with nothing but one’s own dull faculties and not know so much as these six pages will suggest.”  And yet George Eliot’s novels are very much read today by students of literature, and George Sand’s very little.  Baudelaire, on the other hand, commented of Sand:  “Elle est bête, elle est lourde, elle est bavarde.”  In any case, she was one of the most widely read European novelists of the nineteenth century and yet most of her novels are never read today.  We will explore her paradoxical reputation and writing through a reading of four novels, La dernière Aldini, Consuelo, Les maîtres sonneurs, and  Adriani.  These novels have in common a preoccupation with music and musicians, and with the role music plays in society.  Music can be both popular and elitist. Maybe it can even be revolutionary.  (Sand was famous for living daringly and dangerously, at least in the first part of her life.  She would probably have been a big supporter of the Occupy movement!)  On the one hand, music brings people together, on the other hand, musicians are decidedly odd, and perhaps dangerous to society.  How does Sand deploy these parameters in her novels?  Students in this seminar will also be asked to do a little bit of independent research into Sand’s life and various aspects of her social world and historical situation.

 

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