Is bovarysm a common female trait?

“Dreaming of another, more fulfilling destiny”: is the meaning of the verb “bovaryser”. It entered the Grand Robert in 2013. An anthroponymic base verb, derived from the name of the hero of Flaubert’s novel, Madame Bovary, which was published in 1856 in the newspaper La Presse. His portrayal of an unsatisfied wife seeking happiness with her lovers was condemned for failing to respect good morals and morals in 1857. However, its success is undeniable: the novel spawned many adaptations in movies or comics , such as Gemma Bowery by Posy Simmonds.

From the 19the century, Barbey d’Aurevilly used, by origin, the name “bovarysm” to evoke this dissatisfaction that drives the dream of another life and the search for the escape of romance. The verb “bovaryser” is experiencing a resurgence in popularity today. Is the passion for romantic fantasy newer than ever? And more importantly, is she usually a woman?

The daughter of farmers, Emma Bovary received an education beyond her social class at the convent: she learned music, dancing and reading there. He read Paul and Virginiathen the Chateaubriand, but above all the romance novels of the tailor in the convent, read secretly in his bed. “He trembled as he lifted the tissue paper from the carvings with his breath. […] it is behind the balustrade of a balcony, a young man in a short robe is holding a young woman in a white dress.

When Charles Bovary was married – a widower, country doctor – he continued to feed on romantic stories by subscribing to reading cabinets, ancestors of libraries. With Walter Scott or Hugo, he dreams of love in castles. With Eugène Sue, realist author, he imagines the decoration of a beautiful apartment in Paris.

He devoured all the magazines that talked about the cultural life of Parisiennes: “She subscribed to La Corbeille, a women’s journal, and to Sylphe des salons. He devoured, without skipping a beat, all the accounts of the first shows, races and parties, interested in the beginnings of singers, opening a store. He knows the new fashions, the skills of good tailors, the days of wood or opera.

So Emma lives her life vicariously. Fictional reading distills a powerful “thread” in the minds of women, a kind of opium, the judges say during the trial of the novel.

The identification of the reader, which is at the heart of Umberto Eco’s analysis of Read the fable or Vincent Jouve, often considered a part of feminine reading. The doctors of the XVIIIe arouses the delicacy of the spirit, the heightened sensitivity even the hysteria of the readers; while censors warned husbands against comparing the heroes of novels.

Today, women often read more literature than men and they are even more so when it comes to romantic novels. Young contemporary Emma reads novels bychick’s bed», the modern Harlequin collections.

They praise novels that make you dream of love, signed by Marc Lévy or Aurélie Valognes. They watch romantic series and movies on their computer, in their bed, like Bridget Jones. As a couple, they continue erotic romanceAs Fifty Shades of Grey, hidden by their reading lights. They follow celebrities – in magazines, on Instagram or TikTok -, and dream of love in front of reality TV shows (43% of women watch these programs, against 18% of men) .

A woman looking for love

However, after living as a surrogate, Emma sinks into depression. She thought she would find happiness in motherhood, but the reality was disappointing, and she sought comfort from her lovers, Rodolphe, then Léon, who in turn abandoned her when she became too romantic.

Flaubert’s observation is again extremely modern. The chaotic search for love is made today through dating sites, which mix consumer models and the search for ideals, and often cause frustration. Similarly, tongues are starting to loosen in maternity and postpartum, like that of Illana Weizman, creator of the hashtag #Monpostpartum, or the testimonies linked to the hashtag #RegretMaternel gathered in 2021 in It’s not good to be a mother, by Stephanie Thomas.

Finally, Emma Bovary, to fill her emotional gaps, engages in purchases that lead her to ruin. She ordered the necessary accessories to play the role of her dreams: scarves, dresses, and more “a stationery, a pen holder and envelopes, although he has none to write to”. He dreams of becoming the star of a novel, writing his story until the grand finale: his suicide, by swallowing arsenic “the awful taste of ink”.

In his attempt Deadly Beauty, published in 2012, Mona Chollet studied how the media pushes women to spend more to conform to the dominant model of feminine seduction. Eva Illouz, sa The End of Love–An investigation into contemporary chaos, published in 2020, says that our contemporaries promote romantic relationships while claiming their independence. This is the time of what he called “emodities” (emotional things), which compensate for the lack of emotions in relationships: small gifts, moments the feeling is good (travels, moments of well-being) to feel – or say – happy.

So Emma Bovary is still with us: she is a reader in search of love and a victim of fashion, as Jean Rochefort said.

Typical female behavior?

Obviously the desire for love or fantasy is not proper femininity. Besides, Flaubert should have declared “Madame Bovary, it’s me”, because as a teenager, he developed this taste for the romantic, which characterizes Don Quixote who dreams of the ideal.

Julien Sorel, of The Red and the Blackbed The Saint Helena Memorial and introduces Napoleon. He dreams of action, he “ambitious”, which has a positive meaning unlike bovarysm, assimilated into a kind of passivity. If they do not succeed, we speak, for men, tolost illusions. Balzac’s novel was adapted for the cinema, such as Eugenie Grandet, the story of a rich single woman who dreams of love and sacrifices herself for her cousin. Women had no other ambitions in the 19th century.e rather than supporting a person, but – luckily – these literary models are dated.

Today’s women have many other ways to realize themselves, but they are still invited to think that love is the only adventure that will allow them to exist. Mona Chollet, sa Reinventing Love-How Patriarchy Sabotages Heterosexual Relationships, analyzes how love is often adapted in movies, books, magazines or advertising. In the name of love, women are invited to sacrifice themselves, to make themselves small and to be silent so that they are loved, to consider it normal to be the sole guardian of the burdens of the couple’s mind.

They agree to help their spouse to progress, to offer their love, sometimes to the point of moral or physical violence. The gay man is invited to be careful in love and save his money, like Rodolphe, Emma’s deceiver who refuses to help her. For Mona Chollet, modern women no longer benefit from this often unequal relationship: action for the man, unconditional support for the woman.

Women role models rather than lovers

Dreaming of ideal and success is very admirable. Daniel Pennac talks about it, in like a novelin a “Literally Transmissible disease” and right to bovarysm. But you have to fight to achieve your dreams. Emma dreams of success through Charles, who turns out to be a mediocre doctor during his clubfoot surgery and a husband outside the classic codes of masculinity (non-binary, one would say now), but loving and devotee.

Emma Bovary struggles for her “agency”, that is her capacity to act as a woman. But he had no active female role model, no Napoleon in his readings. It is by restoring their place to all the women who have acted in history that we allow the young readers of the 21ste century with strong and inspiring role models.

Disney changed its heroes with Elsa, Moana, Tiana, Mérida in rebel, Rapunzel or Mulan. From now on, the heroes take their fate into their own hands. In children’s literature, the series Deadly Adele shows an antiheroine who does not like love, but action. He is very popular with boys and girls, who identify with Adèle.

Englishwoman Posy Simmonds gave, with Gemma Bovary, a version of the novel in which the roles are reversed: it is the Norman baker who dreams of his beautiful English neighbor Gemma, with his memories of Flaubert. Gemma is a modern woman, who takes the Eurostar and finds her lover in his converted van… while Raymond dreams and reads in his cottage.

Reading authors who turn their dreams and ideals into powerful creations also allows us to break free from broken representations. Maryse Condé, Margaret Atwood or Annie Ernaux are among the authors approached for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2021, which was finally awarded to Abdulrazak Gurnah. The Nobel Prize must be awarded to an author “who shows a powerful ideal” in his reflection on the world, according to the directive of Alfred Nobel. All three bring a new reflection on the world and women, with modern heroes, written in the feminist reflection of the XXIe century.

This article is reprinted from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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