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Showing posts from July 31, 2016

ambition and the novel

The first novels examined in Peter Brooks’  Reading For the Plot come from the nineteenth century, and in particular, the French nineteenth century. Putting such enormous critical stress on Balzac, Stendhal and Zola helps Brooks maintain his historical thesis  - that the novel is in rapport with the bourgeois revolution in values, which changed the meaning of ambition in the stereotypical life cycle. It isn’t that the bourgeois ethos encourages unilaterally the valorization  of ambition, in contradiction to the norms of the ancien regime; but ambition becomes an intrinsic part of plotting. “The ambitious heros of the 19 th century novel – those of Balzac, for instance – may regularly be conceived as ‘desiring machines’ whose presence in the text sustains narrative movement through the forward march of desire… Etymology may suggest that the self creates a ‘circle’ – an ambitus – or aureola around itself, mainly in front of itself.” This interesting but awkwardly phrased notion of