Écriture Artiste and the Idea of Painterly Writing in Nineteenth-Century France
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My interdisciplinary dissertation, Écriture Artiste and the Idea of Painterly Writing in Nineteenth-Century France, studies the notion of écriture artiste as an ideologically charged aesthetic doctrine that provides a better understanding of the rapports between art and the socio-historical context of mid nineteenth-century France. Specifically, using a case study approach, I examined four encounters between writers and painters, including Gustave Flaubert, Gustave Moreau, the Goncourt brothers, Eugène Delacroix, Émile Zola, Édouard Manet, J.-K. Huysmans and Odilon Redon. I analyzed how these pairings, each illustrative of a different facet of écriture artiste, highlight extratextual realities of the time through aesthetic embellishments. Findings show that some of these artists refashion the existing hierarchy of academically legislated rules on style by purposefully obscuring legibility in order to valorize artistic productions as alternatives to, not copies of, nature. Moreover, they reshape cultural views by staging the coexistence of lyrical and positivist elements, thus encouraging an array of subjective interpretations. I conclude that écriture artiste provides a valid framework for analyzing a self-conscious type of art that uses symbolic power to shape public taste. In turn this provides alternatives to a monolithic model upheld by legitimate culture. The central contribution of my project is its analysis of écriture artiste as a concept that does not fit neatly specific categories of genre or literary movements. My work intervenes in extant debates on literature and the visual arts in the latter half of the nineteenth century by challenging the critical tradition that considers écriture artiste as a pedantic descriptive style. My dissertation broadens the scope of écriture artiste beyond the work of the Goncourt brothers. This expansion of the field also reveals that this type of art theory is developed with an acute consciousness about the power of art and the artist to reach a changing readership, prompted by the shifting ideological climate of the time.