The Sense of an Ending: 'Les Liaisons dangereuses' Revisited

Fowler, James (2007) The Sense of an Ending: 'Les Liaisons dangereuses' Revisited. Neophilologus, 91 (2). 197 -213 . ISSN 0028-2677 . (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

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It is generally accepted that in Laclos's novel the Marquise de Merteuil competes with Mme de Tourvel for Valmont's adoration, and that she does so by attempting to impress him with her libertine prowess more effectively than the Presidente does by her virtue. However, I argue here that as Merteuil sees this strategy continually failing, she turns instead to an opposite one, which is to demonstrate that she can prove herself Tourvel's superior on the latter's own territory. Valmont has from the outset praised Tourvel's virtue, manifested in her determination to resist his advances; indeed, for him 'virtue' and 'resistance' are interchangeable terms. Accordingly, when towards the end of the novel the Marquise spurns Valmont, she provocatively shows herself more capable of resistance, and therefore of 'virtue', than her fallen rival. By the same token, she surprisingly ceases to behave as a libertine (who observes a form of ascesis but never renounces her object) in order to behave instead as a version of the prude (who strives to overcome desire). Though this strategy is revealed in the denouement, its seeds are sown in the earliest letters, and it is developed in a number of ways throughout the novel.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: P Language and Literature
P Language and Literature > PQ Romance literatures
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of European Culture and Languages
Depositing User: Louise Dorman
Date Deposited: 24 Apr 2008 08:58
Last Modified: 13 Aug 2014 10:45
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