Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Los empeños de honor. La institución del duelo en 'Derecho y Literatura'



John Leigh
Touché.The Duel in Literature
Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA., 2015, 352 pp.
ISBN 9780674504387

The monarchs of seventeenth-century Europe put a surprisingly high priority on the abolition of dueling, seeing its eradication as an important step from barbarism toward a rational state monopoly on justice. But it was one thing to ban dueling and another to stop it. Duelists continued to kill each other with swords or pistols in significant numbers deep into the nineteenth century. In 1883 Maupassant called dueling “the last of our unreasonable customs.” As a dramatic and forbidden ritual from another age, the duel retained a powerful hold on the public mind and, in particular, the literary imagination.
Many of the greatest names in Western literature wrote about or even fought in duels, among them Corneille, Molière, Richardson, Rousseau, Pushkin, Dickens, Hugo, Dumas, Twain, Conrad, Chekhov, and Mann. As John Leigh explains, the duel was a gift as a plot device. But writers also sought to discover in duels something more fundamental about human conflict and how we face our fears of humiliation, pain, and death. The duel was, for some, a social cause, a scourge to be mocked or lamented; yet even its critics could be seduced by its risk and glamour. Some conservatives defended dueling by arguing that the man of noble bearing who cared less about living than living with honor was everything that the contemporary bourgeois was not. The literary history of the duel, as Touché makes clear, illuminates the tensions that attended the birth of the modern world.

 
·        Introduction

·        1. Honored in the Breach
*      “A Barbarous Custom”
*      Abbé de Saint-Pierre
*      Corneille, Le Cid (1637)

·        2. The Comical Duel

*      Deterring the Duellist
*      Duel and Ridicule
*      Molière, Le bourgeois gentilhomme (1670)
*      More Wretches and Cowards
*      Sedaine, Le philosophe sans le savoir (1765)
*      Sheridan, The Rivals (1775)
*      Dickens, The Pickwick Papers (1836)

·        3. The Poignant Duel
*      Richardson, Clarissa; or, The History of a Young Lady (1747–48)
*      Rousseau, Julie; ou, La nouvelle Héloïse (1761)
*      Laclos, Les liaisons dangereuses (1782)

·        4. The Judicial Duel
*      Kleist, “Der Zweikampf” (1811)

·        5. The “Romantic” Duel
*      Nature’s Aristocrats versus Darwinian Imperatives
*      Pushkin, Eugene Onegin (1823–31)
*      Mérimée, “Le vase étrusque” (1830)

·        6. The Duel and Self-Realization
*      Smollett, The Adventures of Roderick Random (1748)
*      Casanova, “Il duello, ovvero Saggio della vita di G. C. Veneziano” (1780)
*      Hugo, Marion de Lorme (1829)
*      Thackeray, The Memoirs of Barry Lyndon, Esq. (1844)
*      Dumas père, Les trois mousquetaires (1844)

·        7. The Grotesque Duel
*      Twain, A Tramp Abroad (1878) and Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894)
*      Maupassant, “Un duel” (1883) and “Un lâche” (1884)
*      Conrad, “A Duel” (1908)
*      Schnitzler, Casanovas Heimfahrt (1918)
*      Pirandello, Il giuoco delle parti (1918)

·        8. Paradoxes of the Duel
*      A Tragicomedy
*      The Savage Noble
*      The Cult of Style
*      Laws and Rules
*     The Duel over Women

·        Epilogue: 1918

John Leigh is University Lecturer in the Faculty of Modern & Medieval Languages at the University of Cambridge.

 

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