François René de Chateaubriand Criticism - Essay

Emile Malakis (essay date August 1928)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Malakis, Emile. “Chateaubriand's Contribution to Philhellenism.” Modern Philology 26 (August 1928): 91-105.

[In the following essay, Malakis examines Chateaubriand's interest in Greece and its language using a biographical approach. Malakis also considers the contributions of Chateaubriand's Itinerary to the Greek liberation movement.]

Between the years 1820 and 1830 an ardent enthusiasm was expressed in France for the emancipation of Greece.1 The feeling was widespread and varied. Society had its Philhellenism with banquets and concerts, expositions of paintings and plays for the benefit of the Palikares; there was a religious...

(The entire section is 6091 words.)

Carlos Lynes Jr. (essay date December 1940)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

Lynes Jr., Carlos. “Chateaubriand, Revitalizer of the French Classics.” Romantic Review 31, no. 4 (December 1940): 355-63.

[In the following essay, Lynes Jr. analyzes Chateaubriand's contributions as a literary critic and proponent of classicism, focusing on The Genius of Christianity.]

The Génie du Christianisme, even supplemented by Chateaubriand's other writings, does not present a systematic and complete tableau of French literature in the seventeenth century. Nevertheless in his occasional rôle as a critic Chateaubriand gives us interesting and suggestive judgments on nearly all the seventeenth-century writers whom he finds time to mention. In these...

(The entire section is 3870 words.)

Charles A. Porter (essay date 1967)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Porter, Charles A. “Chateaubriand's Classicism.” Yale French Studies 38 (1967): 156-70.

[In the following essay, Porter examines Chateaubriand's interest in a literary return to classicism, based on French and ancient traditions. Porter asserts that Chateaubriand believed that classicism, with rules and principles which could be discovered and followed, offers a timelessness for art. To this end, Chateaubriand offered his own works as models, including René and Atala.]

“The Génie du christianisme will remain my great work,” Chateaubriand wrote in the Mémoires d'outre-tombe, “because it produced or determined a revolution and...

(The entire section is 5715 words.)

Adrian H. Jaffe (essay date June 1968)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Jaffe, Adrian H. “Chateaubriand's Use of Ossianic Language.” Comparative Literature Studies 5, no. 2 (June 1968): 157-66.

[In the following essay, Jaffe examines the influence of Ossianic poems, both in terms of language and their inclusion of the idealized noble savage, on Chateaubriand's work.]

The curious, and ironic, relationship between Chateaubriand and the poems of Ossian is interesting not only in itself but also as an excellent example of the important distinction, in comparative literature studies, between success and influence. It may have not been sufficiently recognized that while success may be accompanied by influence, it often is not, and...

(The entire section is 3760 words.)

D. G. Charlton (essay date January 1969)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Charlton, D. G. “The Ambiguity of Chateaubriand's René.French Studies: A Quarterly Review 23, no. 1 (January 1969): 229-43.

[In the following essay, Charlton analyzes Chateaubriand's René as an example of French Romanticism that constructs the melancholic, solitary individualist. Charlton maintains that Chateaubriand presented an ambivalent view of both melancholy and Christianity.]

No figure is more often connected with French Romanticism than the melancholic solitary. Although recent studies have identified not one kind of héros romantique but several—the poet-prophet, the rebel, the dandy, even the ‘unheroic hero’, amongst...

(The entire section is 6738 words.)

Joyce O. Lowrie (essay date April 1970)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Lowrie, Joyce O. “Motifs of Kingdom and Exile in Atala.French Review: Journal of the American Association of Teachers of French 43, no. 5 (April 1970): 755-64.

[In the following essay, Lowrie asserts that the themes of exile and kingdom are unifying components in Atala and that the work presents the Romantic estranged hero as separated from Divine Unity. Lowrie then argues that Atala offers Nature as a refuge for the hero in a depiction which ultimately reifies the individual and exile itself over the divine.]

The portrayal of man as an expatriate who is in literal and symbolic exile from his true abode is a commonplace in...

(The entire section is 4472 words.)

Dennis J. Spininger (essay date May 1974)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Spininger, Dennis J. “The Paradise Setting of Chateaubriand's Atala.PMLA: Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 89, no. 3 (May 1974): 530-6.

[In the following essay, Spininger considers the symbolic values of the landscape descriptions in Atala. Spininger claims the tensions in the descriptions not only serve Chateaubriand's aesthetic purposes, but represent the doubleness of the New World as an exotic, Eden-like paradise which also is harsh and savage.]

The lush landscape description with which Chateaubriand begins his novel Atala has been approached from curiously myopic critical perspectives. Hostile critics...

(The entire section is 4685 words.)

Richard Switzer (essay date fall-winter 1974-75)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

Switzer, Richard. “Chateaubriand and the Welsh Indians.” Nineteenth-Century French Studies 3, nos. 1-2 (fall-winter 1974-75): 6-17.

[In the following essay, Switzer details Chateaubriand's romantic reconstruction of the identity of the mound builders of the North American continent, as seen in the author's Voyage en Amérique.]

It is clear that Chateaubriand, attempting to set up a coherent itinerary for his Voyage en Amérique, was being guided much more by his imagination and his readings than by his actual memories of the trip.1 For this reason, the selection of sites he chose to evoke takes on a particular importance from the literary point of...

(The entire section is 4927 words.)

Eva Doran (essay date November 1976)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Doran, Eva. “Two Men and a Forest: Chateaubriand, Tocqueville, and the American Wilderness.” Essays in French Literature, no. 13 (November 1976): 44-61.

[In the following essay, Doran examines both Chateaubriand's and Tocqueville's depiction of American forests as more than descriptions, but as images of human experience. Doran contrasts Chateaubriand's more positive depictions of the wilderness—as an expansive space reflecting one's personal power and God's presence—with the depersonalized and isolated environments portrayed by Tocqueville.]

In his scholarly study, Tocqueville and Beaumont in America,1 George Pierson evaluates the...

(The entire section is 8200 words.)

Jon Beeker (essay date summer 1977)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Beeker, Jon. “Archetype and Myth in Chateaubriand's Atala.Symposium 31, no. 2 (summer 1977): 93-106.

[In the following essay, Beeker analyzes Atala from a Jungian perspective. Using archetypal imagery, Beeker asserts the work acts as a monomyth, in that it portrays the ego's struggle for self-emancipation, and presents the characters of Atala and Chactas as two aspects of one psyche.]

Chateaubriand's intent in writing Atala is clearly stated in the epilogue to the work. Here we see that the author's goal was essentially that of presenting to the readers an example of the importance of the Christian religion:


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Richard M. Chadbourne (essay date 1978)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Chadbourne, Richard M. “Chateaubriand's Aviary: Birds in the Mémoires d'Outre-Tomb.” In Symbolism and Modern Literature: Studies in Honor of Wallace Fowlie, edited by Marcel Tetel and Austin Warren, pp. 65-80. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1978.

[In the following essay, Chadbourne traces the presence of birds in Memoirs, noting Chateaubriand's use of the thrush as a trigger for childhood memories. Chadbourne then considers Chateaubriand's use of birds in four ways: in literary and other references, as comparisons, in literal ways, and as symbolism.]

In the Génie du Christianisme birds are one of the “marvels of nature”...

(The entire section is 7223 words.)

Eric Gans (essay date fall 1983)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Gans, Eric. “René and the Romantic Model of Self-Centralization.” Studies in Romanticism 22, no. 3 (fall 1983): 421-35.

[In the following essay, Gans argues that Chateaubriand attemped to integrate classical, Hellenic aesthetics with Christian morality in René. Gans claims the character of René—as both a literary hero and a behavioral model—operates as the central and self-centered character whose behavior is not motivated by desire. In this way, the work positions aesthetic questions rather than moral ones at its center.]

Few men have been as aware as Chateaubriand that modern western culture is a combination of Hellenic esthetics and...

(The entire section is 6625 words.)

Michael J. Call (essay date 1988)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Call, Michael J. “René in the Garden.” In Back to the Garden: Chateaubriand, Senacour and Constant, pp. 15-56. Saratoga, Calif.: ANMA Libri & Co., 1988.

[In the following excerpt, Call critiques Chateaubriand's depiction of the American wilderness via the myth of Eden, in René and Atala which represent America as a place for escape and isolation. Call further claims that Chateaubriand countered the expectations of paradisiacal settings as regenerative and portrayed René as a Cain figure.]

The opening lines of René present the image of a young European nobleman living in the wilds of the New World. Upon his arrival there,...

(The entire section is 17639 words.)

Harry Redman, Jr. (essay date fall 1990)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Redman, Jr., Harry. “Chateaubriand and his Memoirs' ‘Louisianaise.’” Nineteenth-Century French Studies 19, no. 1 (fall 1990): 22-35.

[In the following essay, Redman examines the relationship between Chateaubriand and the “Louisianaise” woman referred to as Célestine in Memoirs.Redman provides biographical information for this Célestine and considers her influence on and presence in Chateaubriand's writings.]

Chateaubriand may or may not have seen Louisiana when he visited North America in 1791. Whether he did or did not, Louisiana, or the idea of Louisiana, made a deep impression upon him. His Voyage en Amérique and his Mémoires...

(The entire section is 6270 words.)

Mary A. O'Neil (essay date fall-winter 1993-94)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: O'Neil, Mary A. “Chateaubriand's Atala: A Study of the French Revolution.” Nineteenth-Century French Studies 22, nos. 1-2 (fall-winter 1993-94): 1-14.

[In the following essay, O'Neil presents Chateaubriand's Atala, The Genius of Christianity, and Memoirs, as organized around contemporary history, particularly the French Revolution. In so doing, Chateaubriand critiqued government, religion, and the excesses of the Revolution.]

The young Chateaubriand was a perceptive critic of his own work. In his preface to the first edition of Atala, he predicted that this book would confuse its audience:


(The entire section is 6167 words.)

James F. Hamilton (essay date summer 1996)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Hamilton, James F. “The Gendering of Space in Chateaubriand's Combourg: Archetypal Architecture and the Patriarchal Object.” Symposium: A Quarterly Journal in Modern Literatures 50, no. 2 (summer 1996): 101-13.

[In the following essay, Hamilton analyzes the use of spatial arrangements in Memoirs. In depicting Combourg, his childhood home, Chateaubriand offered an archetypal architecture which psychologically represented his hierarchical family structure and the dominance of his father.]

                                        Cet étroit espace me parut propre à
                                        renfermer mes longues espérances;
spatio brevi...

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Caroline Bailey (essay date April 1997)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Bailey, Caroline. “Beneath the Surface of Atala: ‘Le Crocodile au Fond du Bassin.’” French Studies: A Quarterly Review 51, no. 2 (April 1997): 138-54.

[In the following essay, Bailey concentrates on the image of the crocodile in Atala. Using a psychoanalytic perspective, Bailey claims Chateaubriand's work depicts tensions between nature and civilization and between sexuality and Christianity, especially in its representations of desire.]

Je n'ai point encore rencontré d'homme qui n'eût été trompé dans ses rêves de félicité, point de cœur qui n'entretînt une plaie cachée. Le cœur le plus serein en apparence,...

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Ban Wang (essay date May 1997)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Wang, Ban. “Writing Self, and the Other: Chateaubriand and His Atala.French Forum 22, no. 2 (May 1997): 133-48.

[In the following essay, Wang claims Chateaubriand offered an Orientalist approach to foreign culture in Atala. Wang examines the work's aesthetics through the concept of chinoiserie—or the dual elements of grotesqueness and disorientation—to argue that Chateaubriand both exoticized and sexualized the New World.]

The notion of the grotesque often figures prominently in the way one culture thinks about its radical other. In his classic study of the grotesque the German literary theorist Wolfgang Kayser recalls an instance...

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Claudia Moscovici (essay date spring-summer 2001)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Moscovici, Claudia. “Hybridity and Ethics in Chateaubriand's Atala.Nineteenth-Century French Studies 29, nos. 3-4 (spring-summer 2001): 197-216.

[In the following essay, Moscovici argues that Atala challenges French Romanticism's dichotomy between nature and culture in its representations of Western and Native American cultures. Rather than positioning these cultures as ethical opposites—with the implicit superiority of Western culture—Chateaubriand's work offers a model of hybrid cultural identity.]

The figure of the noble savage constitutes one of the defining features of French Romanticism. As contemporary criticism points out, this...

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Luke Bouvier (essay date spring-summer 2002)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Bouvier, Luke. “How Not to Speak of Incest: Atala and the Secrets of Speech.” Nineteenth-Century French Studies 30, nos. 3-4 (spring-summer 2002): 228-42.

[In the following essay, Bouvier looks at Atala in relationship to René to examine the motif of incest in the former. Using a Derridean approach, Bouvier focuses on the structures of silence and secrecy, addressing the paradoxical nature of incest’s dual presence and absence in Chateaubriand's work.]

How not to speak of incest in Atala? The subject would seem to be unavoidable, for Chateaubriand's exotic tale of the doomed love of Chactas and Atala has frequently been read...

(The entire section is 7160 words.)