Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Marivaux was, among other things, a journalist, specializing in articles on literary and moral questions. During two periods in his life (1717-1720 and 1751-1755), he collaborated on the Nouveau Mercure, a periodical that featured and reviewed the “Moderns.” He founded several periodicals as well: Le Spectateur français (1722-1723, 1727, 1761), whose title was borrowed from Joseph Addison and Richard Steele’s Spectator; L’Indigent Philosophe (1728); and Le Cabinet du philosophe (1734).

Another genre in which Marivaux achieved considerable success was the novel. Beginning in his youth with parodies of the “precious” novel, he developed an appreciable sense for realism and psychological and sociological truth in La Vie de Marianne (1731-1741; The Life of Marianne, 1736-1742) and Le Paysan parvenu (1734-1735; The Fortunate Peasant, 1735).


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Marivaux’s genius was most evident in his comedies. More than half of them were written for the Théâtre Italien, which had reopened in 1716, and were admirably interpreted by one of the Italian actresses, Gianetta Benozzi, called Silvia. During a period of about twenty-five years, Marivaux wrote some twenty-seven plays in prose, in one or three acts, frequently influenced by the Italians, whose freedom and fantasy coincided well with his own individualistic tendencies. Despite considerable variety in style, Marivaux excelled in comedies of love, with final analyses of that emotion developed in all its nuances and set in clever plots. His plays are salon comedies, divertissements, almost ballets, through which the secrets and surprises of the human heart are revealed in all their truth and poetry.

In these psychological comedies, the obstacle to love is neither exterior (as in Molière) nor insurmountable (as in Jean Racine). It always arises from a case of self-love, a bias, a disappointment, a misunderstanding; there is an appeal to reason, but reason does not govern love. Love must have its way, usually aided by a wily servant with well-intentioned ruses, and there is a happy ending, to be sure. In such a comedy, the lovers are amusing but never ridiculous, although the servants and some of their antics often are. The principal characters do not have a comic vice or flaw, as in Molière. What is humorous is the struggle in their hearts,...

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Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

uvres complètes de Marivaux, the complete works of Marivaux (ma-rih-VOH), were published in twelve volumes in 1781 and again in 1825-1830 in ten volumes. In addition to his novels, thirty-one of his plays are included in these early editions, as well as the speech he gave upon his reception into the French Academy. Also included are issues of the periodicals Le Spectateur français, Le Cabinet du philosophe, and L’Indigent philosophe; Homère travesti: Ou, L’Iliade en vers burlesques (a travesty of Homer, or the Iliad in burlesque verse), a mock epic in verse, in 1716; L’Éducation d’un prince (a prince’s education), written upon the occasion of the birth of Louis XVI in 1754; Le Miroir (the mirror), a philosophical essay, in 1755; and various Réflexions (1744-1755; comments).

Marivaux’s Théâtre complet (1878, 1964, 1968, 2000) has often been republished, but there is no modern edition of his complete works. A few critical editions with notable commentaries are available in large part because of the efforts of Frédéric Deloffre.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

One of Marivaux’s great achievements is the enrichment of the French vocabulary with the terms marivaudage and marivauder, which appeared while the author was still alive. The noun is defined in Encyclopedia Britannica as verbal preciousness reflecting the sensitivity and sophistication of Marivaux’s era. Nowadays, the lightly interpreted verb and noun suggest badinage, but Deloffre, in his Marivaux et le Marivaudage (1955, 1967), sees marivaudage as serious in intent, an alliance of sensibility and wit. In The Novel of Worldliness (1969), Peter Brooks analyzes marivaudage and explains it as a style which seeks to move from a state of semi-awareness and confusion to a clear and total knowledge of the self, while concomitantly refusing to verbalize that which cannot be spoken without a resultant loss of subtlety.Marivaux is notoriously interested in states of semi-awareness, ambiguity of emotion, sentimental limbos; and marivaudage is a style elaborated to render these states while making progress toward a greater clarity and distinction.

Deloffre’s and Brooks’s fine descriptions provide a corrective to the idea that marivaudage precludes insight and is merely amusing, never profound.

For a long time, Marivaux was appreciated more as a dramatist than as a novelist, and today, Molière is the only author whose plays are represented on the stage of the...

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(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Badir, Magdy Gabriel, and Vivien Elizabeth Bosley, eds. Le Triomphe de Marivaux: A Colloquium Commemorating the Tricentenary of the Birth of Marivaux, 1688-1988. Edmonton: Department of Romance Languages, University of Alberta, 1989. A collection of papers on Marivaux, covering various aspects of his life and work. Bibliography.

Brady, Valentini Papadopoulou. Love in the Theatre of Marivaux: A Study of the Factors Influencing Its Birth, Development, and Expression. Geneva: Droz, 1970. A critical examination of Marivaux’s dramatic works, with emphasis on his treatment of love. Bibliography.

Cismaru, Alfred. Marivaux and Molière: A Comparison. Lubbock: Texas Tech Press, 1977. Marivaux’s connection to seventeenth century French drama is highlighted.

Culpin, D. J. Marivaux and Reason: A Study in Early Enlightenment Thought. New York: P. Lang, 1993. Explores Marivaux’s place in the history of ideas.

Jamieson, Ruth Kirby. Marivaux: A Study in Sensibility. Reprint. New York: Octagon Books, 1969. Approaches Marivaux’s career from the point of view of artistic and linguistic merit.

Lynch, Lawrence. Eighteenth Century French Novelists and the Novel. York, S.C.: French Literature, 1979. General study with insightful commentary on Marivaux’s stylistic unity.

Mylne, Vivienne. The Eighteenth Century French Novel: Techniques of Illusion. 2d ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981. Studies illusion as a device; comments on its use by Marivaux.

Poe, George. The Rococo and Eighteenth Century French Language: A Study Through Marivaux’s Theater. New York: P. Lang, 1987. Studies linguistic techniques of Marivaux and his contemporaries in their dramatic works.

Pucci, Suzanne L. Sites of the Spectator: Emerging Literary and Cultural Practice in Eighteenth Century France. Oxford, England: Voltaire Foundation, 2001. A look at Marivaux’s contributions to Le Spectateur français and the literary climate of the times. Bibliography and index.