Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

La Gastine

La Gastine (lah gas-TEEN). Isolated farmhouse in a remote part of the northern French region of Brittany; a calculatedly unostentatious one-story edifice set in a fertile plain interrupted by beech trees. It is the home of the Greneuc family, whose daughter, Amélie, Amaury might have married had he been so inclined; it symbolizes the quiet desolation of conventional rural existence.

Château de Couaën

Château de Couaën (SHAH-toh deh kwah-EH[N]). House about six miles distance from La Gastine, set in more precipitous country near a barren coast. It is equally remote, but even more ancient and forbidding, having served in bygone eras as a fortress. Its tower and ramparts survive, but only two of its floors remain in use, the upper one serving as the marquis’ study, library, and bedroom. The garret is now a rat-infested granary. The château plays host to futile secret gatherings of the antirevolutionary French nobility. Madame Couaën’s room is, however, exceptional; when Amaury first enters it, everything—polished antique furniture, porcelain, Irish crystal—seems to be shining.


Saint-Pierre-de-Mer (sahn-pyehr-de-mer). Mountain chapel overlooking a boulder-strewn bay, maintained by Madame Couaën—who contrasts the wild landscape in which it is set with her native Ireland. The ruins of a stone watch tower stand on the edge of the cliff, where the marquis decides to raise and keep a lighthouse after his wife’s death. Amaury’s obsession with the imagery of water begins at Saint-Pierre; once he has been there he continually thinks of human emotions in terms of their analogy...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Barlow, Norman. Sainte-Beuve to Baudelaire: A Poetic Legacy. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1964. Analyzes the influence of Sainte-Beuve’s elaborate style and thematic preoccupations on Baudelaire’s poetry. The chapter on Volupté examines Amaury’s exploration of sensual and spiritual love. Although Barlow traces the spiritual journey, his didacticism is distracting.

Chadbourne, Richard. Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve. Boston: Twayne, 1977. A survey of Sainte-Beuve’s life and works. Reappraisal of Sainte-Beuve’s fiction and poetry. Discusses his literary criticism. The chapter on Volupté analyzes innovations in narrative technique and genre.

Lehmann, A. G. Sainte-Beuve: A Portrait of the Critic, 1804-1842. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1962. Overview of the novel, emphasizing its failure to create convincing characters or to use dialogue effectively. The criticism is unbalanced, however, since Lehmann judges Volupté as a realist novel rather than as a Romantic confession.

Mulhauser, Ruth. Sainte-Beuve and Greco-Roman Antiquity. Cleveland: Press of Case Western Reserve University, 1969. Traces the classical sources of Sainte-Beuve’s literature and criticism. Greek and Roman culture combine Romantic revery and intellectual curiosity. Discusses Sainte-Beuve’s Hellenism, or love of physical beauty.

Nicolson, Harold. Sainte-Beuve. London: Constable, 1957. Surveys Sainte-Beuve’s work. The chapter on Volupté considers the novel as a representation of the love triangle of Sainte-Beuve, Adèle Hugo, and Victor Hugo, but also analyzes the prose style and thematic unity of the work.