Antoine, reader of his age: the textual Tentation and its intertexts of science
Dix-Neuf, 15, (1), . (doi:10.1179/147873111X12973011702527).
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This essay addresses an overlooked area of Flaubert research, the Indian religions in La Tentation de saint Antoine of 1874. Through close examination of the opening scenes of tableau five, it argues that Antoine’s reading of them provides a much more dynamic model than critical theories of text – source hunting, genetic criticism, intertextuality – for how to read the ideas of his age. By focusing on the contexts of Antoine’s encounters with the Gymnosophist and Buddha, the essay argues that very contemporary nineteenth-century scientific ideas are dressed up in the ‘Indian’ religious ones, and that the nineteenth-century texts of science that lie behind these scenes are not quite as scientific as they first appear. The essay then examines why no ‘bibliothèque fantastique’ exists of the many works in natural science that Flaubert read to inform the Tentation of 1874. Its conclusions look for answers in the interpersonal nature of Flaubert’s scientific reading, and hence the need to look beyond the text to the immediate circles of its readings.
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