Victims of the Book: Reading And Masculinity In Fin-de-siècle France by Francois ProulxVictims of the Book: Reading And Masculinity In Fin-de-siècle France by Francois Proulx

Victims of the Book: Reading And Masculinity In Fin-de-siècle France

byFrancois Proulx

Hardcover | November 17, 2019

Pricing and Purchase Info


Earn 425 plum® points

Prices and offers may vary in store


Pre-order online

Ships free on orders over $25

Not yet available in stores


Victims of the Book uncovers a long-neglected but once widespread subgenre: the fin-de-siècle novel of formation in France. Novels about and geared toward adolescent male readers were imbued with a deep worry over young Frenchmen’s masculinity, as evidenced by titles like Crise de jeunesse (Youth in Crisis, 1897), La Crise virile (Crisis of Virility, 1898), La Vie stérile (A Sterile Life, 1892), and La Mortelle Impuissance (Deadly Impotence, 1903). In this book, François Proulx examines a wide panorama of these novels, many of which have rarely been studied, as well as polemical essays, pedagogical articles, and medical treatises on the perceived threats posed by young Frenchmen’s reading habits. Against this cultural backdrop, he illuminates all that was at stake in representations of the male reader by prominent novelists of the period, including Jules Vallès, Paul Bourget, Maurice Barrès, André Gide, and Marcel Proust.

In the final decades of the nineteenth century, social commentators insistently characterized excessive reading as an emasculating illness that afflicted French youth. Fin-de-siècle writers responded to this pathologization of reading with a profusion of novels addressed to young male readers, paradoxically proposing their own novels as potential cures. In the early twentieth century, this corpus was critically revisited by a new generation of writers. Victims of the Book shows how Gide and Proust in particular reworked the fin-de-siècle paradox to subvert cultural norms about literature and masculinity, proposing instead a queer pact between writer and reader.

François Proulx is an assistant professor in the Department of French and Italian at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Title:Victims of the Book: Reading And Masculinity In Fin-de-siècle FranceFormat:HardcoverProduct dimensions:424 pages, 9 × 6 × 1 inShipping dimensions:9 × 6 × 1 inPublished:November 17, 2019Publisher:University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing DivisionLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1487505477

ISBN - 13:9781487505479


Table of Contents

Note on Translations and Previously Published Material


Part I: Youth in Crisis

1. Contagions and Cures
2. Representing the Fin-de-Siècle Reader

Part II: The Three Dangers of Literature

3. Vallès, the Déclassé, and the Pitfalls of Education
4. Bourget, Stendhal, and the Queer Seductions of the Novel
5. Barrès and the Ghosts of Balzacian Ambition

Part III: Forming the Reader

6. Martin du Gard, Tinan, and the Uses of Irony
7. Gide and the Novel as Formation
8. Proust and the Fantasy of Readerly Recognition

Coda: The Afterlives of Bad Masters


Editorial Reviews

"Among men in late-nineteenth-century France, we knew the poet, the priest, the warrior, the scientist, the physician, the philosopher, the journalist, and so on; but we barely knew the reader of fiction, whose passivity and impressionability are stereotypically associated with women like Madame Bovary. Victims of the Book makes us better acquainted with this figure who challenges many assumptions about masculinity, in the nineteenth century as well as today." - Nicolas Valazza, Department of French and Italian, Indiana University Bloomington