BESTIALITY, SEXUALITY, AGGRESSION: THE TRACK OF THE WEREWOLF IN FRENCH LITERATURE Open Access

Pyle, Andrew Scott (2012)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/k3569457n?locale=en
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Abstract


Abstract
BESTIALITY, SEXUALITY, AGGRESSION:
THE TRACK OF THE WEREWOLF IN FRENCH LITERATURE
"Bisclavret", the fourth of Marie de France's twelfth-century Lais and one of the
earliest extant texts in French literature, is the story of a werewolf. In giving such a
prominent position to a lycanthrope, she was making use of a figure with an already
potent established value as a symbol of, and repository for, the fears of savagery,
deviance and otherness that haunted the culture in which she lived and wrote. At the time
the werewolf was not merely a frightening creature in the realm of fiction, but a real
scapegoat for the most heinous violence wrought by humans. This dissertation examines
the combined qualities of violence and carnality intrinsic to the figure of the werewolf,
and follows this shapeshifting monster's literary tracks from its appearance at the roots of
the French canon to its survival in the literature of nineteenth-century France, where it
will adapt to a changed set of social and sexual concerns by adopting different animalistic
guises and behaviors.
The trail begins with "Bisclavret", in which Marie de France depicts a werewolf,
who is in all other respects a model citizen, revealing his secret to his curious wife, who
swiftly uses it betray him and become involved with another man. This dissertation
argues that Marie de France structures her werewolf story after the manner of the
medieval bestiaries, ecclesiastical texts which used accounts of animal life to impart
moral lessons to audiences, but that she does so in a surprising way. "Bisclavret" opens
with a detailed description of the werewolf as a brutal masculine figure, but in the
ensuing story, the cruelty and savagery attributed to him are realized in his wife, setting
up the lycanthrope as a worker of violence through subversion of sexual, societal and
gender norms. Successive chapters of the dissertation move to the nineteenth century and
consider the transformative, animalizing effects of passion in Barbey d'Aurevilly's "Le
Bonheur dans le crime", with reference to Hélène Cixous; the Freudian nightmare of the
primal scene in Mérimée's "Lokis"; and the boundless therianthropic cruelty of
Lautréamont's Les Chants de Maldoror.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
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Introduction - Dusting for Prints
1
Chapter One - Monstres Sacrés: "Bisclavret" and the Medieval Bestiary
11
Chapter Two - The Feral Feminine: Cixous, Cat Women and Les Diaboliques
53
Chapter Three - The Beast in the Bridal Suite: Mérimée's Conjugal Nightmares
92
Chapter Four - Swimming With Sharks: The Glaucous Mass of Maldoror
127
Conclusion - Taming the Beast
158
Bibliography
163
Film and Television References
172

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