Convergences with, and Divergences from, the Goethean Paradigm in Gérard de Nerval's Translations and Adaptations of 'Faust'.

  • Stephen Butler

Student thesis: Phd


ABSTRACTGérard de Nerval's French translations of Goethe's Faust are key works in Franco-German cultural relations, but they have been mythologised; this thesis presents a nuanced view of works that continue to be the principal conveyors in France of arguably the foremost work of German literature. Less well known than his translations, Nerval's own Faustian dramas the Faust fragment ([1827(?)], Nicolas Flamel (1831), and L'Imagier de Harlem (1851) have received little scholarly attention and yet reveal much about his, and indeed other French, interpretations of Faust. The thesis examines Nerval's convergences with and divergences from Goethe diachronically in order to identify and then compare what may be termed Goethean and Nervalian Faustian paradigms, thereby discovering more about Nervalian aesthetics. Alongside Goethe and Nerval, two literary figures of pre- eminence, the thesis investigates intercultural relations that bear on Nerval's Faustian writing in France during a dynamic period.The first chapter contextualises Nerval's Faustian writing: Nerval's own interest in, and identification with, the figure of Faust; greater interest in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in foreign culture in France; relevant aspects of the life and work of key foreign authors and artists from disparate periods and countries who contributed significantly to the development of early Romantic aesthetics in France are discussed and analysed: the reception of Shakespeare, Dante, Scott, and Byron demonstrates salient similarities with that of Goethe. Closely related to this ascendancy of foreign literature in France is the country's increased enthusiasm for and engagement with the German myth of Faust, especially Goethe's retelling of it, across different media. In Chapter Two a close reading of Nerval's 1828 and 1840 translations of Goethe's Faust, alongside Stapfer's and Sainte-Aulaire's of 1823, investigates their convergences with and divergences from the German author in lexis, prosody, content, and ideology. The issue of domestication and foreignisation in translation, as expounded by Friedrich Schleiermacher; cultural tensions between lingering neoclassical and incipient Romantic aesthetic values; social constraints in France, including censorship; linguistic barriers to translating Faust into French, and the related difficulties of translating metaphor and connotation, an aspect in which Nerval displays his poetic ability in his Faust translations, are addressed in this chapter. The final section of Chapter Two identifies and analyses pervasive divergences from the Goethean Faustian paradigm in the French translations. The third chapter considers Nerval's Faust fragment and Nicolas Flamel, identifying the principal intertextual influences on these Faustian fragments before analysing the following aspects with reference to Goethe's Faust: the protagonists' character; their relationships with women; the portrayal of the devil; and the transposition of 'Auerbachs Keller' to Paris. Similar aesthetic tensions that are found in Nerval's translations are also discovered in these adaptations. An analysis of Nerval's final Faustian drama, L'Imagier de Harlem (1851), brings Chapter Three to a close. Following the identification of key intertextual influences, divergences from and convergences with the Goethean Faustian paradigm are again identified and analysed.
Date of Award1 Aug 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorCathy Gelbin (Supervisor) & Judith Purver (Supervisor)

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