Today in History: Gustav Flaubert Is Born
Our introduction to the 19th century French novel is Madame Bovary, Flaubert’s debut novel that focuses on a country doctor’s wife who is bored, lives beyond her means, and suffers a scandalous, imperfect marriage. And so begins our love affair with the great classics, in which we read Balzac, de Maupassant, de Musset, Hugo, and Zola. Our curriculum includes the early romance of Chretiene de Troyes; epistolary work of de Laclos, and monumental fiction of Proust — offering a deeper appreciation of how the novel comes to be and where it can go. And that’s not say that we don’t take in the greatest writers of other periods, or genres — Apollinaire, Baudelaire, Camus, Descartes, Diderot, de Montaigne, Mauriac, Moliere, Rabelais, Racine, Rimbaud, Rousseau, Sartre, Stendahl, Valery, Voltaire — to immerse ourselves in the fuller body of French literature. Ah, la belle France… et, surtout, bon anniversaire, Monsieur Flaubert!
Gustav Flaubert, influential French novelist and force behind literary realism, was born in Rouen on December 12, 1821. A surgeon’s son, Flaubert intended to study law in Paris but left, suffering with epilepsy, to become a writer in a small town outside the city of his birth. He is best known for his novel, Madame Bovary (1856), which took five years to write and was serialized and published as a novel, bringing him to trial on charges of immorality. The novel tells the story of bourgeois life, following the affairs of a provincial, adulterous doctor’s wife.
Flaubert is recognized as one of the great Western novelists, using perfect attention to detail in his writing, deep characterization, and elegance in describing simple, everyday life. His other works include include Salammbo (1862), an historical novel about ancient Carthage; Sentimental Education, about the July 1848 French uprising; and the collection Three Tales.
The following articles are selected from Proquest Historical Newspapers, which informs and inspires classroom teaching and learning.
- Huneker, J. S. (1899, Apr 02). The Art of Flaubert. Los Angeles Times (1886-1922)
- A Boom for Flaubert. (1911, Jun 25). New York Times (1857-1922)
- Flaubert’s Style. (1915, Mar 22). The Christian Science Monitor (1908-Current File)
- Prospero. (1921, Dec 26). Prosperous Musings. The Sun (1837-1991)
- Weightman, J. (1967, Sep 03). The Bitter Romantic. The Observer (1901- 2003)
- Freedman, R. (1971, Nov 21). A Hidden Heart. Chicago Tribune (1963-Current File)
- By, M. K. (1989, Feb 17). A Man Who Wrote, Only Wrote. New York Times (1923-Current File)
- McKenna, A. J. (1989, Mar 12). The Pontiff of Ridicule. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File)
- Byatt, A. S. (2002, Jul 27). Scenes from Provincial Life. The Guardian (1959-2003)
- Pierse, S. (2006, Jul 01). The Sovereign of Style. The Irish Times (1921-Current File)
Check out Literature Online to read English translations of Flaubert’s works and view related journal articles, citations, and references.
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