Is bovarism a typical female behavior?

“Dreaming of another more fulfilling destiny”: such is the definition of the verb “bovaryser”. It entered Grand Robert in 2013. An anthroponymous basic verb derived from the name of the heroine in Flaubert’s novel, Madame Bovary, published in 1856 in the newspaper La Presse. His description of a dissatisfied wife seeking happiness with her lovers was convicted of disrespect for good morals and morals in 1857. However, its success is undeniable: the novel gave rise to several adaptations to films or comics, such as Gemma Bovery by Posy Simmonds.

From the 19the century, Barbey d’Aurevilly, by derivation, uses the name “bovarysm” to evoke this dissatisfaction, which presses to dream of another life and to seek escape in romance. The verb “bovaryser” is experiencing a resurgence in popularity today. Is the propensity for romantic daydreaming more current than ever? And above all, is she typically feminine?

Daughter of peasants, Emma Bovary received an education better than her social class in the convent: she learned music, dance and reading there. She read Paul and Virginiasaw Chateaubriand, but above all the abbess’ novel novels, read secretly in her bed. “She shuddered as she lifted the tissue of the engravings with her breath. […] it was behind the balustrade on a balcony, a young man in a short coat, who would be in his arms a young girl in a white dress.

When she was married to Charles Bovary – a widower, country doctor – she continued to nurture romantic stories by subscribing to reading cabinets, ancestors of libraries. With Walter Scott or Hugo, she dreams of love in castles. With Eugène Sue, realistic writer, she imagines the decor of a beautiful Parisian apartment.

She devours all the magazines that talk about the cultural life of Parisians: “She subscribed to La Corbeille, a women’s magazine, and to Sylphe des salons. She devoured, without skipping a beat, all the stories of first appearances, races and parties, was interested in the singers’ beginnings, in the opening of a shop. She knew the new fashion, the skill of the good tailors, the days of the tree or the opera.

Emma therefore lives her life substitute. Fiction reading distills a powerful “married” in women’s minds, a kind of opium, the judges will say during the trial against the novel.

The identification of the reader, which is the core of Umberto Eco’s analyzes in Reading in fabula or Vincent Jouve, has often been considered a feature of feminine reading. The Physicians of the XVIIIe evoke the delicacy of the spirit, the aggravated sensitivity even the hysteria of the readers; while censors warn husbands against comparison with novel heroes.

Today, women always read more literature than men, and they are even in the majority when it comes to sentimental novels. The young contemporary Emma read novelschicken bed», The modern Harlequin collections.

They praise novels that make you dream of love, signed Marc Lévy or Aurélie Valognes. They watch romantic series and movies on their computer, in their bed, just like Bridget Jones. As a couple, they continue with erotic romanceas Fifty shades of gray, hidden in their reading light. They follow celebrities – in magazines, on Instagram or TikTok – and dream of love in front of reality TV shows (43% of women watch these programs, against 18% of men).

A woman looking for love

But after living as a deputy, Emma sinks into a depression. She thought she would find happiness in motherhood, but the reality is disappointing, and she seeks comfort from her lovers, Rodolphe and then Léon, who in turn leave her when she becomes too romantic.

Flaubert’s observation is again extremely modern. The hectic search for love today takes place through dating sites, which mix consumer models and the search for ideals and often lead to disillusionment. In the same way, the tongues begin to loosen on maternity leave and after birth, as Illana Weizmans, the creator of the hashtag #Monpostpartum, or the testimonies associated with the hashtag #RegretMaternel collected in 2021 in Bad to be a mother, by Stephanie Thomas.

Finally, Emma Bovary, to fill her emotional gaps, engages in purchases that lead her to ruin. She orders the necessary accessories to play the role of her dreams: scarves, dresses and even “a letterhead, an envelope holder and envelopes, even though she had no one to write to”. She dreams of being the heroine of a novel and writing her story until the grand finale: her suicide by swallowing arsenic, which “the awful taste of ink”.

In his test Fatal beauty, published in 2012, Mona Chollet examined how the media is forcing women to use more and more to adapt to the dominant model of feminine seduction. Eva Illouz, i The End of Love – Investigation of contemporary disorder, published in 2020, notes that our contemporaries idealize the romantic relationship while asserting their freedom. This is the era of what she calls “emodities” (emotional goods), which compensates for the lack of emotions in relationships: small gifts, moments feel good (travel, moments of well-being) to feel – or say – happy.

Emma Bovary is therefore still with us: she is a reader in search of love and a victim of fashion, as Jean Rochefort said.

Typical female behavior?

It is clear that neither the desire for love nor daydreams are properly feminine. Flaubert would also have stated “Madame Bovary, it’s me”, because as a teenager he cultivated this taste for the romantic, identifying with Don Quixote, who dreamed of the ideal.

Julien Sorel, i The red and the blackbed Saint Helena Memorial and identifies with Napoleon. He dreams of action, he is “ambitious”, which has a positive connotation as opposed to bovarism, assimilated to a form of passivity. If they do not succeed, we are talking about menlost illusions. Balzac’s novel has been adapted for the cinema, as well Eugenie Grandet, the story of a very rich single girl who dreams of love and sacrifices herself for her cousin. Women could have no other ambitions in the 19th century.e than to support a man, but – thankfully – these literary models are dated.

Women today have many other means of realizing themselves, but they are still invited to believe that love would be the only adventure that would allow them to exist. Mona Chollet, in Reinventing love – how patriarchy sabotages heterosexual relationships, analyzes how love is always idealized in movies, books, magazines or commercials. In the name of love, women are invited to sanctify themselves, make themselves small and be silent to be loved, to consider it normal to be the only guardians of the couple’s psychic burden.

They agree to help their spouse make progress, to offer their love, sometimes to a point of moral or physical violence. The virile man is invited to be on guard against love and keep his money, just as Rodolphe, Emma’s seducer, refuses to help her. For Mona Chollet, modern women no longer benefit from these all too often unequal conditions: to the man the action, to the woman the unconditional support.

Models of action women rather than lovers

To dream of ideal and success is quite commendable. Daniel Pennac talks about this, in as a novelof one “literally communicable disease” and right to bovarism. But then you have to be able to fight to achieve your dreams. Emma dreamed of achievement through Charles, who turned out to be a mediocre doctor during her clubfoot surgery and a husband outside the classic codes of virility (non-binary, one would say today), but loving and affectionate.

Emma Bovary fought for her “agency,” in other words, her ability to act as a woman. But she had no active female role model, no Napoleon in her readings. It is by restoring their place to all the women who have acted in history that we will allow young readers of the 21st.e century to have strong and inspiring role models.

Disney has developed its heroines with Elsa, Moana, Tiana, Mérida in Rebel, Rapunzel or Mulan. From now on, the heroines take their fate into their own hands. In children’s literature, the series Mortal Adele shows an anti-heroine who dislikes love but action. She is very popular with young boys and girls who identify with Adèle.

The Englishman Posy Simmonds gave, with Gemma Bovary, a version of the novel in which the roles are reversed: it is the Norman baker who dreams of her beautiful English neighbor Gemma, with her memories of Flaubert. Gemma is a modern woman who takes Eurostar and finds her lover in her converted van … while Raymond dreams and reads in his cottage.

Reading writers who have made powerful creations of their dreams and ideals also allows us to get out of worn-out representations. Maryse Condé, Margaret Atwood or Annie Ernaux were among the authors contacted for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2021, which is ultimately awarded to Abdulrazak Gurnah. The Nobel Prize is to be awarded to an author “who has demonstrated a strong ideal” in his reflection on the world according to Alfred Nobel’s directives. All three carry a new reflection on the world and women, with modern heroines, inscribed in the feminist reflections of XXI.e century.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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