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Lateness and Modern European Literature$
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Ben Hutchinson

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198767695

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198767695.001.0001

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‘A Book Read to its End’: The Post-Napoleonic Consciousness

‘A Book Read to its End’: The Post-Napoleonic Consciousness

(p.36) 2 ‘A Book Read to its End’: The Post-Napoleonic Consciousness
Lateness and Modern European Literature

Ben Hutchinson

Oxford University Press

This chapter investigates what it terms the double sense of post-Napoleonic lateness—both historico-political and literary-aesthetic—that underlies European literature of the 1820s and 1830s. Examples of Napoleon’s impact on the romantic and post-romantic imagination are legion, but what is particularly striking in this period is the extent to which his passing left a keenly felt sense of absence and ‘belatedness’ in the generation that followed him. Stendhal’s Le Rouge et le noir provides one obvious example of this sentiment; Chateaubriand, writing from the point of view of a contemporary of Napoleon, echoes this conception of the post-Napoleonic generation as hopelessly epigonal. Christian Dietrich Grabbe’s play Napoleon oder die hundert Tage then provides a further perspective, from outside of France, confirming the contemporary perception that with the Emperor’s death it was ‘as though the world were a book that had been read to its end’.

Keywords:   belatedness, Napoleon, Stendhal, Chateaubriand, Grabbe

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