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Mignon's AfterlivesCrossing Cultures from Goethe to the Twenty-First Century$
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Terence Cave

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199604807

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199604807.001.0001

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Nineteenth-Century French Afterlives

Nineteenth-Century French Afterlives

(p.87) 3 Nineteenth-Century French Afterlives
Mignon's Afterlives

Terence Cave

Oxford University Press

This chapter opens with novels by Mme de Staël and George Sand featuring women singers, together with a thematic opposition between north and south. Xavier Marmier’s description of Mignon as a fragile, ethereal being is then shown to inaugurate a popular image which is typecast in Ary Scheffer’s widely distributed pictures, perpetuated in Saint-Germain’s sentimental Catholic novel Mignon, and endorsed in Ambroise Thomas’s enormously successful opera. Mid-century lyric poetry (Nerval and Baudelaire) also carries an important memory of Mignon. The Mignon craze that swept through French culture of the late nineteenth century is traced through popular dramas and novels; however, a strand of parody apparent in Balzac’s Modeste Mignon is seen to recur in Zola’s Nana, and Mignon’s name is associated with corruption and sexual abjection in a number of fictions of this era.

Keywords:   women singers, Ary Scheffer, Balzac, Ambroise Thomas, Nerval, Baudelaire, popularization, Catholic sentimentality, sexual abjection

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