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The Later Novels of Victor HugoVariations on the Politics and Poetics of Transcendence$
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Kathryn M. Grossman

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199642953

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199642953.001.0001

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Monsters, Marvels, and Transport in Les Travailleurs de la mer

Monsters, Marvels, and Transport in Les Travailleurs de la mer

(p.39) 2 Monsters, Marvels, and Transport in Les Travailleurs de la mer
The Later Novels of Victor Hugo

Kathryn M. Grossman

Oxford University Press

Chapter 2 examines the political and poetic universe of Les Travailleurs de la mer (1866) in the light of La Légende des siècles and William Shakespeare as well as Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Following the spectacular success of Les Misérables, Les Travailleurs de la mer at first seems to head off in a different direction by depicting the mighty battles against nature of a lone hero on an Anglo-Norman reef. What use are his triumphs, if there is no one to notice them—and if they yield no reward in their aftermath? Hugo suggests that creative activity can be a goal unto itself because, as a mode of transport, it transforms everything it touches. Monsters and metaphoricity, the grotesque and the sublime, serve to move the reader into new realms of being. Heroic action, too, can convey the French nation beyond Napoléon III’s twisted regime into a new republican era.

Keywords:   Les Travailleurs de la mer, La Légende des siècles, William Shakespeare, The Tempest, monsters, metaphoricity, transport, the grotesque, the sublime, Napoléon III

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