|About the Book|
This dissertation studies the narrations of the domestic spaces assigned to nineteenth-century bourgeois women in Eugenie Grandet, and La vieille fille by Balzac, Madame Bovary by Flaubert, and Lassommoir and Une page damour by Zola. The female protagonists in these novels are represented in relation to the houses they inhabit, and architectural elements---doors, windows, stairs---stage the boundaries and the tense association between the women and their domestic environments. Since I primarily use phenomenological analysis in this study, I focus on the various narrative perspectives which introduce the reader into domestic spaces meant to remain private.-The narrators, often unnamed but distinctly present in the text of Balzacs Eugenie Grandet and La vieille fille, relate the situation of unmarried, provincial women whose houses embody the possibility of inheritance or the transmission of a fortune. The houses become prisons. Eugenie Grandet submits to the authority of a possessive father, while Rose Cormon loses her autonomy as the owner of her venerable home and submits to the rule of her financially ambitious and vulgar husband. In Madame Bovary, a provincial married woman, caught between domesticity and a desire for a more expansive life, is represented through various narrative focalizations, including the perspective of female neighbors who function as a moral police, watching her every move. Windows, in this novel, articulate a privileged vantage-point. In Lassommoir, Zola, through a narrative eye that functions as a voyeuristic camera, exposes the permeability of the public and the private spheres in a working-class context- and, in Une page damour, he reveals the dramatic strategies of upper bourgeois women to adapt to the stifling interiors of their Parisian apartments. I show in my analysis of these novels how narrators penetrate private domestic spaces, and how efforts on the part of the female protagonists to reconfigure or escape the confinements of the male guardians of the home, result in frustration and failure.