The Letter of Repression in Stendhal's Armance

Stendhal's Armance is a tantalizing text. Its focal character, Octave de Malivert, is tormented by something "unspeakable" that is never revealed to the reader. Stendhal explores this linguistic withholding within the context of the œdipal dynamic. Most psycho/social readings of the novel assume that, given the crisis of the Law-of-the-Father in the wake of the Revolution, Octave is threatened by the undifferentiation of an incestuous mother. However, the novel permits quite a different reading in which Octave denies the symbolic not by engaging with Armance and his mother but by negating them. His acceptance of his uncle's counterfeit letter as the truth signifies his capitulation to a repressive patriarchal order, his suicide and the death of language. (MJD)
Diamond, Marie J
Volume 1989-1990 Fall-Winter; 18(1-2): 41-55