Nineteenth-Century Nostalgia for Eighteenth-Century Wit, Style, and Aesthetic Disengagement: The Goncourt Brothers' Histories of Eighteenth-Century Art and Women

The Goncourt brothers are famous for their pithy misogynistic pronouncements on the subject of women. However, despite their reduction in the novels and the Journal of all feminine types to the one monstrous femme with which dix-neuvièmistes are all too familiar, there does exist her opposite. The Goncourt brothers cite the years from the death of Louis XIV to the execution of Marie-Antoinette as the period in which France was the capital of wit and style, as the period in which French artists produced uniquely French art, and as the only period in which French women sublimely ruled French society and culture. The brothers' treatment of women becomes more fully meaningful, therefore, in terms of the Goncourts historical and aesthetic idealization of the eighteenth century, an idealization in which the nineteenth-century could only represent a fall from grace. (JF)

Forrest, Jennifer.
Volume 2005-2006 Fall-Winter; 34(1-2): 44-62.