Le Vide Intérieur: Self and Consciousness in René, Atala, and Adolphe

Atala, René, and Adolphe explore the "vide intérieur" created by Romantic self-consciousness. The situation of their expatriate heroes images that dilemma: love is frustrated, either because passion is forbidden, "criminal" (Chateaubriand) or because the hero's attempts to generate emotion are vitiated by self-analysis (Constant.) Thus, as in Freud, the self is divided between conscious and unconscious elements; both novelists underscore the painfulness, perhaps futility, of attempting to reconcile the two. The suffering of self-consciousness transforms the lover into the artist who, in Chateaubriand's striking image, tells his story under a tree in the desert. (MS)

Scanlan, Margaret
Volume 1979-1980 Fall-Winter; 8(1-2): 30-36.