The narrative is based on Strindberg's marriage to Siri von Essen. The book was written in French and first published in a German translation in As his stormy marriage to Siri von Essen was coming to an end, August Strindberg feared there was a secret conspiracy between the women of Europe, and they were planning to silence him by conducting a campaign to make people believe he was insane. Strindberg therefore decided to hurriedly write a book revealing the truths about the marriage. He began to write The Defence of a Fool in the autumn and it was finished the following spring.
It was written in French. The book was first published in through G. The original French version was published by Albert Langen in Johannesson describes it as "a poor translation from Schering's German version which gives a totally misleading impression of the nature of the book".
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Average Review. Write a Review. Related Searches. Excerpt from Capital Punishment: And the LawEach age or epoch of time has furnished its philosophers - persons of a high susceptibility, mental and moral impressibility, which enabled them to take a step in advance of the masses, and 'see View Product. About the PublisherForgotten Books Both Balzac and Gau- tier, like Strindberg later, use their male protagonists to reassert a "heterosexual and hierarchically gendered context" Waelti-Walters Maria's characterization as an aestheticized yet demonized hysteric with uncon- trollable and animalistic desires is clearly indebted to these late-nineteenth- century contexts.
Her perversity spans multiple poles: she is "the whore and the This content downloaded from This characterization, moreover, is spatialized: that is, certain locations permit certain actions. In A Madman's Defense, as in Zola's Nana and in Colette's novels, for example, lesbian desire is a performance that is both private and public. Because it is often situated within the theater and enacted by actresses, this ostensibly private behavior is simultaneously authenticated as literary and aes- thetic convention.
This duality operates in Le Plaidoyer d'un fou as well. Axel, of course, is both fascinated and revolted.
It's Only a Play.
Chevalier's medical comments provid a key context for what the narrator describes as his goal in writing Le Plaidoye d'un fou: engaging in a scientific and legal process to protect him against allega- tions of insanity. Lesbian desire is thus not a curious side effect of the narrative but central to its conceptualization and transnational settings. One of the ways in which Strindberg construes his narrative's modernity - what makes its content explosive - is the unexpected challenges he puts to the very cod- ifications of lesbian desire he seems to imitate.
The interplay between Axel as nar- rator and the settings he creates for himself and Maria suggests different forms of tension than late-nineteenth-century French conventions for representing lesbian desire. First of all, the first-person narrative relinquishes the prototypical third person sensationalist male gaze Waelti-Walters traces in favor of an increasingly destabilized, irrational narrator. This change perhaps correlates with Michael Luc ey's observations that first-person narration about homosexuality occurs only later in French literature and may thus be related to modernist prose developments in other European contexts see note 4 and cf.
Mesch In Le Plaidoyer d'un fou, moreover, lesbian desire emerges from a Utopian domestic setting in a modern Stockholm apartment. Rather than being relegated to the anonymous locations, rented rooms, theaters, parks, and other public settings in which it appears in the late-nineteenth-century French novel, lesbian desire in Le Plaidoyer d'un fou is domesticated. The threats this desire poses to social norms are inscribed within the confines of home, while also being construed as explicit threats to the nation.
As Robin Hackett argues in Sapphic Primitivism, literary modernism evolved in explicit tension with the representation of lesbia desire by period sexologists. Drawing on contemporary race science, sexologist helped "construct symbolic linkages between lesbianism and male homosexuality blackness, disease, criminality, working-class status, degeneracy, taint, pollution and prostitution" In Le Plaidoyer d'un fou such descriptors - with their spa tialized components that connote geographical locations the non-Western, th urban - relate explicitly to the male first-person narrator.
[PDF.06mo] It's Only a Play.
Indeed, Axel understands these symbolic linkages per fectly and links them to transitions between different geographical regions an the settings associated with them - from a domestic apartment in Stockholm t various boarding rooms in continental Europe. Indeed, Strindberg employs the ver geographical associations that allowed Victorian sexologists to "paint specifics about white middle-class European homosexuality against a backdrop of remark about. Thus, as Axel's accusations of Maria's misdeed increase in rhetorical fervor, the metaphors he employs turn to oppositions betwee Western acculturation and its undeveloped past, as well as to non-Western geo- graphical regions.
This well-known passage's extended list of epithets, paratactic syntax, and jux taposition of metaphorical time and space signal pertinent aspects of Le Plaid oyer d'un fou's aesthetic strategies. The descriptors throw into relief the delocalized setting of this first-person narration; Axel's accusations are enabled and produced in the absence of narrative architectural markers and national belonging, an absence that is part of the contemporary transnational threat of lesbianism in Plaidoyer d'un fou. Moreover, these absences signal the narrative's conformity with continental developments in literary representation and sexology, while also ge turing toward possible alternatives.
Because both Axel and Maria partake in dis ruptions of the domestic that propel Axel's narrative, their traveling south togethe formulates a paradigm based on continental travel in which threats to gendere conventions can be narrated, and which counteracts stereotypical representation of lesbian desire in modernist prose. Modernism and Problems of Transnational Literary History For scholars and literary historians interested in periodization and this has been a trade-mark of Swedish literary history during the last century , Strindberg in general, and his French production in particular, has provided some serious challenges.
What does it mean, for example, to write what purports to be an auto- biography in a foreign language? The French reception of the German and French versions of Le Plaidoyer d'un fou published during the s is illustrative in this regard, as it contrasts sharply with the subsequent Swedish reception of the novel.
As I have already noted see note 1 , the publication of the German translation of his novel led to charges of obscenity that in turn garnered considerable attention in Paris. The French critic Henri Albert writes in that he finds Axel disturb- ingly and masochistically submissive toward Maria, and he objects to the narra- tive's portrayal of women as dominant and perverse monsters paraphrased from Fahlgren Indeed, as Fahlgren has argued, Albert finds Strindberg's narrator hysterical, weak-minded, and insufficiently masculine Although Loiseau's edition of Le Plaidoyer d'un fou had removed some of the text's most objec- tionable passages and had "changed raw formulations into an elegant Parisian style," it is clear that in Paris during the mids Scandinavian literature stood for a particular form of modernity Stounbjerg , drawing on Engwall, my trans.
This typified modernity involved indecency, sexual explicitness, and an exaggerated interest in so-called women's questions. Content perceived as auto- biographical was not deemed a liability but interpreted as stemming from a gen- erally Nordic interest in authenticity and the portrayal of intense psychological experiences in their social setting Rossholm However, if Strindberg enjoyed a brief period of critical recognition in Paris in the mids and was understood, albeit fleetingly, as a representative of a European avant-garde interested in the construction of subjectivity in moder- nity, the relatively few Swedish reviews of the German and French versions of his novel that appeared in the s generally denounced the work in no uncertain terms.
Assuming that the narrative was in fact autobiographical, reviewers from both conservative and radical camps labeled the work "shameless," "offensive," "vindictive," "ruthless," "unfair," and - ultimately - "unprintable"; one critic even argued that the work inexcusably drags all of "literature" through the mud, and advised his Swedish readership to forget all about it Rossholm , my trans. Olsson, Jag blirgalen 49, In general, critics in Sweden dismissed most of Strindberg's work composed in French or on the European continent.
In Sweden a work such as Le Plaidoyer d'un fou thus became caught in a double-bind: published outside of Sweden, in French or in German, it was threateningly alien and perhaps ultra-modern in its trans- national implications. At the same time, its content was construed in Sweden as too personal, too Strindbergesque, and too biographically inflected critics and readers assumed that the character names Axel and Maria translated directly into August and Siri, the given name of the author's first wife.
If the work became This content downloaded from Strindberg's own writing about the novel tells yet another story. In letters writ- ten to a relative and a friend during the spring of , Strindberg remarks on the secrets it contained, secrets that needed to be safe-guarded and kept from pub- lic view Rossholm But if Strinderg's decision to write this text in French was an attempt to protect his personal privacy, he also writes that were the novel to be labeled "Swedish," it could become the legal property of a Swedish publisher and not the author.
French also provided an avenue by which Scandinavians could become "modern. Le Plaidoyer d'un fou may have been conceived by Strindberg as a private, personal, and intimate document, but it is certain mediated, and quite explicitly so. The transnational and translinguistic form critical here, because the "alien language," Strindberg claims, gives access to "complete vision. Yet, as we ha seen, Le Plaidoyer d'un fou never attempts to provide a panoramic overview or nat ralist painting of a complete social context.
In this novel, vision - the percepti in hindsight of events experienced far away - is subjective and interiorized. It modernist. The tension between private and public that underlies Strindberg's use of French and his drive to complete Le Plaidoyer d'un fou - even though he clearly did not expect to profit from its publication - also ties this novel to the developments in drama Strindberg advocated during the s. The spatial implications of the theory of staged intimacy in the preface to Miss Julie involve focusing not only on characters' interiority, but also on the exteriorization of a specific dramatic proj- ect: namely, creating a dominant aesthetic form for the public expression of what most contemporary reviewers and audiences since have thought to be intensely private matters.
1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Strindberg, August
In Strindberg's narrative and dramatic production at this time, the private is public, and he formulates the connection as explicitly spatial. For him, the logic of architectural and gendered paradigms is inseparable from late- nineteenth-century European aesthetics. However, that the private matters of sexual desire, jealousy, hatred, adultery, and deception represented in Strind- berg's works of the s were to be understood not as abstractly personal, but as explicitly autobiographical has been taken almost for granted by reviewers, audi- ences, and critics for nearly a century.
Indeed, Strindberg's sequence of works This content downloaded from And as seemingly autobio- graphical documents they are marred by their own constructions of misogyny and insanity. Indeed, a fundamental instability marks A Madman's Defense at least partially as an attempt to rethink the form and func- tion of first-person narration in the novel.
The naturalism of the late-nineteenth- century novel runs up against its own formal dissolution in A Madman's Defense, as the narrative relinquishes architectural markers and exchanges, in what is pur- portedly a truthful and public defense "plaidoyer" , the detached third-person narrator for the first-person narrator of an autobiographical form that had become increasingly feminized - and, as such, inferior, domestic, and ultimately unpub- lishable.
Strindberg rebels against the gendered conventions that go hand-in-hand with an architectural meta-language of the time, tracing a prison of modernity from whose gendered and spatial constraints he cannot escape - whether those constraints localize him as a demented misogynist or as a transnational writer whose location at any given time cannot correspond to an ideology of home, or an ideology in which the conventions of gender and architecture may fully coalesce. Le Plaidoyer d'un fou is a transnational modernist novel in search of its own terri- tory, an attempt to encompass in "realist" prose what appears to be a fundamen- tally unrealistic project.
It challenges precisely those conventions of the novel genre based on the late-nineteenth-century ideology of public and private: con- ventions of nation, of home, of authenticity, of truth, and of the stability of gender demarcations. Strindberg och Frankrike U St holm, Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell, Balzamo, Elena. Olof Eriksson. Yet Le Plaidoyer d'un fou rem the text that cemented Strindberg's legacy as a misogynist. The rage directed at women in this n is both disturbing and fascinating, especially since it is explicitly construed as inseparable from l ary forms - narrative, metaphorical, generic, paratextual - that disrupt any stable demarcat between nineteenth-century ideologies of masculinity and femininity.
U Stockholm, Stockholm: Prisma, Casanova, Pascale. The World Republic of Letters. Cambridge: Harvard UP, Chaudhuri, Una.
weltenaufgang german edition Manual
Eriksson, Olof, ed. Fahlgren, Margaretha. Kvinnans ekvation. Stock- holm: Carlssons, Hackett, Robin. Sapphic Primitivism. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, Halberstam, Judith. Hamon, Philippe. Katia Sainson-Frank and Lisa Maguire. Berkeley: U of California P, Johannesson, Eric. Berkeley: U of Cali- fornia P, En queerteoretisk analys av erotiska trianglar i sex verk av August Strindberg.
Uppsala University, Lucey, Michael.