Living Out Loud: The Mythopoetics of Bodily Representation in the Works of George Sand

  • James Illingworth

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis examines the representation of the body in the works of George Sand. While the body as a subject of analysis in literary studies is well established, Sand’s novels are generally reduced to a sentimental or idealist mode of writing whose focus is on the inner, emotional life of an individual. Moreover, where studies of the body have looked at Sand’s texts, they have tended to be limited to particular novels, especially those of the 1830s and 1840s, concluding that the body’s absence in Sand’s works is a result of her gender. Through analyses of a range of texts from across Sand’s career (such as Le Secrétaire intime, Flavie, Francia, and the unfinished Albine Fiori), this thesis problematizes the notion of the absent body, proposing instead that we should read Sand’s texts through a mythopoetics, an approach to writing that incorporates a multitude of symbolic elements to encourage an understanding of the body that combines the material and the metaphysical. This reading privileges the figure of Corambé, a mythic deity invented by Sand during her childhood and described in her autobiography. Examining Sand’s autobiography for traces of her coming to writing, the first chapter of the thesis places Corambé at the centre of Sand’s mythopoetics, as a being that symbolizes the potential of altruism, empathy, and creativity, but resists any fixed form. The subsequent chapters read Sand’s novels under the sign of Corambé, turning to Sand’s fictional depictions of bodies and her engagement with realism, symbolism, religion, and medicine to argue that Sand’s texts promote an alternative approach to the corporeal that accounts for a variety of different forms of experience. Instead of a fundamental idealism, such a reading instead suggests that Sand’s approach is based on an acceptance of the real qualities of an individual and a rejection of the ideal as a product of the masculine imagination, thereby repositioning Sand as a writer fully engaged in the questions of her age, and interrogating our understanding of her place within what we might call the canon.
Date of Award2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorMargaret Topping (Supervisor) & Steven Wilson (Supervisor)

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