A la recherche d'une histoire perdue
Van Zwoll, Lisa R
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Personal journals are often seen as merely historical documents, but this is not the case. In Journal d’une femme de cinquante ans by Henriette-Lucy Dillon, Marquise de La Tour du Pin de Gouvernet, we find a literary text. This self-proclaimed “simple journal” proves to be a literary endeavor that can be compared with canonical writings of the same period. Written in the first half of the nineteenth century, La Tour du Pin’s work is influenced by authors such as Daniel Defoe, François-René de Chateaubriand, Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, and Jacques Delille. I begin this work with detailed character studies and pay special attention to the role of gender. Chapter one is devoted to La Tour du Pin’s use of the female body and constructions of women’s identity. This is best demonstrated in a discussion of Henriette-Lucy, the main character and heroine. In chapter two I direct my focus to the men in the text. I work with Naomi Schor’s assertion that it is difficult to create representations of men in women’s literature. Chapter three culminates in a literary analysis of La Tour du Pin’s work. Here, I compare her text to those of the canonical authors mentioned above. I use the American episode of her work as a literary case study and explore her treatment of common tropes used in representations of America in literature: country existence, slavery, portrayal of American Indians, and religious conversion. In chapter four I return to a focus on the main character. I employ Kathleen Woodward’s definition of the mirror stage of old age to address the tensions created by aging and I explore La Tour du Pin’s use of age within her text to illustrate her version of the life cycle and the stages of which it consists. In conclusion, Journal d’une femme de cinquante ans presents an interesting case for the discussion of fiction versus reality. In this work the line between literature and history is blurred and we see the creation of a narrative that exists between the two.