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Des aristocrates de papier. Trois figurations littéraires de nobles à la fin de l’Ancien Régime (Besenval, Polignac, Richelieu)

Abstract : If, with the Revolution, the nobility loses its predominant position from a political and social point of view, symbolically the situation is different. The nobility continues to exercise, at least for a long nineteenth century, a real fascination that allows it to maintain its influence and prestige. This thesis intends to examine the modalities of this paradoxical situation by looking at the social imaginary of the nobility at the end of the Ancien Régime. This is a question of studying the object from a literary point of view, starting from the development of three characters of nobility at the end of the eighteenth century: the Baron de Besenval, the Duchess de Polignac and the Marshal de Richelieu. The literary depictions follow largely different trajectories for the three cases. While one chooses to take up the pen to write one’s own Memoirs (Besenval), another is only seen in texts written by others, those texts being more or less ill-intentioned (Polignac). For the third, the situation is even more complex since a number of competing editorial projects are launched at the time of his death, some protected by his family and others not, resulting in a particularly polarized corpus. Between Memoirs, pseudo-Memories and pamphlets nourished by pornographic or romantic intertextuality, the spectrum of literary genres represented is thus very broad – as are the generic and formal constraints that play a role in the process of figuration.Drawing on this vast corpus, the thesis examines certain modalities of representation of these characters, focusing on three themes that seem particularly important: homosexuality, the collective anguish of women's seizure of power (gynecocracy), and dehumanization. These different points of entry, which also imply the use of a conceptual apparatus derived from gender studies, make it possible to account for the constitution of an imaginary enemy figure, the aristocrat, which takes on its full importance at the time of the Revolution by embodying the archetypal enemy. They also provide an opportunity to deploy a discourse of exceptionality in favor of the nobility. Finally, this work constitutes a contribution concerning the study of a formal element characteristic of the social imaginary of the nobility: the anecdote. Whether serving to nourish a historiographical renewal of critical history or as a bargaining chip in the court system, the anecdote is an essential unit of the narrative culture of the time. Rewritten particularly in forms that borrow from the biographer, it can also be used to produce a true memorial to the nobility of the Ancien Régime, which, after the Revolution, helps to maintain its power of fascination.
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Maxime Triquenaux. Des aristocrates de papier. Trois figurations littéraires de nobles à la fin de l’Ancien Régime (Besenval, Polignac, Richelieu). Littératures. Université de Lyon, 2020. Français. ⟨NNT : 2020LYSE2058⟩. ⟨tel-03128877⟩

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