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Hypersensuality and Hollowness : More Flaubert

Hypersensuality and Hollowness : More Flaubert

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Published by Adam Fieled
More notes about nineteenth century French novelist Gustave Flaubert, this time centering on his book "Sentimental Education."
More notes about nineteenth century French novelist Gustave Flaubert, this time centering on his book "Sentimental Education."

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Published by: Adam Fieled on Apr 16, 2014
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Hypersensuality and Hollowness : More Flaubert

Adam Fieled

Flaubert's two protagonists - F. Moreau and Emma Bovary - share the complexes of halfdeveloped interiority, oriented around systems of sensibility (hypersensuality) which struggle to achieve understanding. The double standards imposed by gender- that F. Moreau is sanctioned to attain his sentimental education while Emma Bovary pays for hers with her life - do not deflect attention from the essential similarity of this half-hollow core, which registers all facets of human life (affect, social responsibilities, the vicissitudes of different forms of attachment) on only the first, lowest level of cognition, sans the enhancement of a higher mind to grant the form of principles leading into any kind of settled wisdom, against currents which bear them along, rising and falling, in a world only detailed on the surface, and then only by the formal delicacy and exquisite precision of Flaubert's prose. Flaubert's didacticism - his lesson for discerning readers - is a kind of treatise on what constitutes "missing interiority" in average, undistinguished human consciousness. The disjuncture between what the narrative third-person eye sees - an ornately detailed, finely wrought and structured set of interstices and connective tissues, fastening and clasping figures tightly to a world configured past evanescence - and what F. Moreau and Emma Bovary see - a mirror-reflection of a landscape formed to affirm or deny their claims on sociosexual and socio-cultural desirability, to (figuratively) nod at them in affirmation of their claims, which they react to with conventional pleasure or displeasure (acceptance engendering pleasure and rejection displeasure), makes clear the author's (perhaps alienated) distinction from his protagonists, his own comprehensive understanding of their circuitry dynamics from "over" them, leading back to the guiding principle of missing interiors, and its strange (uncanny) chiasmus with finely interwoven hypersensual detail, how it generates textual richness against the impoverished cognitions and inchoate misunderstanding of these characters. Thus, dealing with these texts, hypersensuality on one proverbial hand and missing interiors/interiority on the other generate a tension-and-release dynamic- the detailing, in all its tactile richness, releases readers from our limited ability to affix attention to/"bind" to protagonists whose pedestrian perceptions, motivations, and situational improvisations must be a disappointment to us. In a way, this chiasmus demonstrates Flaubert's form/manner of negative capability- the polarity of hypersensuality/missing interiority is not only never resolved, it inheres so dynamically and seamlessly in these texts that it creates its own

form/manner of textual ambience, extraordinarily unique in the annals of major high art consonant prose, and gilded with levels/layers of richness against his own protagonists, who are radically diminished by what they cannot, with their merely sensible cognitions and lack of understanding, surpass. Sensory data is not merely drawn, it is important to note, from nature- the synthetic materials of human life (houses, faces, clothing, food) are all drawn into the scaffolded matrix of Flaubert's regulatory and compensatory hypersensuality, so that the hypersensual textual impulse, as it were, is not strictly anti-human/Other in the conventionally (English) Romantic manner.

As to the significance of the hypersensuality of Flaubert's prose, in the ultimate sense - and what might be called the ultimate Flaubertian mystery - it would seem that it reduces to one suggestion, which bridges the physical and metaphysical, cognition and antithetical lack thereof - the raw fact and facticity of human life consists of the surface of human consciousness (sensibility) and, for most (all but a privileged few), the depths (cognitive or affective understanding, then understanding into the principles of reason) are an afterthought. The Flaubertian mystery involves the details and nuances of what I call the hypersensual (in the broadest sense, the ocular) and how (somewhere) the superabundance of sensual detail inhering in human life both redeems and vindicates all that is vapid and vacuous in the ever-developing continuum of human society, both what it engenders both in individuals and communities, and the manner in which it imposes itself on attempts to elevate, demystify, broaden, and educate broad swaths of population at different moments and through various epochs of human history. In other words, that there is a depth and density, angled against the vapid, to ocular surfaces, so that what they reveal is a kind of value or value-factor which varies in its manifestations from context to context, but grants permanent cognitive significance by revealing (in details, in nuances) what is unconscious or subconscious in the human race, which cannot (in these details/nuances) hide itself - thus, the ultimate Flaubertian mystery is an objective (third person) revelation of human depth from changing, scintillating surfaces. This Flaubertian mystery is obscure, tangled, confused - and other facets of the surface of Flaubert's prose (cynicism, irony, corrosive insight, revelations of cognitive-affective hollowness) are enjambed against it in such a way that the redemptive can manifest only intermittently. The dialectic between redemptive and corrosive narrative vistas in Flaubert manifests its syntheses in presence, the presence of present textual moments - and neither of the two threads is ever lost entirely against the other - so that not only is their synthesis perpetual, the perfected formal balance of Flaubert's impressively omnipotent third person voice weaves a textual tapestry both tightly and ornately enough that this formality is itself a mystery as dazzling in its array of combinations and effects as the mystery of Flaubert's hypersensual detailing and engraving. Thus, one seeming deficit of Flaubert's efforts when set alongside Tolstoy's - the half-present interiority of his protagonists, which drains narrative interest from their interior and exterior experiences - forms an unexpected synthesis of its own with Tostoy-as-antithesis, by adding a hinge to the most major high art consonant productions of representational art, its colors, forms, textures. Flaubert's prose is, indeed, more "colored" than Tolstoy's, and also more unique in its formulated strategies and

symmetrical angularities, cleaving to two representational centers rather than one, and making an indirect assaying of depth rather than investigating Tolstoy's probing, piercing, sustained directness. In "Anna Karenina," only the scenes delineating Levin's maintenance of his farm approach Flaubert's probing, piercing, sustained (and often pure, negatively capable) ocularity. If the peak exceeds the most intense moments of Flaubert's prose, owing to Levin's fullness as a character, is a worth an interrogative glance- as is the nature and complex of what the ultimate Tolstoyan mystery is.

Compressed Matrix : Flaubert and the Purification Chain

Primary Mode

(Space Between)

Secondary Mode Textual inclusions The “ocular” Hypersensuality (apotheosis of sensibility) detailed prosody “value-factor” of the representational/painterly to purify partials with wholes : “depth of surfaces” sensibility-as-understanding

Textual elisions/half-elisions (quarter-elisions) Explorations of hollowness/ half-filled interiors and/or missing interiors/merely “sensible” protagonists third-person omniscience (“understanding”) restrained prosody/no editorializing linear narrativity

Hypersensuality purifies explorations of missing interiors because, as a secondary mode of aesthetic expression, it vouches for hidden depths within the surface of raw sensibility, a sense of beauty and wholeness against the stunted and partial, and a sense of release from narrative tensions, strains, and abrasions. Hollowness and hypersensuality both maintain a formal and a thematic component – the formal quality of the one side’s prose balances the others because “hollowness” in Flaubert’s texts functions by a sense of deliberate elisions (elided editorializing/judgmental accusations/expanded interior glances) while hypersensuality functions by a deliberate sense of inclusion (details, the richness of active surfaces perpetually rendered.) Why Flaubert’s linear narrativity, split between character-based elisions and ocular inclusions, is still a superior congeries of formal-thematic gambits to what the avant-garde twentieth century novel presented – that the formal and thematic elements are woven and “scaffolded” together in such a way that no obvious textual imbalances are created, which cannot be said of the Edwardians on one hand (whose formality lacked inventiveness) and the Modernists on the other (whose formality chewed up and swallowed most thematic elements in their texts); and that the twentieth century’s rote insistence on the retrograde nature of linear narrativity was both reductive against what it might achieve when executed artfully and unwholesome/perverse in its overrating of the formalist textual impulse. Adam Fieled, 2014

***paintings in this pdf by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec***

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