Metatheatricality and Subversion in the Comtesse de Murat’s Voyage de campagne
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- Kennedy, T.V. Neophilologus (2010) 94: 557. doi:10.1007/s11061-009-9195-3
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In his book Le roi-machine, Jean-Marie Apostolidès describes Louis XIV as the principal director of his own spectacle at Versailles. Alongside this micromanaged world, the petite société represents another permanent space of representation which escapes the court’s watchful eye. The Voyage de campagne by the Comtesse de Murat highlights the adventures of a group of six aristocrats who spend two months in the Comte de Sélincourt’s country château entertaining one other. We shall examine the metatheatrical aspects of this dramatic space, in which the characters, aware of their own role-playing, continually perform, becoming spectacles of one another. Colored with theatrical rhetoric, the characters’ language is seen as a symptom of the intermediate space. A closer look brings the insubordinate aspect of this “prise du pouvoir” to light. Far from the constrictive domain of the capital, the characters improvise their own spectacular world which at times spills into the realm of the supernatural, in direct opposition to the constraints of aesthetic codes. I will argue that the subversive nature of their otherworldly existence is in reaction to the controlled rational literary space of the capitol. It is through their own embracement of the irrational that these six romantic sojourners are able to escape, for a short time, the tragic puppeteered space of the roi-machine.