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Line, thread, and modern storytelling

Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary

Kathrin Fehringer

Abstract

With Madame Bovary (1857) Gustave Flaubert invents what is today referred to as the modern European novel. It is the story about Emma Bovary, a heroine constantly shown occupied with embroidering and reading, and who famously confuses text and image, fiction and reality to fatally poison herself in the end. Flaubert writes his novel by means of two drafts depicting the main setting and, thus, the concept of space in his novel. In doing so, he uses two techniques of the line: drawing and designing, which he carefully connects to two techniques of the thread: embroidering and weaving. Flaubert stages this connection of thread and line not only by the textile occupation of his storytelling heroine as an embroiderer, an aesthete. Together with her, he refers to his own practices of écriture, which, in his letters during the work on Madame Bovary, he puts as textile storytelling. Trying to develop a completely new style for his “book about nothing” (Flaubert), Flaubert bases his own storytelling on the visual medium: He draws lines designing a closed-up space on paper, which he afterwards transforms into the connected threads of a textile text, into story. With reference to Tim Ingold, the article analyses the relation of line, space and thread in Flaubert’s novel as a new form of écriture which, as Flaubert seems to claim, represents the only possible way of storytelling in Modernity.

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston
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