I didn’t post any timely reading questions for Rachilde’s Monsieur Venus last week (my apologies–I was traveling), but here are some areas of inquiry to ponder when writing about the novel this week , for those of you who are writing blog posts, and those members of the public who are interested in interacting with the Stanford students in the comments section. Students’ blog posts for Rachilde’s Monsieur Venus can be found easily via this link. -petradt
- How does the novel present gender and gender roles?
- How does the novel present sexuality?
- What is the role of cross-dressing, S/M role play, and violence (e.g. Raoule’s, Raittolbe’s towards Jacques and Marie–think also of verbal violence)?
- What role does homoeroticism play for the relationships, rivalries, and desires between the “queer love triangle” of Raoule, Jacques, and Raittolbe?
- What role does sado-masochistic imagery play throughout? How does the relationship between dominant/submissive change at times, and to what effect?
- What other relationship triangles are there in the novel besides that one?
- What other “pairs” of protagonists function as foils here, and for whom? As a reminder, the other important figures in this novel are Marie Silvert, Aunt Ermengarde, and Martin Durand. What are their functions and purposes in the novel?
- Some typically Decadent themes appear prominently in this novel. They include (and this is not an exhaustive list): death and sex, a love of art and collecting (pay attention to what kind of art and objects are featured repeatedly throughout the novel, and what their significance might be), unorthodox sexual practices and tastes, challenges to organized religion and morality, extreme individualism, pathological imagery, organicity versus artificiality, etc.
- What are some of the major allusions to mythology, history, and literature here, and what is their role and function, in each case? Do some of these allusions work together to create and support certain themes? Which ones?
- role of religious imagery in the novel (especially the ending)
- Look again at the censored passages–mainly the first few paragraphs of chapter 2, the whole of chapter 7, and parts of the penultimate sentence of the ending (see my Rachilde lecture notes for more information on this). What could have made them so shocking, and why?
- You may already know (or remember from class) that Rachilde was actually a staunch antagonist of the women’s rights movement of her time (she disdained it). How can this novel nevertheless be read as a quasi-feminist text? And what arguments from within the text might possibly speak against such a feminist interpretation? (pro/contra)
- Is the shocking ending ironic or not, in your view? Why? (pro/contra)
- How does this 1884 novel compare to contemporary theories and cultural views of gender and sexuality, in your view?
As we are looking forward to next week’s discussions of Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and Huysmans’ Against the Grain, please keep Rachilde’s novel in mind as one of the reading foils for Wilde’s novel. (Wilde read both Rachilde’s and Huysmans’ Decadent novels before writing his own, and there is scholarly evidence that he was influenced by both, as well as many other sources, French and other.) What reminds you of Rachilde’s decadent universe in Wilde’s novel, if anything?