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Madame Bovary

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 12 July 2007

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the literary sensation caused by Gustave Flaubert's novel Madame Bovary. In January 1857 a man called Ernest Pinard stood up in a crowded courtroom and declared, “Art that observes no rule is no longer art; it is like a woman who disrobes completely. To impose the one rule of public decency on art is not to subjugate it but to honour it”. Pinard was no grumbling hack, he was the imperial prosecutor of France, and facing him across the courtroom was the writer Gustave Flaubert. Flaubert’s work had been declared “an affront to decent comportment and religious morality”. It was a novel called Madame Bovary.

The story of an adulterous housewife called Emma, Madame Bovary, is a vital staging post in the development of realism. The arguments in court involved a heady brew of art, morality, sex and marriage and ensured the fame of the novel and its author.

With Andy Martin, Lecturer in French at the University of Cambridge; Mary Orr, Professor of French at the University of Southampton; Robert Gildea, Professor of Modern History at the University of Oxford

  • Further Reading

    Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot, (Jonathan Cape, 1984)

    Mario Vargas Llosa, The Perpetual Orgy: Flaubert and Madame Bovary, (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1986)

    Geoffrey Wall, Flaubert: A Life, (Faber, 2001)

    Francis Steegmuller, Flaubert and Madame Bovary, (NYRB Classics, 1984)

    Dominic LaCapra, Madame Bovary On Trial, (Cornell, 1982)

    Alan Raitt, The Originality of Madame Bovary, (Lang, 2002) (chap 3, ‘The Scandal’)

    Elisabeth Ladenson, Dirt for Art's Sake: Books on Trial from Madame Bovary to Lolita, (Cornell, 2006)

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