Born in 1804 as Aurore Dupin, later Baroness Dudevant, George Sand was the pseudonym that this intriguing woman chose for her literary career. She was a very prolific writer of novels, short stories and plays over a 40 year period. Her literary output has often been classified simplistically into 4 distinct periods, guided by the author’s biography: the feminist, romantic, personal novels: Indiana, Valentine, Lélia, Jacques, the humanitarian or socialist novels: Mauprat, Le Compagnon du tour de France, Horace, Consuelo etc., the 'romans champêtres' based in the Berry : Jeanne, François le champi, La Petite Fadette, and the 'romans mondains' or 'romanesques': Monsieur Sylvestre, Le Marquis de Villemer, Mademoiselle de la Quintinie.
George Sand’s works, especially those of the first ten years of her literary career, make use of elements from the English Gothic novel, the works of writers such as Ann Radcliffe and Matthew Lewis which were so popular in France at the end of the 18th century and the early 19th century. She recasts them in her own particular way, in order to advance her ideal of the active heroine who gains agency and negotiates the constraints of patriarchal society. In her masterpiece Consuelo, Sand refers explicitly to Radcliffe in the following excerpt:
Si l'ingénieuse et féconde Anne Radcliffe se fût trouvée à la place du candide et maladroit narrateur de cette très véridique histoire, elle n'eût pas laissé échapper une si bonne occasion de vous promener, madame la lectrice, à travers les corridors, les trappes, les escaliers en spirale, les ténèbres et les souterrains pendant une demi-douzaine de beaux et attachants volumes, pour vous révéler, seulement au septième, tous les arcans de son œuvre savante. Mais la lectrice esprit fort que nous avons charge de divertir ne prendrait peut-être pas aussi bien, au temps où nous sommes, l'innocent stratagème du romancier.
Sand's novels rewrite the doubled gothic heroine, her gothic itinerary and the gothic ending, in ways which empower her heroines.
Find out more on George Sand.
Read some of her novels.
In the English gothic novel, especially the works of Ann Radcliffe, the heroine often goes through a number of imprisoning and underground spaces and undergoes a number of tests of fortitude. She also goes through sublime landscapes which stimulate the heroine’s sensibility. The critic Ellen Moers envisions this itinerary as a positive strategy, enabling ‘travelling heroinism’
For Mrs. Radcliffe, the Gothic novel was a device to send maidens on distant and exciting journeys without offending the proprieties. In the power of villains, her heroines are forced to do what they could never do alone, whatever their ambitions: scurry up to the top of pasteboard Alps, spy out exotic vistas, penetrate bandit-invested forests. And indoors, inside Mrs. Radcliffe’s castles, her heroines can scuttle miles along corridors, descend into dungeons, and explore secret chambers without a chaperone because the Gothic castle, however much in ruins, is still an indoor and therefore freely female space. (Literary Women (London: W. H. Allen, 1977) p.126).
Below you can see the main phases of the heroine’s journey in The Mysteries of Udolpho.
In George Sand’s novels Consuelo and La Comtesse de Rudolstadt, the heroine’s itinerary proceeds not so much in a linear fashion as in a ‘spiral mode’. She encounters setbacks sometimes but these enable her to travel even further in her journey.
Read more on Consuelo’s doubled gothic itinerary.
Despite the fact that George Sand’s novels were bestsellers during their time of writing, they are now mostly forgotten or unknown by the general public. By visualising the intertextual and gothic dimensions of these novels, this tool demo aims is to bring out the richness and at the same time, the novelty of these works.
This tool can be adapted for various educational settings and levels - the potential student user would be able to explore the key sequences on this spiral in Sand’s novel, and explore links to English Gothic intertexts. Apart from allowing for a self-directed literature-learning environment, it provides critical engagement with nineteenth-century texts and enables complex cognitive processes such as noticing patterns and links, and making cross-references.
The spiral section of this demo has two functioning links in order to indicate the potential of such an approach. This tool is a proof of concept – more content may be added in the future.
If you have any questions or feedback, please contact Marilyn Mallia.