Sex, Politics, and Silence in Restoration France

October 23, 2014, a talk by Andrew Counter.

The famous ellipses that punctuate Stendhal’s Le Rouge et le noir tend to intervene when the story comes too close to one of two topics: sex and politics. Andrew Counter argues that Stendahl’s use of ellipses to designate forbidden sexual or political topics was a basic convention of early 19th-century public discourse. The parallel rhetorical treatment of sex and politics, meanwhile, intensified the pre-existing association between the two, producing doubly subversive textual ‘hotspots’ that reveal much about the cultural fault-lines of the era. Counter explores these hotspots in fiction writers of the Bourbon Restoration (1815-1830), including Stendhal, to show how silence becomes politically and erotically productive in an era of censorship.

Andrew Counter teaches French at King’s College London. His book Inheritance in Nineteenth-Century French Culture: Wealth, Knowledge and the Family appeared in 2010, and he is currently finishing his second, The Amorous Restoration: Love, Sex and Politics in Early Nineteenth-Century France.