From Violence to Vision
Sacrifice in the Works of Marguerite YourcenareBook - 1992
Following a resolutely textual approach, Joan E. Howard examines the neglected but central role of sacrifice in the literary oeuvre of Marguerite Yourcenar.
Marguerite Yourcenar was the first woman elected to the previously all-male bastion of the Académie française. However, while some readers have regarded Yourcenar as antagonistic to modem feminism, Howard shows that Yourcenar’s works are susceptible to some surprisingly feminist interpretations. "Those who would co-opt Yourcenar into the conservative camp," warns Howard, "have not read her work carefully enough." In Le mystère d’Alceste, for example, Yourcenar’s Alcestis substitutes for her husband in death not out of wifely devotion, but to escape her stifling existence as wife and mother.
By combining her textual approach with various strains of poststructuralist theory, Howard argues convincingly that Yourcenar’s novels, stories, and plays call for a radical destructuring both of the human subject as commonly conceived and of the social, political, economic, and religious institutions in the Western world. Howard is the first to demonstrate that the largely unexamined role of sacrifice is central both to that critique and to Yourcenar’s literary oeuvre.