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By Pierre Saint-Amand

Ecu; France; French; French fiction; historical past and feedback; Literary feedback; Non-Fiction; Seduction in literature; Semiotics & thought; intercourse in literature

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The Libertine's Progress: Seduction in the Eighteenth-Century French Novel

Ecu; France; French; French fiction; historical past and feedback; Literary feedback; Non-Fiction; Seduction in literature; Semiotics & thought; intercourse in literature

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To return to the inversion of positions in the seductive relationship, which I have already mentioned, one might say that the model of desire can himself be carried away by that to which he is supposed to direct the other. Through the agency of the person seduced, the seducer can become infected by the contagion of seduction, in which case he imitates the desire initially offered to the other; the process of seduction would thus make the partners doubles of each other. 18 Mimicry If the seducer assumes the diabolical figure of the sorcerer in the novels we are about to examine, it is because he is able to induce unanimity of desire in others.

The spectacle of coquetry is always at the other's disposition, it is always dedicated to the other. In her "read[ing] the souls of men" there is something of Pascalbut it has taken a diabolical twist. 9 In a crucial episode in the novel, when Marianne is due to make a spectacular entrance into Parisian society, she is taken into a church. There, we find her in a lucid frenzy of coquetry, performing a virtual striptease staged with meticulous intent. Having anticipated the scene with contentment ("I was in a hurry to go to church to see how much I would be looked upon" [M, 52]), Marianne finds herself an immedi- Page 22 ate success: "I was scarce seated before I observed the eyes of all the gentlemen fixed upon me" (50).

The coquette appears in these novels as one of the modern figures of sorcery. Despite the widely held belief that witches had been expelled from the Age of Enlightenment and packed off far from the shores of Reason, Page 5 along with their craft, 3 the eighteenth-century novel brings the sorceress back into our phantasms, back within the horizon of our desires. Her secrets, her ability to hypnotize the other through her enticing attire, her rites of initiation are all terrifying: once again, the witch is back with her charms, potions, and poisons.

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