Power of Attention

If you do not recognize any of the names in Naomi Schor’s master stroke, just imagine that literary history is like fantasy league football.

One of the major objectives of feminist literary criticism has been the reshaping of the canon, especially by opening it up to accommodate works by women writers. I believe a complementary and perhaps more insidious revisionism is called for as well, one which would take the form of subtle displacements within the canon we have inherited from Lanson and company and transmitted more or less unexamined for decades. My revisionist literary history of nineteenth-century French fiction would involve three substitutions which would do much to denaturalize an all too familiar landscape. First, Chateaubriand’s Atala would displace his René as the founding text of nineteenth-century French literature, for it is in the former that the enchaining of the female protagonist is explicitly staged, as Atala is transformed from the mobile liberatrix of the male captive with whom she falls in love to a suicide who dies ruing the vow her mother made forbidding her daughter from ever knowing jouissance. Second, at the other end of the diachronic axis, Villiers de l’Isle-Adam’s L’Eve future would displace J-K HuysmansA Rebours as the ultimate text of post realism, for Villiers’ futuristic fantasy of a female android is the logical conclusion of a century of fetishization of the female body. And, finally, Stendhal would replace Balzac as the paradigmatic realist novelist. The degree to which this history appears outlandish and even outrageous is a measure of the work that remains to be done.
from Breaking the Chain: Women/Theory, and French Realist Fiction

And so for day 1403