“J’aurai un salon magnifique [. . .] et moi seul j’y entrerai”: Hospitality as Potency in Stendhal’s Armance

This article highlights feminist thought on hospitality in order to stress the implicit cultural connection between the salon and the hostess in Armance. Furthermore, it argues that theories of hospitality can reopen the debate about impotence in the novel by raising questions of self-mastery and the power to act. Drawing on Derrida’s contention that hospitality is a necessary condition for recognisable selfhood, the article suggests that Octave’s dilemma of impotence is encapsulated by his fantasy, early in the novel, of owning a salon which no-one else would enter. Considering the potential unruliness of both phallus and hostess, it asks to what extent Armance shows us Stendhal reflecting on the illusory nature of masculine self-sufficiency. By suggesting that potency in the novel can be understood in terms of mastery over detail, moreover, the article connects Octave’s preoccupation with his private salon to Stendhal’s own concerns with achieving a succinct literary style.

Ellamae Lepper
University of Cambridge