Maturity and Modernity in Fromentin's Dominique

This article examines the thematic tension in Fromentin's Dominique between maturity (the conventional telos of the roman d'apprentissage) and modernity, as described by theorists from Benjamin to Moretti. The three principal male figures illustrate this tension in contrasting ways. Dominique's much-vaunted achievement of maturity depends on a complete withdrawal from modern urban existence and is, moreover, questioned by the otherwise uncritical frame narrator. Olivier, who thrives in the modern city, suffers mental collapse and attempts suicide when he returns to the ancestral estate. Augustin, married and successful by the end of the novel, goes some way to resolving the tension but lacks the emotional and æsthetic sensitivity to act as a satisfactory model of maturity. Dominique, then, supports Franco Moretti's claim that conventional models of maturity are incompatible with the centrifugal and dissipative energies of modernity and takes its place alongside L'Education sentimentale in the mid-century crisis of the psychological novel. (RM)

MacKenzie, Robin.
Volume 2006 Winter; 35(2): 352-66.