Thursday, July 18, 2019

Francine du Plessix Gray’s: At Home with the Marquis de Sade: A Life :: Biography Family Papers

Francine du Plessix Gray’s: At Home with the Marquis de Sade: A Life In 1998, Francine du Plessix Gray, prolific author of novels, biographies, sociological studies and frequent contributions to The New Yorker, published her most acclaimed work to date: At Home with the Marquis de Sade: A Life. A Pulizer Prize finalist that has already appeared in multiple English-language editions as well as translated ones, Du Plessix Gray’s biography has met with crowning achievement and recognition on all fronts. Accolades have accumulated from the most acclaimed of eighteenth-century luminaries, such as Robert Darnton, in a lengthy review in The New York Review of Books that compares her biography with Laurence Bongie’s Sade: A Biographical Essay, to the list of scholars whom she thanks in her acknowledgements for having read the manuscript: Lynn Hunt, Lucienne Frappier-Mazur, and Marie-Hà ©là ¨ne Huà «t. Surely, any scholar can appreciate the vast amount of research that undergirds Du Plessix Gray’s narrative, and indeed, she takes g reat pains to meticulously inform the reader who might care to look at her sources and read her acknowledgements that she has done her homework and knows every inch of the scholarly terrain. Du PlessixGray wisely begins her acknowledgements with a debt of gratitude to Maurice Lever’s studies, which rest on years of archival research. However, what really frames Francine du Plessix Gray’s biography is not so much the â€Å"fin du dix huitià ¨me sià ¨cle† but the â€Å"fin du vingtià ¨me sià ¨cle† and the â€Å"reality† material from Sade’s life that made it possible to represent the Marquis, his sons, his wife, mother-in-law, father-in-law, and uncle as so many of the people who populate the running narrative of criminals, deadbeat dads, incestuous relatives, date-raping playboys, and battered women that fill soap operas, day-time talk, women’s magazines, talk radio, and the tabloids. This paper, then, explores Sade’s biography not as a narrative of (the Marquis de Sade’s) his life, but as a narrative that pleases today’s reader because it serves up a voyeur’s view of (in) his â€Å"dysfunctional† family life â€Å"at home† that we are all too familiar with. This becomes abundantly apparent when du Plessix-Gray’s rend ering of the Marquis and the Marquise’s lives are superimposed over the rà ©cit of lives that we read about all the time in the popular press and observe in television soaps and other series. Ultimately, we are interested in what such a reading, writing and representation of Sade’s life does to Sade’s persona and status, both in the world of letters, but more importantly, in the world at large.

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