Daudet, James, and the Revision of the Nineteenth-Century Wifely Adultery Plot
Keywords:Henry James, Alphonse Daudet, adultery novel, La petite paroisse, The Golden Bowl
Although it is widely known that Henry James took inspiration from Alphonse Daudet’s L’Evangéliste (1883) for The Bostonians, and from Numa Roumestan (1881) for “The Liar,” the influence of the French novelist on James’s late fiction is still far from being fully grasped or acknowledged. In this essay I will read Daudet’s La petite paroisse. Moeurs conjugales (1895) together with James’s The Golden Bowl (1904) and discuss the similar ways in which these two works revised the nineteenth-century form of the “wifely adultery novel” (Overton 2002) within their respective literary and cultural contexts. My argument is that they challenged both the social stigmatization attached to the adulteress and what were taken to be ‘natural’ relations between husband and wife, and within the family circle.
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