Sjef Houppermans: "La question du genre dans Le Diable amoureux de Cazotte"
In Le Diable amoureux (The enamoured Devil) of Jacques Cazotte (1772), Alvare, a young Spanish nobleman who is living in Naples as a captain of his majesty's guard, makes his confession. He tells us how he has been seduced in the grottos of Portici and has concluded a pact with the devil. He first shows himself in the form of the head of a camel, but is soon to be subjected to several metamorphoses: he finally becomes a young page whose beauty will fill the heart of Alvare with sentiments of ever growing tenderness, bringing him to a state of confusion.
Narrative techniques and the rhetoric of the tale subtly involve the reader so that he joins the young captain in his belief in the physical existence of the devilishly charming Biondetto/Biondetta. The doubt on the sexual nature of creature is reflected in a style that is full of ambiguity.
The question this article wants to raise is how the literary codes may function in order to attain such a fictional ambivalence, and what are the motivations operating at the level of the conception of the literary figures. Critics of a psycho-analytical orientation were once eager to treat this exemplary story, but we would like to suggest that the final word has not been spoken yet and the sphinx of the Age of Enlightenment still waits for his answer to the question: «Que Vuoi?».
AsK, jan 2011
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