French Society and Literature in the Romantic Age 1750-1850
Sick Heroes examines the cultural practices that created those remarkably offensive, though strangely appealing, romantic heroes that appeared in European and especially in French literature in the latter half of the eighteenth century. Romanticism has long been considered a literary movement, but Pasco broadens its scope and suggests that it was a cultural reality born of widespread social factors and sustained by a mass market for novels, poems and plays that popularized attitudes and behaviour.
“Meticulously documented, written in a clear and witty manner, Sick Heroes is ambitious in the scope of literature it examines and audacious in its application of modern studies in the behavioural sciences to fiction. It is a valuable addition to the criticism of the Romantic novel because of the fresh insights it brings to well-known works and for the wealth of information it provides on lesser-known literature. Its most significant contribution to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century French studies, however, is the coherent and convincing psychological portrait it paints of an age so obviously afflicated with many of the problems of the twentieth century. Pasco succeeds admirably in accounting for the appeal of his unusual heroes and heroines, characters who expressed a popular mentality to a much greater degree than historians and literary scholars have previously recognized.” (Philosophy and Literature, April 1998) “Pasco does not preach, does not try to make literary works into the heroes or accessory villains of a political struggle in which he feels invested. Instead, they are symptoms of a sociopathology that one could readily corroborate with examples of abused and neglected children in the fictions of Hugo or Dickens. Pasco offers an impressive, harmonious blend of "hard scholarship" (investigation of original sources) and imaginative synthesis. One can anticipate that this study, like his important overview that opens Allusion (Toronto UP, 1994), will become widely influential.” (Nineteenth Century French Studies, Vol. 27, Nos. 1 and 2) “This attractively-written and thoroughly researched and documented study redefines Romanticism as primarily a cultural phenomenon and paints a sweeping portrait of the French people’s collective mentality during the period extending from the mid-eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth century, a time-frame which encompasses the most profound social, political, and aesthetic changes. . . This is a remarkably rich, informative, and in many ways innovative examination of a crucial period in French literary and cultural history.” (French Review, March 1999)
Allan H. Pasco is Hall Distinguished Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature, University of Kansas. He is the author of a number of books, including Allusion: A Literary Graft (Toronto, 1994) and has contributed many articles to the major journals.
Sick Heroes - French Society and Literature in the Romantic Age 1750-1850 - Hardback cover