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Title: Wie is hier de idioot?
Subtitle: Sartre en Flaubert over taal
Author(s): WELTEN, Ruud
Journal: Tijdschrift voor Filosofie
Volume: 85    Issue: 1   Date: 2023   
Pages: 85-109
DOI: 10.2143/TVF.85.1.3292010

Abstract :
Jean-Paul Sartre’s immense study of the French writer Gustave Flaubert, The Family Idiot, is monstrous in its scope and dazzling in its hermeneutics. Sartre was obsessed with the Norman writer. This article takes as its starting point the question of what the word ‘idiot’ in the title of the study, The Family Idiot, refers to. That is, of course, first and foremost, Flaubert himself, but the question gives rise to a deeper consideration of the role of language in the work of both Sartre and Flaubert. Gustave appears to have grown up with a major language deficiency. But what is language anyway? In the light of Sartre’s reading of Flaubert, what is the relation between the silent idiot and language, and how is this relation foundational for the writings of Flaubert? To this end, a distinction must be made between Flaubert’s juvenile works, such as Quidquid volueris, and his adult works, such as Madame Bovary. In his juvenile works, he sublimates his hate against the family, which must be understood not only as the natural family but also as the society, i.e., as language. In his adult work, Flaubert thematizes the circularity of language, that is, its inherent idiocy, the fact that, in the end, we always say the same thing.

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