Catherine Gallouët, professor of French and Francophone studies, has studied Marivaux her entire career. While she has also published extensively on other writers and other subjects, Gallouët has been drawn back to the 18th century French playwright, essayist, and novelist, for his surprisingly contemporary subject matter and the modernity of his style.
“That’s the reason he is the most produced classical playwright on the French stage,” says Gallouët.
This spring, Gallouët published Marivaudage: théories & pratiques d’un discours (Oxford Studies in the Enlightenment, 2014), a collection of essays exploring the style of Marivaux as it is discussed by his contemporaries and is remembered today.
“Marivaux’s style gave birth to a common term in French, marivaudage, now coined for an excess of language and a preciousness of expression. Whereas Marivaux’s ambition was to create a new and transparent expression, he was reviled by his contemporaries for feminine style and vulgarity,” says Gallouët, who edited the essays and wrote the book’s Introduction and the essay “Voilà bien des riens pour un véritable rien: les enjeux du marivaudage” (Much ado about nothing: the stakes of marivaudage.) “I wanted to see the discussion reframed in terms that are much more contemporary and political, through the lens of cultural studies and contemporary textual criticism. It’s a very interdisciplinary book that’s more reflective of what marivaudage is than the way it’s remembered.”
When her publisher asked what image she would like to use for the book’s cover, Gallouët wanted to use a Valentine card that Kathleen Tocke ’95 made for her, which featured an inset of Jean-Antoine Watteau’s painting, L’Enseigne de Gersaint (1720). In Watteau’s painting, a man is packing away a portrait of Louis XIV; on the Valentine, and on the cover of Marivaudage, the portrait is the 1743 Van Loo’s portrait of Marivaux.
Tocke, who is a member of the U.S. Sailing team, a 2013 U.S. national champion, and is currently competing in the French World Cup, has remained in touch through the years.
“I have kept this card hanging over my desk all along, and when my publisher asked for a cover, it seemed like the natural choice because of the witty reference to Marivaux,” says Gallouët, who contacted Tocke for permission, and asked Assistant Professor of Art Christine Chin to touch up the image according to the publisher’s specs, readying it for the cover.
“Marivaux is an author I’ve been researching my whole career, and this book is something I’ve had in my head for a very long time. Now it’s finished and features the most important Marivaux scholars,” Gallouët says. “Including Kathleen, an old friend, and Christine, my colleague, in this project, it feels like a complete circle.”
The image above features the cover of Marivaudage: théories & pratiques d’un discours, a collection of essays.