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The Core Curriculum

Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert, 1856

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Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert, 1856.

Excerpt from back cover: "When Emma marries Charles Bovary, she imagines she will pass into the life of luxury and passion that she reads about in sentimental novels and women's magazines. But Charles is an ordinary country doctor, and provincial life is very different from the romantic excitement for which she yearns. In her quest to realize her dreams she takes a lover, Rodolphe, and begins a devastating spiral into deceit and despair. And Flaubert captures every step of this catastrophe with sharp-eyed detail and a wonderfully subtle understanding of human emotions."

Don Quixote projects the world of chivalric romance onto the world in which he lives. In other words, he expects his world to conform to the reality of chivalric romance. An avid reader of sentimental novels, Emma Bovary likewise projects the models she finds in literature onto the world in which she lives.  In Madame Bovary this kind of a behavior is the target of pointed moral criticism. Is Don Quixote's behavior in some way immoral? What makes morality an important point of focus when considering how one understands the relationship between literature and reality?     


Flaubert, Gustave. Madame Bovary. Translated by Margaret Mauldon. Oxford: Oxford U P, 2004.

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