Le désir selon l'Autre. Étude du Rouge et le Noir et de la Chartreuse de Parme à la lumière du « désir triangulaire » de René Girard

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


The aim of this study is to examine the two novels Le Rouge et le Noir and La Chartreuse de Parme in the light of the theory of 'triangular desire', elaborated by René Girard in Mensonge romantique et vérité romanesque (1961). According to this theory, desire in Stendhal's novels – that is desire in a very general sense – is not spontaneous, but derived from a third part, that Girard labels the 'mediator' or the 'Other'. Various aspects of Stendhal’s novels are discussed by Girard, not only desire in relation to love, but also rivalry in politics, the imitation of 'models' and the 'conversion' of the hero that is apt to take place just before the moment of his death. In comparison to other critics, Girard is original in his claim to explain all these aspects by a single model that he designates 'triangular desire' and regards as universally valid. Moreover, unlike other critics who have treated love and desire in the works by Stendhal, Girard does not adopt a psychoanalytical approach.

Initially, it is observed that the study by Girard is still mentioned in recent works of literary theory and criticism, but that the validity of Girard’s interpretation of the novels by Stendhal is rarely discussed. A selective presentation of Girard’s theory and of his method for analysing literature is followed by a brief discussion of a number of important ambiguities in Girard’s arguments. The second chapter examines the 'internal mediation' which according to Girard is fundamental in Stendhal’s novels. In this type of mediation, the mediator is a rival competing with the subject for the same objects. The third chapter deals with 'external mediation', which involves the imitation of 'models'. The most striking example of an external mediator is Marguerite de Navarre, imitated by Mathilde de La Mole. Some of the characters who function as fathers to Julien Sorel also seem to occupy the role of external mediators, transferring to the hero e.g. the desire to read certain books.

Although Girard is right in pointing out the importance of models, historical as well as literary, especially in Le Rouge et le Noir, and although desire to some extent does "depend" on the existence of rivals, the triangular structure of desire rarely seems obvious. Desire in the novels by Stendhal is not reducible to one structure, nor to one phenomenon. In addition to the mediator other factors are identified that seem to "favour" desire and that play the role of "obstacles" preserving a certain distance between the subject and the object ; for instance marriage, religion, and prison. What is more, the significance of eyes and of looking in the process of falling in love proves that, contrary to what Girard suggests, desire is sometimes incited by the object itself.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Languages and Literature


  • desire, and the novel. Self and Other in Literary Structure), mimetic desire, triangular desire, passion, love, the Other, mediation, external mediation, internal mediation, model, mediator, obstacle, vanity, rivalry, jealousy, violence, Napoleon, Rousseau, Marguerite de Navarre, books, reading, revelation, conversion, conception of reality, degree of lucidity, metaphysical deception, romantic, Jules de Gaultier, bovarysme, romanesque, crystallization., French language, Franska språket, French literature, General and comparative literature, Fransk litteratur, Mensonge romantique et vérité romanesque (Deceit, René Girard, La Chartreuse de Parme, beylisme, Le Rouge et le Noir, Stendhal, Henri Beyle, literature criticism, literary theory, Allmän och jämförande litteratur, litteraturkritik, litteraturteori
Original languageFrench
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
Award date2003 Mar 15
  • Department of Romance Languages
Print ISBNs91-973886-4-5
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2003-03-15 Time: 14:00 Place: Carolinasalen, Kungshuset, Lund, Sweden External reviewer(s) Name: Berthier, Philippe Title: Professor Affiliation: Paris III, Sorbonne Nouvelle --- Review in Nineteenth-Century French Studies, Volume 33, Number 3&4, Spring-Summer 2005 pp. 443-445 | 10.1353/ncf.2005.0040: https://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/nineteenth_century_french_studies/v033/33.3vanderheyden.html