Date of this Version
The Romanic Review Volume 103 Numbers 1-2, pp. 233-253.
In the Princesse de Clèves, confession, embedded this time in the courtly context, plays an undeniable, and yet complex, role in the unfolding of the main character's development. What I call involuntary confessions of the flesh—signs of the interior that slip out, unbidden, onto the exterior of the body—might appear to contradict the restraints of a century marked by René Descartes's privileging of the rational and by an increasingly strict imperative to rein in unruly signs of the flesh. In a court obsessed with appearance and dissimulation, how could involuntary confessions of the flesh possibly contribute to the development of the modern Western subject? I argue that such confessions strike to the very core of the early modern self. In the initial moment of their appearance, they cannot be performed, dissimulated, or falsified.