Université de Strasbourg

Isabelle Hoog Naginski


Department of Romance Studies, Tufts University, United States & USIAS Fellow in the Literary Configurations research unit, University of Strasbourg

Isabelle Naginski, USIAS Fellow 2018

Isabelle Hoog Naginski is Professor of French and Comparative Literature at Tufts University. Specialist of the 19th century French and Russian novel, she has concentrated on George Sand, Balzac, Stendhal, Flaubert, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. She has published many articles which deal with romanticism, women writers, feminist criticism and utopian thought in French and American literary journals. Among her publications, we will cite George Sand. Writing for Her Life (Rutgers University Press, 1991), translated into French as George Sand. L'écriture ou la vie (Honoré Champion, 1999), George Sand Mythographe (Presses universitaires Blaise Pascal, Clermont-Ferrand, 2007) and the critical edition of George Sand’s Spiridion (Honoré Champion, 2018). She is currently working on a critical edition of Sand’s Lélia for the same publisher. Co-founder of George Sand Studies, she has also organised several colloquia and special issues on Sand (George Sand. Pratiques et imaginaires de l'écriture. Actes du Colloque international de Cerisy-la-Salle, with B. Diaz, Presses universitaires de Caen, 2006; Revue des sciences humaines, 1992).

Isabelle Hoog Naginski has received numerous fellowships and grants, among which are two from the National Endowment for the Humanities (1987-1988 & 2002-2003); a Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities (1983-1984); a Mellon Research Fellowship (1987); two summer stipends from the National Endowment for the Humanities (1982 and 1987); a Gilbert Chinard Summer Scholarship (1986) and a Summer Travel Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies (1987). She is Officer of the Academic Palms (1992).

Project - From scrutinizing one's entrails to letting the wind play one's harp: George Sand's poetics of genius

September – December 2018

Sand’s poetics of genius can be seen in the light of three different paradigms. In her early works she described digging down into her entrails to discover the secret of her talent. In keeping with this Aristotelian vision, she saw the Romantic artist as tormented. In her second phase, she created a new type of artist who was the transmitter of inspiration, not its exclusive producer. This shift privileged the Platonic view. Later, she applied the theories of Du Bos to her childhood province, Berry, emphasising its location as a liminal space between the ancient languages of the north and the south. She found there a motherlode of collective genius in its folklore, dialects and traditions.

Two singular examples involve Flaubert and Chopin. The former was an archetypal Saturnine artist. Sand presented him with another vision: “The wind plays my old harp as it pleases. It has its upbeats and its low points […]. I can find nothing in my inner being. It is the other who sings at will.” But Flaubert would have none of it.

Sand uses the Aristotelian and the Platonic paradigms to explain Chopin’s working habits: “His creativity was spontaneous; he found it without seeking it … But then would begin the worst heartbreaking labor I have ever witnessed.” The fact that “he would spend six weeks on a page, only to end up writing it just as he had done in his first outpouring” demonstrates that he was a Platonist in spite of himself.

Isabelle Hoog Naginski will be welcomed by Professor Guy Ducrey in the Literary Configurations unit during her time in Strasbourg spent on the project.

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