Style as a "[M]anner of Seeing": The Poetics of Gustave Flaubert


Nicole Brownfield

Publication Date

January 2010

Document Type



English Language and Literature


Dr. Prior was the committee chair for this thesis.


Although Madame Bovary is considered a classic of modern realism, Gustave Flaubert would disagree with his classification as a realist, as he hardly remained loyal to a single literary genre or period. Rather, he longed to create a work of literature that would stand alone as an object of art, and to make this dream a reality he employed the techniques that he believed generated artful and expressive prose. As an author and artist, he was influenced greatly by other art forms, such as music and the visual arts, and like other authors of his time, he sought to discover how literature fit together with these prominent forms of art. From his aesthetics and from his fiction his poetics can be drawn. While various critics have researched and praised Flaubert's literary achievements, few have discussed the way these techniques work together or have combined these techniques into a workable poetics. The focus of this thesis, then, is to determine and to describe the elements of Flaubert's poetics, particularly in his realist and most well-known works: Madame Bovary, The Sentimental Education, and "A Simple Heart." The most significant elements of Flaubert's poetics include an omniscient but objective narrative style, careful structure, the musicality of language, and the discovery of "the Other"; these literary elements form a poetics that offers him liberation from his own judgments and opinions, from the limitations of language, and from bourgeois society.