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Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, or the Scandals of the First “Desperate Housewife”   

When traditional social and religious morals were reinforced by literature, Flaubert wrote a literary masterpiece that did the opposite. Madame Bovary originally earned notoriety because of its challenges to cultural platitudes and its subversion of the edifying role of literature. Members will take a deeper look into this realist account of the banal existence of a French housewife in 1850s Normandy and uncover the scandalous aspects that make this work an essential cultural and literary reference. These include Flaubert’s distinction between social success and personal fulfillment, his separation of beauty and esthetics from virtue and goodness, his innovative narrative style that signals the psychological novel of the 20th and 21st centuries, and his refusal to judge Emma Bovary for believing the stories she reads.

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