Dialectics of Fantasy. The (Movable) Frontier Between the Known and the Unknown in Guy de Maupassant

Domenico Tanteri


Maupassant, a writer of a largely positivist background, considers the problem of the relationship between the known and the unknown and rationalistically deals with this issue in several texts, both of a narrative and a theoretical nature.

With an approach in some measure similar to Zola’s, he claims for the writer the right and the capacity to explore the unlimited scope of the still unknown to discover its darkest and most mysterious areas.

Within his wide literary production it is possible to highlight a “fantastic” line of reasoning that develops alongside his literary creativity and is characterized by a singular dialectic between a rational and positivistic instance and a tension towards the unknown and supernatural. Both items co-exist and intermingle to combine in different blends.

Such a dialectic tension between two opposites – positivistic rationalism and fantastic irrationalism – is often synthesized in Maupassant’s works and is represented in characters who have an extremely rational forma mentis and a deeply rational intellectual frame. These characters, in an extent a projection of the author himself, are forced to admit that the unknown is ‘real’ and its being real is somehow reinforced by their scepticism.

We can find evidence of this typology of characters in Magnétisme, La Peur (1882), Lui?, La Main among others; however the profoundly contradictory mental and spiritual attitude, explicitly expressed in such texts, is the basis and a characteristic feature of almost all the writer’s fantasy production, as his masterpiece in this genre, Le Horla, shows.


Maupassant; Fiction; Fantasy; Positivism; Rationalism

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13125/2039-6597/160

NBN: http://nbn.depositolegale.it/urn%3Anbn%3Ait%3Aunica-17634

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