Stealing Things

Stealing Things : Theft and the Author in Nineteenth-century France

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Stealing Things traces the representations of thieves and thievery in nineteenth-century French novels. Re-reading canonical texts by Balzac, the Comtesse de Segur, and Zola through the lens of crime, Peters highlights bourgeois anxiety about ownership and objects while considering the impact of literature on popular attitudes about crime and its legislation and punishment. A detailed analysis of the role of objects, this work chronicles nineteenth-century changes in legal attitudes, popular mentalities, and individual and social identity, focusing particularly on the resulting transformations in representations of gender, class, and (criminal) more

Product details

  • Hardback | 276 pages
  • 152.4 x 226.06 x 20.32mm | 544.31g
  • Lexington Books
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • 10 black & white halftones
  • 0739180045
  • 9780739180044
  • 2,168,754

Review quote

Provocative and fresh, this wide-ranging study offers a unique perspective on the anxieties and pressures of an increasingly commercial 19th-century French culture. Juxtaposing memoirs, moral codes, specialized dictionaries, and a children's novel with more conventional newspapers, literary texts, and theories, Peters (Louisiana State Univ.) explores a weary and suspicious century caught up in the throes of exchange and reinvention. Thoughtful and diverse early chapters on Balzac's Code des gens honnetes, Vidocq's contemporaneous Memoirs and Les voleurs, and Segur's Les Malheurs de Sophie give way to an analysis of pocket watches-symbol of the emergence of a new social order and the upheaval of commodification-in Zola and Balzac. Final chapters on urban spaces and socioeconomic transformation detail questions of intellectual property theft and the tensions of literary kleptomania. The thoroughness and originality of the introduction alone, with its presentation of the philosophical, legal, and literary conditions of the late 18th century, truly distinguish this volume. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. CHOICE Stealing Things constitutes a fine performance and will be of interest to students of crime fiction and the nineteenth century. French Review While cultural studies of crime in nineteenth-century France have generally focused on lurid murders, Stealing Things thoughtfully redirects our attention to theft-a crime that Peters reveals as definitive of the key social issues at stake in an age of industrialization and commodification. This book deftly weaves readings of memoirs, sociological treatises, penal codes, copyright law, and literature for adults and children into a sustained reflection on the era's shifting attitudes toward property-both material and conceptual. Ribbons, pocket watches, and poems, purloined, make their appearance (and disappearance) in this lively account. -- Andrea Goulet, University of Pennsylvania This new volume traces the evolving notions of property, ownership, and theft from pre-revolutionary France to the early 20th century by expertly exploring the vicissitudes and ramifications of this cultural nexus in fiction and nonfiction. Peters' thoughtful and probing consideration takes in and even focuses on the rarely explored yet crucial areas of authorial plagiarism and, most significantly, the phenomenon of increased feminine involvement in theft by the end of the 19th century. -- Anna Gural-Migdal, University of Alberta Original and insightful, this book provides a complex view of the nature of crime and the criminal in nineteenth-century French literature and society. Socio-political discourse and peculiarly literary issues interact seamlessly in a well thought-out analysis of the works of some of the century's most central authors (Balzac and Zola first of all) within the background the birth of contemporary material culture. There is stimulating reading material here for both the specialist and the curious generalist reader. -- Vittorio Frigerio, Dalhousie University, Halifaxshow more

About Rosemary A. Peters

Rosemary Peters is assistant professor in the Department of French Studies and Comparative Literature at Louisiana State University. She has edited two volumes of collected essays and is the founder of the Foreign Language Film more

Table of contents

Acknowledgments Introduction 1. Codes for Honest People 2. Objects of Fiction, Affairs of State 3. Time Bandits: Purloining the Pocket Watch 4. Identify Theft in the Second Empire 5. Out of the Shadows, Into the Shops: Theft, Gender, and Object Relations Conclusion Bibliography Index About the Authorshow more