“La solitude ajoute à l’attrait du désir.” Dangerous isolation in Les Liaisons dangereuses

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Abstract

In Choderlos de Laclos’s Les Liaisons dangereuses (1782), the motif of solitude, from conventual seclusion to virtuous retreats and libertine isolation, is as much a contributor to the characters’ downfall as the dangerous liaisons advertised in the novel’s title. Engaging the eighteenth-century discourse on solitude, I argue that Les Liaisons dangereuses illustrates the period’s redefinition of the private and public spheres, the Enlightenment’s secularization of the notion of retreat, and its understanding of the Self as the real source of one’s temptation. Solitude in Les Liaisons dangereuses is reconfigured as a space where inner desires can surface; however, such revelations often menace one’s happiness. Analyzing the representation of the characters’ physical seclusion, of their strategic retreats, and of their psychological isolation allows me to explore how Laclos’s representation of solitude as perilous stems from the conviction that, in a period intent on frustrating an individual’s natural drives, the most dangerous liaison one can have is with oneself.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)493-511
JournalEighteenth-Century Fiction
Volume33
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jun 2021

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