Contributing USMA Research Unit(s)
Center for Languages Cultures and Regional Studies, Foreign Languages
For the Goncourt brothers, one’s nobility unravels in a pose, is unveiled by a gesture, displays itself as one’s je-ne-sais-quoi. Throughout the Journal, their depictions of noblemen and noblewomen often match those of their contemporaries. It never really matters who is described, as long as they are part of an old family: a secular grace of manners links them to one another and separates them from the rest, a more telltale sign than any name or coat of arms. This article endeavors to analyze the ways in which the representations found in the Journal intersect with the dominant discourses on the aristocracy, while at the same time shedding light on the relationship between the Goncourts and nobility. Jules and Edmond oscillate between envy and identification, even acknowledging their perceived feelings of inferiority when faced with the old aristocratic families. They nevertheless remain the poignant and often too accurate observers of their era, and many of their comments and intuitions point towards a revelation that they are the first to display so plainly: the soul of the nobility does not reside in its blueblood but rather within a body carefully masquerading as a model of natural superiority.
Tonnerre, Olivier, "“Comme une tradition de corps qui n’est qu’à eux” : les frères Goncourt et le corps noble" (2016). West Point Research Papers. 233.