Flaubert, Ethics and Queer Religious Art: ‘La Légende de saint Julien l’Hospitalier.’

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‘La Légende de saint Julien l’Hospitalier’, from Flaubert’s Trois Contes, engages harmoniously with Christianity while remaining independent of it. It reconciles the amoral demands of the writer’s ‘language-project’ with his equally strong ethical commitments. Flaubert found a symbolic and metaphorical foil for reconciling this unlikely pairing of ideals by queering the figure of St Julien, in the senses both of associating him with minority sexuality, and of rendering strange the representational process of which he is the centre. In doing this the story incorporates an audacious approach to visual as well as literary sources, particularly the figure of the devil in the stained glass window at Rouen cathedral. This discussion elucidates these topics through re-examining crucial moments from the tale, especially its ending, with comparative reference to Madame Bovary. It pursues such topics as scandal, the iconic, irony and atheism — always with reference to Flaubert’s representational project, and his recognition of a moral ideal in the concept of hospitality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)434-446
Number of pages13
JournalFrench Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2007


  • Flaubert
  • Ethics
  • Contes
  • Julien
  • hospitality
  • queer
  • leper
  • Catholicism
  • iconography

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