Spaces of Passion: The Love Letters of Jean Giono to Blanche Meyer
Le Page, Patricia Allard
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ABSTRACT Title of dissertation: SPACE OF PASSION: THE LOVE LETTERS OF JEAN GIONO TO BLANCHE MEYER Patricia A. Le Page, Doctor of Philosophy, 2004 Dissertation directed by: Professor Joseph Brami Department of French and Italian This dissertation offers a first analysis of a collection containing more than one thousand letters that Jean Giono wrote to Blanche Meyer over a thirty year period from 1939-1969. The correspondence, which was first opened to the public in January 2000, is housed at Yale University's Beinecke Library. It has never been mentioned by Giono's biographer or critics in spite of the light it sheds on his creative process. The liaison revealed by the letters leads to a discovery of the extraordinary role that Blanche played in Giono's creative life. She was the only person to be so profoundly involved in his writing as the idealized image with whom he shared his internal dialogue. As the beloved "other" who inspired Giono's lover's discourse, she allowed him to express and examine his ideas and thus to clarify his thinking and move forward with his work. What strikes the reader upon reading the letters in conjunction with Giono's novels, is the extent to which Giono's life and his fiction were inspired by the myth of courtly love and how deeply his life and work were intertwined. Identifying and explicating the myth is significant because it provides an essential key to a renewed understanding and appreciation of Giono as a writer, a reinterpretation of the conception of love and sexuality he expresses in his novels, and a resolution of several important contradictions in his life and work. All of this leads to a reassessment of the legend invented by the writer himself and disseminated by his critics, that Giono was a self-taught provincial writer whose work was outside the intellectual mainstream. The letters reveal that Giono was a complex man of letters whose life was informed by the reading of literature and centered around writing and reflection. Moreover, the correspondence read as a meta-discourse along with his novels, provides a unique portrait of the artist engaged in the experience of passionate love which was for him the penultimate human experience and the apotheosis of the myth.