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Without End: the Shape and Form of Desire in Kate Chopin’s Short Fiction

  • Janet Beer

Abstract

Kate Chopin wrote often about sexual attraction; physical desire frequently propels the narrative in her fiction. When asked, in 1898, by the St Louis Post-Dispatch, to write an article in response to the question ‘“Is Love Divine?”’, this formed part of Chopin’s answer: ‘I am inclined to think that love springs from animal instinct, and therefore is, in a measure, divine. One can never resolve to love this man, this woman or child, and then carry out the resolution unless one feels irresistibly drawn by an indefinable current of magnetism.’1 Chopin does not try to define or find the source for this ‘indefinable current of magnetism’ in her fiction but she writes again and again of the effects of powerful emotion and the consequences of its arousal. For a woman writing in the 1890s and seeking to sell her stories in the carefully regulated world of magazine publishing Chopin had to be cognisant of the restrictions which prevailed as regards the portrayal of the erotic. Therefore, before she could write stories about sexual attraction and its effects, she had to find ways in which she could deflect the magazine editors — upon whom she depended for an important part of her livelihood — from focusing on the often radical content of her stories.

Keywords

Baton Rouge Sexual Attraction Complete Work Local Colour Marriage Contract 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 5.
    Fuseo, Richard Maupassant and the American Short Story: The Influence of Form at the Turn of the Century (University Park University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994), p. 148.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    See especially Susan Lohafer’s discussion of ‘Athénäise’ in Lohafer, Susan Coming to Terms with the Short Story (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1983), pp. 115–132 and Emily Toth, Kate Chopin, pp. 274–75.Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    Sedgwick, Ellery A History of the Atlantic Monthly 1857–1909: Yankee Humanism at High Tide and Ebb (Amherst, University of Massachusetts Press, 1994), p. 225.Google Scholar
  4. 38.
    Boren, Lynda S. and Sara deSaussure Davis Kate Chopin Reconsidered: Beyond the Bayou (Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press, 1992). pp. 216–229.Google Scholar
  5. 46.
    Brodhead, Richard Cultures of Letters: Scenes of Reading and Writing in Nineteenth-Century America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), p. 20.Google Scholar
  6. 63.
    Seyersted, Per Kate Chopin: A Critical Biography (Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press, 1969), p. 73.Google Scholar
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    Chopin, Kate Bayou Folk (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1894).Google Scholar
  8. 76.
    Kundera, Milan The Book of Laughter and Forgetting Translated from the French by Aaron Asher 1996 (London: Faber and Faber, 1996), p. 281.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Janet Beer 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Janet Beer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EnglishRoehampton InstituteLondonUK

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