This essay looks at Gustave Flaubert’s L’éducation sentimentale as a “literary-historical event,” that is, an event that becomes legible only by a literary text. Flaubert’s novel attempted to turn the ambiguous political events of 1848 and the coup d’état of Napoleon III into a literary manifesto and a history of his generation. One of the novel’s early titles was “Dried Fruits,” which conveys a sense of preserved youth or even lost potential that can be exploited later. Flaubert’s novel explores what changes over time and what inevitably repeats in apparently singular historical events. Similarly, Marx’s Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte famously uses literary and theatrical tropes to explain the same events as Flaubert as they unfolded. Both Flaubert and Marx show us that literary form (irony, farce, attention to linguistic repetition) participates in the politicization of, and the resistance to, historical events.

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