Sophie Cottin, Claire d’Albe
Both Claire and her husband, M. d’Albe, are virtuous and upstanding, and Frédéric, her husband’s nineteen-year-old adopted son and factory assistant, is honest and noble-hearted. But in the beautiful and secluded Loire Valley, the friendship between Claire and Frédéric gradually develops into a forbidden passion.
Claire d’Albe (1799) was audacious in its day for its representation of adulterous love as a positive act of self-fulfillment. As the volume editor, Margaret Cohen, indicates, Sophie Cottin’s best-selling work of sentimentalism highlights the tension in Enlightenment liberalism between collective welfare and personal happiness. Although such later French authors as Stendhal and Balzac denigrated sentimentalism along with female novelists, Claire d’Albe influenced their realist aesthetics.
About the Author
Margaret Cohen’s most recent book, The Underwater Eye: How the Movie Camera Opened the Depths and Unleashed New Realms of Fantasy, will appear in April 2022 with Princeton University Press. Her The Novel and the Sea (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010) was awarded the Louis R. Gottschalk Prize from the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies and the George and Barbara Perkins Prize from the International Society for the Study of the Narrative. She is also the author of Profane Illumination: Walter Benjamin and the Paris of Surrealist Revolution (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993) and The Sentimental Education of the Novel (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999), which received the Modern Language Association's Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione prize in French and Francophone literature.
In addition, Margaret Cohen co-edited two collections of scholarship on the European novel: The Literary Channel: The Inter-National Invention of the Novel with Carolyn Dever (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002), and Spectacles of Realism: Body, Gender, Genre with Christopher Prendergast (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995). She edited and translated Sophie Cottin's best-selling novel of 1799, Claire d'Albe (New York: Modern Language Association, 2003), and has edited a new critical edition of Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary that appeared with W.W. Norton in 2004. In 2019, her co-edited The Aesthetics of the Undersea appeared (Routledge). She is general editor of A Cultural History of the Seas (London: Bloomsbury, 2021), and she is volume editor of A Cultural History of the Seas in the Age of Empire, the fifth volume of this six volume set spanning from antiquity to the present.