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Genius in FranceAn Idea and Its Uses$
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Ann Jefferson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780691160658

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691160658.001.0001

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Victor Hugo, William Shakespeare, and the Dynasty of Genius

Victor Hugo, William Shakespeare, and the Dynasty of Genius

(p.81) Chapter 6 Victor Hugo, William Shakespeare, and the Dynasty of Genius
Genius in France

Ann Jefferson

Princeton University Press

This chapter turns to Victor Hugo's discussions of genius. In taking Shakespeare as his pretext for discussing genius, and setting him alongside the likes of Homer, Aeschylus, Job, Juvenal, Dante, Michelangelo, Jefferson, Rabelais, and Cervantes, Hugo can hardly be said to be pleading the cause of unrecognized genius. But the oppression of genius is presented as an established fact. Moreover, to speak of genius is no longer simply a means of entry into literature for the novice poet, but a justification for his acceptance as the leader of his people: “poets are the first educators of the people.” This mission has yet to be realized, but Hugo's claims about genius once again become the means of making a claim to genius.

Keywords:   Victor Hugo, William Shakespeare, unrecognized genius, oppression, Homer

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