Eighteenth-Century Escape Tales

Eighteenth-Century Escape Tales
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Between Fact and Fiction
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Michael J. Mulryan
Transits: Literature, Thought & Culture, 1650–1850
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This volume is a study of the interdisciplinary nature of prison escape tales and their impact on European cultural identity in the eighteenth-century. Contemporary readers identified with the heroism such works promoted, because escape heroes most often define themselves via their confrontation with the arbitrary power of the sovereign, prefiguring the boldnessof the French Revolution.
This volume is a study of the interdisciplinary nature of prison escape tales and their impact on European cultural identity in the eighteenth century. Prison escape narratives are reflections of the tension between the individual’s potential happiness via freedom and the confines of the social order. Contemporary readers identified with the prisoner, who, like them suffered the injustices of an absolutist regime. The state imprisons such renegades not just out of a desire to protect the public but more importantly to protect the state itself. Hence, prison escape tales can be linked with a revolutionary tendency: when free, such former detainees equipped with a pen openly and justly challenge the status quo, hoping to inspire their readers to do the same. Escape tales have had a considerable impact on cultural identity, because they embody the interdependent relationship between literature and myth on the one hand and literature and history on the other.
A Note on Translations

List of Illustrations



Michael J. Mulryan and Denis Grélé

OneA Model for Eighteenth-Century Récits d’évasion: Odysseus’s Flight from Polyphemus’s Cave

Michael J. Mulryan

TwoThe “Slippery Eel”: Escape Episodes and Ideological Ambiguity in Eighteenth-CenturyCriminal Biographies, The Cases of Louis-Dominique Cartouche and John Sheppard

Léa Lebourg-Leportier

ThreeHaving a Cage in Her Hand: Escaping Representations of Comtesse de La Motte-Valois

Claire Trévien

FourDu plaisir dans ma solitude: Finding Pleasure in the Prisons of Manon Lescaut

Rori Bloom

FiveUtopia as a Prison: Escaping from the Land of Happiness in Tyssot de Patot’s Les Voyages et Avantures de Jaques Massé

Denis Grélé


Michael J. Mulryan and Denis Grélé



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