Pauline Lair Lamotte: ‘Je sens que la vérité est là’

Susannah Wilson

in Voices from the Asylum

Published in print August 2010 | ISBN: 9780199579358
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595226 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Modern Languages and Literature Monographs

Pauline Lair Lamotte: ‘Je sens que la vérité est là’

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This chapter examines the case of Pauline Lair Lamotte, a self‐proclaimed mystic under the care of Pierre Janet at the Salpêtrière during the 1880s and 1890s. This patient experienced stigmata and religious ecstasies, interpreted by Janet as a ‘délire d'union avec Dieu’. The shifting mental states described by Lamotte are examined in three sections: first, her ‘état de consolation’ is read as a manifestation of narrative energy being inwardly directed, constructing a textual refusal of reality and retreat into blissful isolation; second, the ‘état de torture’ or ‘délire de séparation avec Dieu’ is considered as a painful form of refusal, in which energy is outwardly directed; finally, the intermediary states are read simultaneously as a subversive voice in dialogue and a passive voice of resignation. Although Lamotte was a marginal figure and not a member of the women's movement, this chapter concludes that her writing reflected the feminist concerns of its era: hope for change and a challenge to patriarchy. Lamotte's delusions serve the purpose of metaphorically reversing her limited status by providing a realm of rich and dramatic experience denied her in ‘reality’.

Keywords: Madeleine Lebouc; Pauline Lair Lamotte; Pierre Janet; religious ecstasy; stigmata; anorexia; mysticism; catalepsy; delusion; metaphor

Chapter.  18107 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Fiction, Novelists, and Prose Writers)

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