Camille Claudel: ‘Du rêve que fut ma vie, ceci est le cauchemar’

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

Camille Claudel: ‘Du rêve que fut ma vie, ceci est le cauchemar’

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This chapter considers the case of the sculptor Camille Claudel, Rodin's most famous lover who, despite her enormous talent, was committed to an asylum in 1913 where she would die 30 years later. This analysis considers two pieces of Claudel's correspondence from 1909 and 1917–18, respectively. The first letter from Camille to her brother (the French poet Paul Claudel), written before her committal to the asylum, is strongly themed along the lines of her feelings of persecution by Rodin. The second letter from Claudel to Docteur Michaux, the doctor who wrote her ‘certificat d'internement’, gives a detailed and compelling account of the reality of her artistically unproductive and pitiful life in the asylum, and appears—superficially, at least—as an attempt at a more plausibly ‘sane’ request for clemency on the part of the medical establishment. The chapter argues that Claudel's delusions of persecution are a metaphorical representation of the genuine suffering and injustice that she endured in a society antagonistic to the potential achievements of women artists.

Keywords: Camille Claudel; Paul Claudel; Auguste Rodin; paranoia; persecution; delusion; metaphor; psychosis

Chapter.  16840 words. 

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

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