Introduction to Marguerite Yourcenar (02:22)
A 1980 French news clip announces Yourcenar’s election to the Académie Française. She reflects on joining the intellectual institution and being identified as a French writer. (Credits)
Historical Novelist (00:45)
Yourcenar traces how the past has shaped society through characters witnessing crisis points.
Yourcenar's Early Years (02:54)
Visit the author on Mount Desert Island in Maine. She discusses why her memoirs are impersonal and describes detached family relationships.
Yourcenar's Education (01:21)
The self-taught writer shares her views on teaching and formal education.
"Memoirs of Hadrian" (03:02)
Yourcenar's early European travels inspired her literary career. Hear an excerpt from her first historical novel where Hadrian ponders heroism.
A Cultured Roman Emperor (02:16)
Yourcenar recalls seeing Hadrian's statue in the British Museum and discusses his artistic appeal. Hear an excerpt from "Memoirs of Hadrian" describing his aesthetic sense.
Hadrian and Antinous (03:04)
Yourcenar discusses the emperor's relationship to the young Greek man, symbolizing his character vulnerability. Hear an excerpt describing his loyalty and beauty.
Hadrian in Sculpture (02:29)
Yourcenar found creative inspiration for her historical novel at in European museums.
Piranesi's Roman Ruins (01:57)
Yourcenar discusses the 19th century artist's depiction of classical architecture returning to nature, including Hadrian's villa.
Stepping Back in Time (01:47)
Yourcenar talks about how her decision to settle on an undeveloped island in Maine inspired her historical writing.
"The Abyss" (02:34)
Learn the themes of Yourcenar's novel, set in Renaissance Europe. She compares Zeno's world view to that of Hadrian.
Enlightenment Character (02:23)
Hear an excerpt from Yourcenar's "The Abyss" where Zeno mistakes the reflection of his eye for a strange insect.
Search for Scientific Truth (03:02)
Yourcenar discusses Zeno's Enlightenment perspective and the concept of "L'Œuvre au noir." Hear an excerpt from "The Abyss" describing his laboratory.
Bringing Zeno to Life (02:02)
After publishing "The Abyss," Yourcenar found portraits of Renaissance doctors resembling her protagonist, whom she conjured in her garden.
"An Obscure Man" (02:56)
Learn about Yourcenar's modern character Nathanial. She compares him to Zeno and Hadrian; an excerpt describes his experience at a concert.
Universal Literature (02:50)
Hadrian, Zeno and Nathanial comprise a trilogy of human perspectives. Yourcenar argues against the concept of literary modernism and discusses her attraction to male characters.
"Blues and Gospels" (03:02)
Yourcenar discusses her interest in African-American history, translating spirituals into French, and admiration for Bessie Smith.
"Le Blues de la Prohibition" (02:14)
Yourcenar reads a selection from "Blues and Gospels" and discusses folk poetry, including Bob Dylan's work
Religious Education (01:29)
Yourcenar explains that Zeno adheres to a Buddhist philosophy, and describes her early interest in Eastern culture.
Intellectual Creativity (01:35)
Moving to the U.S. influenced Yourcenar's writing and freed her from the European literary establishment. She is indifferent towards recent honors.
"Mishima: A Vision of the Void" (Disturbing) (03:20)
Learn about Yourcenar's study of Japanese novelist Yukio Mishima. She discusses why she wrote about him; hear an excerpt describing two decapitated heads after his ritual suicide.
Mortality as an Artistic Ambition (04:38)
Yourcenar explains why she wrote about Mishima's suicide, and shares her thoughts on death. Hear an excerpt from "The Abyss" where Zeno rests near the sea.
Literary Career Reflection (01:51)
Yourcenar feels she has more work to do. Hear an excerpt from "Memoirs of Hadrian" where the protagonist retires to his villa.
Credits: Marguerite Yourcenar: A Reluctant Celebrity (00:47)
Credits: Marguerite Yourcenar: A Reluctant Celebrity
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