The Nature of Libertine Promises in Laclos's Les Liaisons dangereuses

Author: McCallam, David

Source: The Modern Language Review, 1 October 2003, vol. 98, no. 4, pp. 857-869(13)


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This article suggests that the libertines Valmont and Merteuil privilege promises because their futural orientation implies a godlike control of people and events, and because promises offer the possibility of being broken, of further pleasure to be derived from transgression. Moreover, it demonstrates how promises constitute paradoxical markers of the interlocutor's desire, rather than the speaker's sincerity; a desire that the libertines expertly exploit, although they too can fall victim to this dynamic. The article concludes with a consideration of why promises are made to be broken in Les Liaisons dangereuses, focusing on the absence of patriarchal figures in the text.

Keywords: Les Liaisons dangereuses; Libertines; desire; patriarchal figures; promises; sincerity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Sheffield

Publication date: October 1, 2003

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