For over 200 years “René&rqduo; Chateaubriand's short fictional interlude in his grand argument for the restoration of Christianity after the French Revolution, has been read as the founding text of the French Romantic movement. While this text did in fact serve to define many of the characteristics of French Romantic literature, simply labeling it as such is anachronistic and obscures the more profound philosophical and theological claims Chateaubriand was actually attempting to illustrate. After an examination of the discrepancy between the author's intentions and the general perception, this study will briefly consider some of the traditional readings of “René” specifically in an effort to expose the inadequacies that have led to misinterpretation. At this point, an analysis of evolving philosophical and aesthetic ideals in the European tradition, particularly focusing on how Chateaubriand incorporated them into his Christian model, will reveal “René” as the author intended. While Chateaubriand has rightly been considered an anti-Enlightenment thinker, this assessment exposes a generally unnoticed and decidedly anti-Romantic tendency in his writings. Once restored to these original literary and philosophical contexts “René” coincides quite clearly with Chateaubriand's efforts to reinstate an eclectic, modernized, and aesthetically grounded form of traditional Christianity. Furthermore, it can finally be understood as an anticipatory effort aimed at disparaging rather than encouraging the burgeoning Romantic sentiment.



College and Department

Humanities; French and Italian



Date Submitted


Document Type





Chateaubriand, René, French Romanticism, Romanticism, le Génie du Christianisme, French Enlightenment