Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis


Languages, Literatures and Cultures



First Advisor

James T. Day


The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu wrote an intriguing book titled Distinction in 1984, offering the world an in-depth look at the processes that create social stratification and their inherit inscription (and perpetuation) in society without the slightest sign of it occurring to the public. The crux of his theory rests on the idea of taste and its influence over that which mankind chooses (from what to eat for dinner to what type of entertainment one chooses); the habitus as a type of database that checks our own actions against the social norms as per the dominating class. If we compare what Bourdieu suggests, "[a]gents are, in their ordinary practice, the subjects of acts of construction of the social world" (238) with the famous statement in Stendhal that the novel is a mirror reflecting either the blue sky or the mud aside the road, then we can clearly perceive the functionality of Le Rouge et le noir as an agent participating in the construction of the social world and its agency, in particular, on Julien Sorel.

In this thesis I will overlap Julien Sorel's success in the social realm of 1830 French society with the Bourdieusian model of class distinction in order to explain his advancements from the private tutor to the mayor's family of a rural French town, to the clerk of a powerful French aristocrat in Paris. The thesis will accomplish this analysis while also at the same time analyzing the importance of observation and its influence on class and perception within a social realm and the influence of taste as an agent for going beyond the frontiers of social definition.


© 2010, Todd Spaulding