Flaubert’s Trois contes (1877) is a medieval stained-glass window in a cathedral depicting the legend of St. Julian the Hospitaller flanked by a modern saint whose virtue exemplifies that of Julian, and by John the Baptist, whose martyrdom is the archaic fact generating Julian and Félicité. The design of this work allows for resonances among the three stories of such a symbolic and aesthetic richness that the reading of them helplessly becomes a meditation. We see that the three stories are somehow one story. The whole art of narrative is before us, inviting but not demanding attention. The perspective leads us to the cathedral window: it is a text for the illiterate, to be interpreted in sermons and religious instruction, as Flaubert shows us in the scene of Virginia's first communion in the first story, Un cocur simple, and as he himself translates one window into narrative in...


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