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  • ‘Joie de vivre’ in French Literature and Culture: Essays in Honour of Michael Freeman
  • Robert D. Peckham
‘Joie de vivre’ in French Literature and Culture: Essays in Honour of Michael Freeman. Edited by Susan Harrow and Timothy Unwin. (Faux Titre, 131). Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2009. 319 pp. Pb €64.00; $90.00.

This thematic Festschrift was co-edited by two colleagues of recently deceased Michael Freeman at the University of Bristol. The ‘Notes on Contributors’ reveal that the authors are academics in the United Kingdom, mostly from the University of Bristol, all published scholars in their chosen topics for the volume. The editors offer a short career biography of Freeman. Their Introduction is the first essay, and pits the multivalent catalyst of ‘joie de vivre’ against negative human experience as an inspirational force in literary texts, outlines its presence and ‘intellectual productivity’ in French literature, and presents ample summaries of the volume’s twenty-eight essays. The second, with a clearly linguistic focus, examines the evolution and semantics of expressions of joy and happiness from Latin to medieval Romance languages. In the third we find discussion of terms like ‘joyeux’ and ‘récréatif ’ in the setting of a Renaissance literary miscellany. As we progress through the essays, the announced design of the volume is strongly confirmed. Indeed, they are arranged almost entirely in chronological order according to the century of the topic examined, exploring the theme of ‘joie de vivre’ as manifested and developed in the literature and culture of French expression. Although this exploration cites many authors and artists from the Middle Ages up to the modern era, individual essays centre on Bonaventure Des Périers, Gérard d’Euphrate, Montaigne, Saint François de Sales, Molière, Alfred de Vigny, Victor Hugo, Stéphane Mallarmé, Gaston Bachelard, James Ensor, Charles Baudelaire, Sébastien Japrisot, Pierre Daninos, and Émile Zola. Other topics include Renaissance fixed form poetry, philosophes of the Enlightenment, the competitive sport of cycling, language and linguistics, politics, eyesight, the concept of nationhood, food and feasting, aesthetics, drama, Christian belief, and detective fiction. At first, the twenty-eighth essay appears to take a step backwards in the book’s chronological orientation, since the twenty-sixth had focused on Sébastien Japrisot. Analysing a search in the FRANTEXT database, the author of the last essay reveals that the expression ‘joie de vivre’ had its official literary debut in Zola’s novel La Joie de vivre (1884), and that the outcome was a near viral dissemination of the phrase in French culture. Beyond the celebration of Michael Freeman’s professional contributions, this volume is a multiple-voice investigation of an infrequently studied discursive facet of French literature and culture, its evolution, and the effect of its presence. The book ends with a near-exhaustive bibliography of Freeman’s works and an ample index of names. Its author and title running heads and concise footnotes enhance reader orientation. This well-planned volume would be of interest to researchers in French, comparative literature, and intellectual history. It is also appropriate for institutions seeking to build collections with a thematic as opposed to an author or period orientation in literature and culture. [End Page 381]

Robert D. Peckham
University of Tennessee at Martin


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