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Vol. 60 (2006) through current issue
French Studies is published on behalf of the Society for French Studies. The journal publishes articles and reviews spanning all areas of the subject, including language and linguistics (historical and contemporary), all periods and aspects of literature in France and the French-speaking world, thought and the history of ideas, cultural studies, film, and critical theory.
Ethics, Poetics, and Politics
In 2007 the French newspaper Le Monde published a manifesto titled “Toward a ‘World Literature’ in French,” signed by forty-four writers, many from France’s former colonies. Proclaiming that the francophone label encompassed people who had little in common besides the fact that they all spoke French, the manifesto’s proponents, the so-called francophone writers themselves, sought to energize a battle cry against the discriminatory effects and prescriptive claims of francophonie.
In one of the first books to study the movement away from the term “francophone” to “world literature in French,” Thérèse Migraine-George engages a literary analysis of contemporary works in exploring the tensions and theoretical debates surrounding world literature in French. She focuses on works by a diverse group of contemporary French-speaking writers who straddle continents—Nina Bouraoui, Hélène Cixous, Maryse Condé, Marie NDiaye, Tierno Monénembo, and Lyonel Trouillot. What these writers have in common beyond their use of French is their resistance to the centralizing power of a language, their rejection of exclusive definitions, and their claim for creative autonomy.
Lermontov, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy
Maurice Blanchot's Exilic Writing
Writing, Maurice Blanchot taught us, is not something that is in one's power. It is, rather, a search for a non-power that refuses mastery, order, and all established authority. For Blanchot, this search was guided by an enigmatic exigency, an arresting rupture, and a promise of justice that required endless contestation of every usurping authority, an endless going out toward the other."The step/not beyond" ("le pas au-delà") names this exilic passage as it took form in his influential later work, but not as a theme or concept, since its "step" requires a transgression of discursive limits and any grasp afforded by the labor of the negative. Thus, to follow "the step/not beyond" is to follow a kind of event in writing, to enter a movement that is never quite captured in any defining or narrating account.Last Steps attempts a practice of reading that honors the exilic exigency even as it risks drawing Blanchot's reflective writings and fragmentary narratives into the articulation of a reading. It brings to the fore Blanchot's exceptional contributions to contemporary thought on the ethico-political relation, language, and the experience of human finitude. It offers the most sustained interpretation of The Step Not Beyond available, with attentive readings of a number of major texts, as well as chapters on Levinas and Blanchot's relation to Judaism. Its trajectory of reading limns the meaning of a question from The Infinite Conversation that implies an opening and a singular affirmation rather than a closure: "How had he come to will the interruption of the discourse?"
Authorship and Modernity in the Old Regime
A central theme in the history of Old Regime authorship highlights the opportunities offered by a growing book trade to writers seeking to free themselves from patrons and live "by the pen." Accounts of this passage from patronage to market have explored in far greater detail the opportunities themselves—the rising sums paid by publishers and the progression of laws protecting literary property—than how and why writers would have seized on them, no doubt because the choice to do so has seemed an obvious or natural one for writers assumed to prefer economic self-sufficiency over elite protection.
In The Literary Market, Geoffrey Turnovsky claims that there was nothing obvious or natural about the choice. Writers had been involved in commercial book publication since the earliest days of the printing press, yet had not necessarily linked these activities with their freedom to think and write. The association of autonomy and professionalism was forged, not given. Analyzing the literary market as a key articulation of the association, Turnovsky explores how in eighteenth-century polemics a rhetoric of commercial authorship came to signify independence for intellectuals. He finds the roots of the connection not in the claims of entrepreneurial writers to rights and income but in a world to which that of the modern author has been contrasted: the aristocratic culture of the seventeenth century. Aristocratic culture, he argues, generated a disparaging view of the professional author as one defined by activities tainting him or her as greedy and arrogant and therefore unworthy of protection and socially isolated. The Literary Market examines the story of the "birth of the author" in terms of the revalorization of this negative trope in Enlightenment-era debates about the radically changing role of writers in society.
Healing and Love Magic in Old French Romance
What is love? Popular culture bombards us with notions of the intoxicating capacities of love or of beguiling women who can bewitch or heal—to the point that it is easy to believe that such images are timeless and universal. Not so, argues Laine Doggett in Love Cures. Aspects of love that are expressed in popular music—such as “love is a drug,” “sexual healing,” and “love potion number nine”—trace deep roots to Old French romance of the high Middle Ages. A young woman heals a poisoned knight. A mother prepares a love potion for a daughter who will marry a stranger in a faraway land. How can readers interpret such events? In contrast to scholars who have dismissed these women as fantasy figures or labeled them “witches,” Doggett looks at them in the light of medical and magical practices of the high Middle Ages. Love Cures argues that these practitioners, as represented in romance, have shaped modern notions of love. Love Cures seeks to engage scholars of love, marriage, and magic in disciplines as diverse as literature, history, anthropology, and philosophy.
Dissecting the Doctor in French Narrative Prose, 1857-1894
The literati's enthrallment with medicine and their subservient adoption of a medical model in the creation of their plots and characters have not previously been seriously questioned. In Medical Examinations, Mary Donaldson-Evans corrects this oversight. Exploring six novels and two short stories published during the Second Empire and the early Third Republic, she argues that there was a growing resistance to medicine's linguistic and professional hegemony, a resistance fraught with ideological implications. Tainted by a subtle—and sometimes not so subtle—anti-Semitism, some of the fiction of this period adopts counterdiscursive strategies to tar the physician with his own brush. Featured authors include Gustave Flaubert, Edmond and Jules Goncourt, Emile Zola, Joris-Karl Huysmans, Guy de Maupassant, and Alphonse and Léon Daudet.