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Referential Anxiety in Contemporary French Fiction
Here David Ellison explores the problems encountered by France's best experimental authors writing between 1956 and 1984, when faced with the question: "What should my writing be about?" These years are characterized by the rise of the "new novelists," who questioned the representational function of writing as they created works of imagination that turned in upon themselves and away from exterior reality. It became fashionable at one point to affirm that literature was no longer about the world but uniquely about the words on a page, the signifying surface of the text. Ellison tests this assumption, showing that even in the most seemingly self-referential fictions the words point to the world from which they can never completely separate themselves.
Through close readings Ellison examines the novels and theoretical writings of authors whose works are fundamental to our perception of contemporary French writing and thought: Camus, Robbe-Grillet, Simon, Duras, Sarraute, Blanchot, and Beckett. The result is a new understanding of the link between the referential function of literary language and the problematic of the ethics of fiction.
On Diary is the second collection in English of the groundbreaking and profoundly influential work of one of the best-known and provocative theorists of autobiography and diary. Ranging from the diary’s historical origins to its pervasive presence on the Internet, from the spiritual journey of the sixteenth century to the diary of Anne Frank, and from the materials and methods of diary writing to the question of how diaries end, these essays display Philippe Lejeune’s expertise, eloquence, passion, and humor as a commentator on the functions, practices, and significance of keeping or reading a diary. Lejeune is a leading European critic and theorist of diary and autobiography. His landmark essay, "The Autobiographical Pact," has shaped life writing studies for more than thirty years, and his many books and essays have repeatedly opened up new vistas for scholarship. As Michael Riffaterre notes, "Lejeune’s work on autobiography is the most original, powerful, effective approach to a difficult subject. . . . His style is very personal, lively. It grabs the reader as scholarship rarely does. Lejeune’s erudition and methodology are impeccable." Two substantial introductory essays by Jeremy Popkin and Julie Rak place Lejeune’s work within its critical and theoretical traditions and comment on his central importance within the fields of life writing, literary genetic studies, and cultural studies.
The Science of the Eye and the Birth of Modern French Fiction
Andrea Goulet takes the study of the novel into the realm of the visual by situating it in the context of nineteenth-century scientific and philosophical discourse about the nature of sight. She argues that French realism, detective fiction, science fiction, and literature of the fantastic from 1830 to 1910 reflected competition between two modern visual modes: a not-yet-outdated idealism and an empiricism that located truth in the body. More specifically, the book argues that key narrative forms of the nineteenth century were shaped by a set of scientific debates: between idealism and materialism in Honoré Balzac's Comédie humaine, between deduction and induction in early French detective fiction, and between objective vision and subjective vision in the "optogram" fictions of Jules Verne and others.
Goulet aims to revise critical views on the modern novel in a number of ways. For instance, although many literary studies focus on the impact of cinema, photography, and painting, Optiques asserts the materialist bases of realism by establishing a genealogy of popular fictional genres as fundamentally optical, that is, as articulated according to bodily notions of sight.
With its chronological and interdisciplinary scope, Optiques stands to contribute an important chapter to the study of literary modernity in its scientific context.
Intratextual Symmetry in Montaigne’s “Essais”
Montaigne’s Essays are treasured for their philosophical and moral insights and the fascinating portrait they give us of the man who wrote them, but another of their undoubted delights is that they tantalize the reader, offering beneath an apparent disorder some hints of a hidden plan. After all, though the essayist kept adding new pages, except when he added the third and final book he never added a new chapter, but worked within the structure already in place. Order in Disorder: Intratextual Symmetry in Montaigne’s “Essais,” by Randolph Paul Runyon, offers a new answer to the question of how ordered the Essays may be. Following up on Montaigne’s likening them to a painter’s “grotesques” surrounding a central image, and seeing in this an allusion to the ancient Roman decorative style, rediscovered in the Renaissance, of symmetrical motifs on either side of a central image, Runyon uncovers an extensive network of symmetrical verbal echoes linking every chapter with another. Often two chapters of greatly different length and apparent importance (one on thumbs, for instance, balanced against one on the limits of human understanding) will in this way be brought together—not without, Runyon finds, an intended irony. The Essays emerge as even more self-reflexive than we thought, an amazingly intratextual work.
Bewilderments of Fiction
Jordan Stump had often contemplated the relationship between a translation and “the book itself,” ruminating on the intriguing inherent sameness and difference between the two. In The Other Book, Stump examines the “other” forms of a book and the ways in which they both mirror and depart from the original. Grounding his witty and original study in an exploration of four forms of Raymond Queneau’s Le chiendent—a copy, the manuscript, a translation, and a critical edition—Stump poses questions designed to help readers reconsider the nature of fiction and reading. Each form of Le chiendent both is and is not what we mean when we say "Le chiendent," yet the friction between their ways of being and that of “the book itself” proves unexpectedly productive, raising troublesome questions about the nature of textuality, reading, language, and knowledge. It also positions us to assess several answers proposed in response to such questions and to wonder about their usefulness. And as we consider those questions, we will have Queneau’s novel beside us, further confounding our attempts to answer—for our inability to answer those questions is precisely the point of The Other Book, as it is of Le chiendent.
Literature, Travel, and Ethnography in French Modernity
Modernity has long been equated with motion, travel, and change, from Marx’s critical diagnoses of economic instability to the Futurists’ glorification of speed. Likewise, metaphors of travel serve widely in discussions of empire, cultural contact, translation, and globalization, from Deleuze’s “nomadology” to James Clifford’s “traveling cultures.” John Culbert, in contrast, argues that the key texts of modernity and postmodernity may be approached through figures and narratives of paralysis: motion is no more defining of modern travel than fixations, resistance, and impasse; concepts and figures of travel, he posits, must be rethought in this more static light. Focusing on the French and Francophone context, in which paralyzed travel is a persistent motif, Culbert also offers new insights into French critical theory and its often paradoxical figures of mobility, from Blanchot’s pas au-delà and Barthes’s dérive to Derrida’s aporias and Glissant’s diversions. Here we see that paralysis is not merely the failure of transport but rather the condition in which travel, by coming to a crisis, calls into question both mobility and stasis in the language of desire and the order of knowledge. Paralyses provides a close analysis of the rhetoric of empire and the economy of tourism precisely at their points of breakdown, which in turn enables a deconstruction of master narratives of exploration, conquest, and exoticism. A reassessment of key authors of French modernity—from Nerval and Gautier to Fromentin, Paulhan, Beckett, Leiris, and Boudjedra—Paralyses also constitutes a new theoretical intervention in debates on travel, translation, ethics, and postcoloniality.
little poems in prose
Between 1855 and his death in 1867, Charles Baudelaire inaugurated a new--and in his own words "dangerous"--hybrid form in a series of prose poems known as Paris Spleen. Important and provocative, these fifty poems take the reader on a tour of 1850s Paris, through gleaming cafes and filthy side streets, revealing a metropolis on the eve of great change. In its deliberate fragmentation and merging of the lyrical with the sardonic, Le Spleen de Paris may be regarded as one of the earliest and most successful examples of a specifically urban writing, the textual equivalent of the city scenes of the Impressionists. In this compelling new translation, Keith Waldrop delivers the companion to his innovative translation of The Flowers of Evil. Here, Waldrop's perfectly modulated mix releases the music, intensity, and dissonance in Baudelaire's prose. The result is a powerful new re-imagining that is closer to Baudelaire's own poetry than any previous English translation.
The Republican Legacy in Twenty-First-Century French Literature and Film
French school debates of recent years, which are simultaneously debates about the French Republic’s identity and values, have generated a spate of internationally successful literature and film on the topic of education. While mainstream media and scholarly essays tend to treat these works as faithful representations of classroom reality, The Pedagogical Imagination takes a different approach.
In this study of French education and republicanism as represented in twenty-first-century French literature and film, Leon Sachs shifts our attention from “what” literature and film say about education to “how” they say it. He argues that the most important literary and filmic treatments of French education in recent years—the works of Agnès Varda, Érik Orsenna, Abdellatif Kechiche, François Bégaudeau—do more than merely depict the present-day school crisis. They explore questions of education through experiments with form.
The Pedagogical Imagination shows how such techniques engage present-day readers and viewers in acts of interpretation that reproduce pedagogical principles of active, experiential learning—principles at the core of late nineteenth-century educational reform that became vehicles for the diffusion of republican ideology.
Sport as Metaphor in Nineteenth-Century France
What makes stories about portraits so gripping and unsettling? Portrait Stories argues that it is _x000B_the ways they problematize the relation between subjectivity and representation. _x000B_Through close readings of short stories and novellas by Poe, James, Hoffmann, Gautier, Nerval, Balzac, Kleist, Hardy, Wilde, Storm, Sand, and Gogol, the author shows how the subjectivities of sitter, painter, and viewer are produced in relation to representations shaped by particular interests and power relations, often determined by gender as well as by class. She focuses on the power that can accrue to the painter from the act of representation (often at the expense of the portrait’s subject), while also exploring how and why this act may threaten the portrait painter’s sense of self. Analyzing the viewer’s relation to the portrait, she demonstrates how portrait stories problematize the very act of seeing and with it the way subjectivity is constructed in the field of vision.