- Geo/Graphies: Mapping the Imagination in French and Francophone Literature and Film
This volume of French Literature Series, the 2002 proceedings of the University of South Carolina French literature conference, sets itself an ambitious goal in exploring imagined geographies in/of French and francophone literature and film. As indicated by the title, and explained by Jeanne Garane's introduction, the fifteen articles are inspired by the relationship between the two elements of the word geography ( Geo—the earth and Graphein—writing) that defines the "textualization of space as those signifying practices, which while [mimicking] reality, also constitute it" (ix). In this, the move to include nonhexagonal francophone works on an equal footing with metropolitan French production is welcome, as is the attempt to dedicate an entire volume to "representation of place in a variety of texts" (ix).
The intended scope of the volume is also, however, one of its weaker points. An all-inclusive gesture, in order to level the playing field, can run the risk of diluting the importance and specificities of the conflicted politics and encounters (many of which have to do precisely with questions of speaking for and about space) that emanate from the various francophone (postcolonial) discourses. While the brief evocation of Edward Said's imaginative geography and Homi Bhabha's notion of third space has the distinct merit of referencing hallmarks of postcolonial theory and thus anchoring these contributions in such discourses, it does not do justice to the complexities of recent dialogues between cultural geography and literary studies. Also, the possible articulations between writing and geographies require a more detailed and systematic introduction than the four pages given, two and a half of which summarize individual articles. For example, the key title term, "mapping," is too often used by literary scholars to mean generally—as here—the writing of space. Subjectivity and construct are implied—few scholars assume that space in text is an unproblematic calque of the external world—but the word "mapping" would nevertheless greatly benefit from a clarification of some theoretical parameters, unfortunately not provided either in the introduction nor in many of the essays.
As is sometimes the case with anthologies, the clarity of the essays is varied. Roughly half the articles are on metropolitan texts. Perhaps of greater interest to a postcolonial/African studies scholar are A. James Arnold's study of exoticism and the geography of colonial and postcolonial cultures and the two articles on African cinema. Anny Dominique Curtius explores postcolonial intercultural dialogues in [End Page 171]Mweze Ngangura's Pièces d'identité(Congo/Belgium, 1998), whereas Sheila Petty teases out the relationship landscape and alienation in Clando(Cameroon, 1996) by Jean-Marie Teno.
Other essays include articles on Montaigne's Essais(Colin Dixon), Aristotle and Renaissance travel narratives (Todd Reeser), Le sophaby Crébillion Fils (Sharon Diane Nell), La bête humaineby Zola (Michael Lastinger) La petite Fadetteby George Sand (James Hamilton), the writer as nomad in Le Clézio's works (Isa Van Acker), a well-argued essay on Mérimée's Carmen(David Ellison), and a thorough exploration of Perec's urban Parisian geography by Derek Schilling. Jacqueline Dutton documents representations of Australia in French texts and Thomas Vauterin on the representation of the forest in French-Canadian novels of the 1930s; Annie Jouan-Westlund analyzes Doubrovsky's writings as a Frenchman living in the US, while Claire Keith examines a French textbook's use of cartographic imagery to teach primary school children language and literature.