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MLN 118.4 (2003) 783-786
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Our goal in putting together this special issue on "new landscapes" in francophone studies is to focus attention on a few significant recent events: historical commemorations, publications, performances, exhibitions and intellectual controversies that prove once again the centrality of the field to present debates. We do not try to be exhaustive. Our focus is on representative issues that define the contours of an evolving dynamic.
We have assembled essays with diverse critical perspectives and methodologies, and included a creative piece that sets an innovative tone for African literature. Some of these essays are in French, others, in English. We hope that the volume will help further a useful transatlantic dialogue about francophone studies and its interdisciplinary approaches which continue to be marginalized within the French university system while they have been a major source of revitalization for departments of French literature and culture in the U. S. academy since the eighties. In the U. S., the development of francophone studies owes as much to feminist and postcolonial theory as it does to poststructuralist or Marxist deconstructions of hegemonies, and to cultural and anthropological research. The field has thus existed in lesser or greater tension with the canonical discipline of French literature and its traditionally formalist, linguistic, and aesthetic analyses. It is, however, becoming increasingly clear that departments of French are surviving, in some cases, thriving, thanks in large part to research and teaching that cross the traditional "fences" separating literary history and cultural theory. 1 Categories of analysis (such as race and gender) that have been central to the study of la francophonie have now become important for other areas of French studies as well. 2 The vast migratory patterns of the last fifty [End Page 783] years have contributed to the blurring of the colonial borders between the hexagon and its former empire, and the field is now, by definition, transnational and comparative. Indeed, it is fair to say that francophone studies has presided over what might be called the "becoming-transnational" of French studies, simultaneously giving renewed impetus to transhistorical and thematic research that braid different strands of scholarship together. The essays included here provide a sample of these diverse and stimulating directions.
We start with a section on "History, Ethics, and Algeria" to underscore the fact that 2003 is "l'année de l'Algérie en France," an effort meant to promote dialogue between two countries whose destinies have been linked for more than a century and a half. In her paper on "Farança-Algéries ou Djazaïr-frances ? Fractales et mésententes fructueuses," Mireille Rosello surveys the traumatic history of this "infernal couple," and suggests that the time has come to test other models of interaction, including those proposed by the historian Benjamin Stora and the philosophers Etienne Balibar and Jacques Rancière. She asks what it might mean to value conversation over the boycott of communication, and what the ideal rules of engagement might be so that none of the parties in presence feels pressured or forced into a "losing" camp. Using the example of a football match and privileging the answers found in the political philosophy of Rancière, she calls for a redefinition, inspired by the irregular geometry of fractals, of the border between the two nations and their subjects.
The essays by Karina Eileraas and Donald R. Wehrs both engage with questions of feminism, identity, and ethics in relation to the works of Leïla Sebbar and Assia Djebar, respectively. In "Reframing the Colonial Gaze: Photography, Ownership, and Feminist Resistance," Eileraas traces the history of the crisis of ownership that photographic reproduction created in the nineteenth century, and explores the "crossed glances" and the moments of misrecognition that Algerian women experienced in front of the colonial photographers attempting to portray them. Using Sebbar's narrative engagement in Shérazade with the photographer Marc Garanger's images, Eileraas develops a rigorous analysis of the way Sebbar's narrator "bruises Oriental images" by negotiating between complicity with and resistance to these images. Donald Wehrs' essay on "The "Sensible," the Maternal, and the Ethical Beginnings of Feminist...