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  • Rebelles et criminelles chez les écrivaines d’expression française ed. by Frédérique Chevillot and Colette Trout
  • E. Nicole Meyer
Chevillot, Frédérique and Colette Trout, eds. Rebelles et criminelles chez les écrivaines d’expression française. (Faux Titre, 386). Amsterdam : Rodopi, 2013. Pp 280. ISBN 978-90-420-3654-3. $76 (Paper).

Frédérique Chevillot and Colette Trout have assembled a superb array of essays breaking the silence on the still taboo subject of violence by and to women. Informed by works such as Paula Ruth Gilbert’s Violence and the Female Imagination: Quebec’s Women Writers Re-frame Gender in North American Cultures (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2006), Cécile Dauphin and Arlette Farge’s De la violence et des femmes (Paris: Albin Michel, 1997), and Deirdre Lashgari’s Violence, Silence and Anger: Women’s Writing as Transgression (Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1995), this compelling volume reaches across the world’s French-speaking world as well as [End Page 143] across the centuries, thus situating intriguing questions raised by and illustrated through a wide range of women authors. The volume extends from the Renaissance (Marguerite de Navarre) to present day (Virginie Despentes, Amélie Nothomb, Marie-Célie Agnant), and compellingly illuminates the resistance of women to patriarchal limitations, francophone colonial and postcolonial crimes against women through narratives that critique, subvert, eroticize, transgress, exposing a plenitude of violent transgressions—narrative, bodily, self-inflicted and inflicted by others.

Following Paula Ruth Gilbert’s enticing preface, and the co-editors’ rich introduction, the work is divided into three sections each composed of five chapters. Ordered chronologically from the sixteenth century to the early twentieth century, Part I examines the “lente rébellion des femmes à travers les siècles” (14), in this collection which aims to “considérer la violence exprimée par elles comme une source d’énergie vers des formes d’expression littéraire originales et particulières” (12). For instance, S. Pascale Vergereau-Dewey reveals Flora Tristan’s personal rebellion, her courage, “le défi qu’[elle] lançait était à la fois idéologique et personnel” (93). Part II focuses on the many ways the women authors display, often across their own bodies, “la résistance des femmes aux violences coloniales et postcoloniales” (113), while Part III moves into truly exciting territory, “pour donner naissance à une forme d’expression en réaction à nulle autre chose que leur propre désir de revendiquer rébellion et violence au cœur de leur écriture” (18).

Frédérique Chevillot’s sophisticated and finely nuanced investigation of the language of the well-known Belgian writer, Amélie Nothomb, shines, with the subtle ways that this author’s scriptural practice enacts her characters’ “meurtres d’amour” (245) which “sont et restent de papier” (248). Michèle Schaal’s essay on Virginie Despentes closes the book in sublime fashion. Through first the lens of Judith Butler Gender Trouble and then that of Lafarge and Dauphin, Schaal analyzes Despentes depiction of deviance, marginality, criminality and violence. Schaal recognizes that Despentes’ female characters are drawn to cruelty, a fact “essentiellement humain [et] qui peut, ainsi être pratiqué resenti, subi, voire aimé par les hommes et les femmes” (272). Indeed, these essays illustrate Chevillot and Trout’s introduction’s provocative inquiry of the etymological underpinnings of and problematic relationship between the words “violeuse” and “écrivaine” and promise new ways of exploring violence to and by women as exposed through their writing. Despite distracting typographical errors (table of contents, 17, 22, 266, etc.), the volume proves valuable not only to scholars of the Francophone world, but to a broader feminist reading of female violence and / or rebellion.

E. Nicole Meyer
University of Wisconsin Madison and Augusta University.


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pp. 143-144
Launched on MUSE
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