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Reviewed by:
  • Odysseys/Odyssée: Travel Narratives in French/Récits de voyage en français ed. by Jeanne M. Garane
  • Sonia Wilson
Odysseys/Odyssée: Travel Narratives in French/Récits de voyage en français. Edited by Jeanne M. Garane. (French Literature Series, 41.) Leiden: Brill Rodopi, 2017.x + 243 pp.

As pointed out in the Introduction to this volume, the term 'odyssey' is used both to name the epic poem attributed to Homer and, by extension, to designate a series of wanderings or an adventurous journey. The title of this collection thus affords considerable interpretative scope to its contributors. Based on the 41st Annual French Literature Conference at the University of South Carolina (2014), the volume comprises fifteen essays organized chronologically. Of these, two engage closely with the themes and narrative structure of Homer's epic (Élise Wiener; Deborah B. Gaensbauer). Gaensbauer's compelling analysis of Marie NDiaye's 2013 novel Ladivine as a feminist and racialized rewriting of Odyssean themes provides a particularly punchy and thought-provoking close to the collection as a whole. By far the larger part of the essays in the volume draw on the term 'odyssey' in its extended sense; indeed, on occasion, it seems that it is in fact mobility tout court that is under investigation. The chronological sequencing of the essays foregrounds the shifts in perceptions of mobility over the centuries, and the role of political, socio-cultural, and technological change in shaping representations of it. One of the strengths of the volume is the wide variety of genres and semiotic systems discussed; this provides the reader with insight into the ways in which specific generic codes and conventions act, in turn, on understandings of mobility. Here, mention must be made of Évelyne Deprêtre's astute close reading of Emmanuel Lepage's Un printemps à Tchernobyl (2012), in which she demonstrates how Lepage draws on the visual-textual strategies afforded by the bande dessinée to rework travel narrative. A further strength of the volume as a whole is that it concerns itself as much with the circulation of material objects, images, and travel narratives as it does with the individuals represented by those narratives. Of particular note is Scott D. Juall's fascinating study of the stone columns transported from France to Florida in the French colonial expeditions of 1562–65. Juall's nuanced analysis teases out the ways in which religious tensions in France, shifting political stakes in Europe, and the belief systems of the Timucuans intersect to invest the columns with progressively different meanings. The chief drawback of the volume lies in its lack of solid framing: at just over a page, the Introduction is brief, and there is no conclusion. The reader is thus provided with little guidance in negotiating the volume. However, if one peruses the volume from cover to cover, surprises await, as particular spatial locations resurface in chapters at some distance from one other: the east of Poland to which Count Wacław Seweryn Rzewuski returns in the early nineteenth century, discussed in the chapter by Hana Subhi, resurfaces in Deprêtre's essay as the Polish–Ukrainian border crossed in 2008 by the narrator of Lepage's bande dessinée; the Île de Gorée appears first in Roxanna Curto's analysis of Blaise Cendrars's poem 'Gorée', and again in Kodjo Adabra's excellent discussion of Rachid Bouchareb's film Little Senegal (2001). Nevertheless, readers may well miss the theoretical grounding and synthesis of the various threads of the volume that introductory and concluding chapters often provide. [End Page 475]

Sonia Wilson
University of Sydney
...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1468-2931
Print ISSN
0016-1128
Pages
p. 475
Launched on MUSE
2018-08-15
Open Access
No
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