- French Feminisms 1975 and After: New Readings, New Texts ed. by Margaret Atack ed al
As the fiftieth anniversary of May 1968 approaches, and as recent political and sociocultural debates concerning women and gender attest, feminism has reemerged as a driving force in generating charged debates about some of today's most topical issues concerning equality, sexual violence, and identity politics. French feminism in the twenty-first century champions a wide range of causes overlapping women's issues with those of other marginalized groups. Through social networks and in new performative activist circles, feminism is once again a term that has come to the fore in academic circles, the political arena, and popular culture. French Feminisms 1975 and After: New Readings, New Texts, is therefore a welcome and especially timely collection as it offers both a historical grounding of the contemporary relevance of feminism to women's writing as well as a diverse range of literary analyses which investigate themes of oppression, restraint, trauma, death, and gender. If the term "feminism" might seem overly complex for some, outdated for others, or even "taboo" (sometimes referred to as the "other 'F' word"), taking the time to reflect on the continuities and divergences in feminist ideologies and voices—the different waves of French feminism which span several generations—allows us to better understand the ways in which French women's writing (both past and present) engages with the legacy and ongoing progress of this important movement.
This collection is one of two volumes born out of the 2015 Women in French UK conference, the theme of which, Les Femmes s'entêtent, marked another important anniversary: the 1975 publication of the seminal collective work of the same name. With its focus on imaginative writing, this collection offers insight into women writers—some canonical and others relatively underexplored—who turn to the space of writing to speak out against patriarchal and societal norms, thus offering new readings of a varied selection of writings which are either contemporary to or allude to the spirit of French feminism in 1975. Just as Les Femmes s'entêtent was a collaborative text offering multi-form articulations of women's voices, this collection shares a similar project as it brings together analyses of a gamut of texts: fiction, life writing, trauma narratives, theatre, and ludic, quasiexperimental work.
In their introduction, the editors successfully and engagingly tackle an [End Page 173] especially thorny topic: charting the course of feminism in France in all its complexity and sometimes contradictory claims and objectives at key historical junctures from 1975 to the present. The introduction is extremely well researched. With a treasure trove of sources that elucidate the trajectory of modern feminist thought, the bibliographical information provided proves especially helpful to scholars seeking to (re)discover key texts from this wave of feminism as well as references to important works in gender studies, queer theory, contemporary women's writing in France, twentyfirst-century French literature, and post-feminism. As the editors explain, the major feminist texts of the 1970s and the literature that flourished during this period featured multi-faceted and nuanced concepts of feminisms—divergent positions which reflected schisms within feminist epistemologies stemming from other groups and schools of thought. After succinctly synopsizing this rich history, the editors pivot to consider the impact of Simone de Beauvoir and Monique Wittig on contemporary women authors and on the reinvigoration of feminist debate on topics such as motherhood, socially constructed gender roles, universalism, social inequality, queer theory, and gender studies.
In the first chapter Chloé Jacquesson considers the ways in which feminism, knowledge, and literature overlap and are defined in Brouillon pour un dictionnaire des amantes, a 1976 text co-written by Monique Wittig and Sande Zeig. As the title of this text suggests, Wittig and Zeig rely on the rough-draft nature of this work to parody the discourse of knowledge while challenging the dominance of patriarchal language. Here as throughout her other works, Wittig rewrites...