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French Feminisms 1975 and After

New Readings, New Texts


Edited By Margaret Atack, Alison S. Fell, Diana Holmes and Imogen Long

This volume explores contemporary French women’s writing through the prism of one of the defining moments of modern feminism: the writings of the 1970s that came to be known as «French feminism». With their exhilarating renewal of the rules of fiction, and a sophisticated theoretical approach to gender, representation and textuality, Hélène Cixous and others became internationally recognised for their work, at a time when the women’s movement was also a driving force for social change. Taking its cue from Les Femmes s’entêtent, a multi-authored analysis of the situation of women and a celebration of women’s creativity, this collection offers new readings of Monique Wittig, Emma Santos and Hélène Cixous, followed by essays on Nina Bouraoui, Michèle Perrein and Ying Chen, Marguerite Duras and Mireille Best, and Valentine Goby. A contextualising introduction establishes the theoretical and cultural framework of the volume with a critical re-evaluation of this key moment in the history of feminist thought and women’s writing, pursuing its various legacies and examining the ways theoretical and empirical developments in queer studies, postcolonial studies and postmodernist philosophies have extended, inflected and challenged feminist work.

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Conclusion (Margaret Atack / Alison S. Fell / Diana Holmes / Imogen Long)


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Hoping to identify the ‘nouvelles vérités’ of feminist writing may seem a bold yet ultimately fruitless quest in our post-truth world, particularly since discourses of postmodernism and postfeminism might appear to have shifted the terms of the debate away from the iconoclastic perturbations and contestations of the 1970s. In France today, however, facing up to the devastating attacks of November 2015, of January and July 2016, and confronted with the aftermath of the 2017 elections that saw the collapse and fragmentation of the mainstream parties of left and right, there is a sense of acute social and political turbulence within which a range of feminist groups continue to interrogate questions of the nature of feminism and its priorities with real urgency. At the time of our conference in May 2015, social and political issues were very present: the continuing importance of the defence of women’s rights faced with the rise of the far right; the defence of freely assumed sexualities and their public recognition, as ‘la manif pour tous’ tried to counter ‘le mariage pour tous’, the legalisation in 2013 of gay marriage; the right-wing moral panic over ‘gender theory’ being taught in schools, from nursery classes upwards; the controversial banning of women’s Islamic dress and the debates over Republicanism, universalism, laicity, cultural difference and postcolonialism which these brought to the fore, reinforced with intense strength of feeling after the...

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