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«Plaisirs de femmes»

Women, Pleasure and Transgression in French Literature and Culture


Edited By Maggie Allison, Elliot Evans and Carrie Tarr

Feminist approaches to questions of women, pleasure and transgression have generally been premised on the assumption that women’s pleasures are typically constrained – if not ignored, marginalized or forbidden – in patriarchal cultures. The naming, foregrounding and pursuit of women’s pleasures can therefore be deemed potentially transgressive and linked to women’s emancipation in other realms. The essays in this volume draw on a range of materials, from travel writing and the novel to film and stand-up comedy, addressing the specificity of French and Francophone approaches to women, pleasure and transgression across a range of historical contexts.

The volume is divided into three sections: intellectual and creative pleasures; normative pleasures, that is, pleasures conforming to women’s conventionally expected roles and status as well as to accepted views regarding race, national identity and sexuality; and perverse pleasures, that is, pleasures transgressive in their tendency to reject authority and norms, and often controversial in their «excessive» appetite for violence, sex, alcohol or food. In each case, questions are raised about how we approach such pleasures as feminist researchers, motivated in part by a desire to counter the notion of feminism and feminist research as something «dour» or joyless.

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2 Growing up Camille: Gusto and Disgust in Mireille Best’s Camille en octobre (1988) (Kate Bonin )


Kate Bonin

2 Growing up Camille: Gusto and Disgust in Mireille Best’s Camille en octobre (1988)

An apprenticeship in the first person is an apprenticeship in acts of self-authorization or in the assumption of a social identity. It seems evident that across the twentieth century access to self-authorization in statements regarding same-sex sexuality would constitute a complicated arena in which to examine the ‘intersubjective consequences of communication’, in particular to watch the consequences for the sustainability of a first person that tried effectively or appropriately to say something about same-sex sexualities. Michael Lucey (Never Say I: 22)

Moi, j’étais en suspension dans l’atmosphère, participant de tous les règnes. Indéfiniment perméable, je flottais, me déplaçais comme un brouillard. J’étais l’un ou l’autre ou tout le monde ensemble, incapable de me localiser moi-même avec certitude. Je n’ai jamais très bien su QUI j’étais. Je ne sais même pas si c’est une chose qui s’arrange avec le temps, ou si je ne ferai jamais qu’errer entre des solidarités contradictoires, avec juste ces accès de précipitation intense où je deviens caillou, carapace contre la douleur, instrument de la haine. Mireille Best (Camille en octobre: 13)

Like any hero/ine of a conventional bildungsroman, Camille, the moi who articulates the problematic state of ‘apprentice’ subjectivity quoted above, seeks an adult place in a community to which she can fully belong. Camille en octobre...

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