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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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10 Plaisir de lire: Women Readers and the Popular Bestsellers of Guillaume Musso (Diana Holmes)


Diana Holmes

10 Plaisir de lire: Women Readers and the Popular Bestsellers of Guillaume Musso

In a feminist book that foregrounds the potentially subversive nature of women’s pleasures in a patriarchal society, there is an element of transgression in choosing to write about the fiction of a white, heterosexual, male author whose work, in terms of both form and ideology, is conservative rather than challenging. But the inconvenient fact is that Guillaume Musso has been the top-selling novelist in France for the last eight years1 and that it is mostly women who read him. Musso’s novels (of which fifteen appeared between 2004 and 2018) are romantic thrillers featuring rich and beautiful protagonists with glamorously globe-trotting lifestyles, the plots combining the heterosexual love story with a mystery or quest narrative leavened with a touch of the para-normal. Smartly marketed and highly profitable, his novels implicitly define happiness in terms of professional success rewarded by glossy affluence, marriage to an ‘alpha’ partner of the opposite sex, and the promise or reality of children. They endorse rather than question the normative values of a capitalist, still patriarchal culture. This raises the thorny question of how to deal with a female pleasure of which, as feminists, we may disapprove. What exactly is it about Musso’s alluring but reactionary fictions that provides reading pleasure to so many women? If I read them myself, in as non-judgemental a way as possible,←153 | 154→ can I share in that pleasure? Are we entitled...

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