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Guilt and Shame

Essays in French Literature, Thought and Visual Culture


Edited By Jenny Chamarette and Jenny Higgins

As theoretical positions and as affective experiences, the twin currents of contrition – guilt and shame – permeate literary discourse and figure prominently in discussions of ethics, history, sexuality and social hierarchy. This collection of essays, on French and francophone prose, poetry, drama, visual art, cinema and thought, assesses guilt and shame in relation to structures of social morality, language and self-expression, the thinking of trauma, and the ethics of forgiveness. The authors approach their subjects via close readings and comparative study, drawing on such thinkers as Adorno, Derrida, Jankélévitch and Irigaray. Through these they consider works ranging from the medieval Roman de la rose through to Gustave Moreau’s Symbolist painting, Giacometti’s sculpture, the films of Marina de Van and recent sub-Saharan African writing. The collection provides an état-présent of thinking on guilt and shame in French Studies, and is the first to assemble work on this topic ranging from the thirteenth to the twenty-first century. The book contains nine contributions in English and four in French.


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Lucy Bolton Remembering Flesh: Morvern Callar as an Irigarayan Alice 189


Lucy Bolton Remembering Flesh: Morvern Callar as an Irigarayan Alice The writings of Luce Irigaray provide an array of visually evocative concepts which can inform and illuminate our understanding of female conscious- ness on screen. Despite her analysis of the primacy of the visual as having been manipulated by Western patriarchy, Irigaray’s strategies for the crea- tion and preservation of female subjectivity (within a culture of two equal subjectivities) suggest ways of understanding the cinematic representation of women, even when that woman has committed an apparently unpardon- able act. Such an act would, under conventional moral codes, provoke the kinds of irredeemable guilt and irrecuperable shame that might threaten to definitively disrupt the continuity of female subjectivity. However, when the protagonist enters a cinematic realm that subverts the conventional moral order, such questions of female subjectivity are opened out in a manner that benefits from an Irigarayan perspective on sensory experience. Irigaray reaches out more broadly than the ‘écriture feminine’ of Cixous with which she is so frequently linked: as Sarah Cooper writes, ‘Irigaray’s writing points continually to a place beyond the written word’, and film can rewardingly be explored as such a place.1 In Irigaray’s essay, ‘The Fecundity of the Caress’, she describes the caress as the most elementary gesture of the fecundity of love.2 But how, Irigaray asks, can we remember flesh? How can we preserve the memory of touching? It is this problem which I consider Morvern Callar (dir. Lynne 1 Sarah Cooper, Relating to Queer Theory:...

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