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Narratives of French Modernity

Themes, Forms and Metamorphoses- Essays in Honour of David Gascoigne


Edited By Lorna Milne and Mary Orr

Inspired by the work of their colleague David Gascoigne, a group of scholars from the UK and France examine in this book the narrative strategies of some of the most interesting and important French writers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Stretching chronologically from 1905 to 2005, the volume examines a wide variety of prose genres, from pornography to Bildungsroman to magic realism, as well as poetry. Michel Tournier figures in several of the contributions, emerging as something of a touchstone for many of the thematic preoccupations that are common throughout the period: values and authority, self and other, identity, spirituality, migration and exile, sexuality, the body, violence and war, and language. The authors also examine the flourishing of intertextuality, as well as the use of traditional forms, such as mythical structures and the ‘robinsonade’, to undermine authoritative ‘métarécits’. Probing these themes and forms, and their metamorphoses across 100 years, the essays demonstrate a striking degree of continuity, linking writers as different as Apollinaire and Houellebecq or Valéry and Fleutiaux, and highlight the difficulty of dividing the period neatly into chronologically ordered categories labelled ‘modern’ or ‘postmodern’.


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Lorna Milne and Mary Orr - Introduction -1


Lorna Milne and Mary Orr Introduction The winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2008, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, was the fourteenth Frenchman to be nominated in the history of this prestigious award.1 On the Nobel Prize website, Le Clézio is summed up as the ‘author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization.’2 He speaks of himself in interviews and in his Nobel address as a ‘témoin du monde’, a phrase which specialist critics readily apply to his lyrical fic- tions of the 1980s onwards to describe their translation of his journeying in cultures and landscapes that contrast starkly with those of first world global capitalism: Le Clézio est l’auteur d’une œuvre protéiforme dont l’apparente complexité peut s’avérer trompeuse. Quelle distance en ef fet entre le jeune écrivain en révolte contre les conventions du roman et les excès du monde techno-industriel et l’essayiste proche de l’anthropologue érigeant en modèle les sociétés amérindiennes plus harmonieuses, plus authentiques. […] Nous pouvons vérifier à quel point la démarche réf lexive de 1 See and for the other winners, including the very first in 1901, Sully Prudhomme. Winners André Gide (1947), Albert Camus (1957) and Jean-Paul Sartre (1964) still feature on UK French Studies university curricula, whereas later winners such as Claude Simon (1985) or Gao Xingjian (2000) make only rare appearances. All websites quoted in this Introduction were...

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