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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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Robin MacKenzie - The Rhetoric of the Border in Julien Gracq’s Le Rivage des Syrtes -107


Robin MacKenzie The Rhetoric of the Border in Julien Gracq’s Le Rivage des Syrtes [I]n an unknown space, we need an immediate ‘semantic sketch’ of our surroundings […] and only metaphors know how to do it. Only metaphors, I mean, can simulta- neously express the unknown we must face, and yet also contain it. […] This is why metaphors are so frequent near the border, then – and so infrequent, by contrast, once the latter is passed.1 Thus Franco Moretti, in his Atlas of the European Novel 1800–1900, discuss- ing the relationship between space and style in the historical novel. Looking at some of the major practitioners of the genre – Scott, Manzoni, Balzac, Pushkin – Moretti notes a correlation between what he calls ‘figurality’ of style and proximity to borders and frontiers. He makes the following comment on the passage in Scott’s Waverley that describes the eponymous hero’s approach to, and crossing of, the Highland line: The light appeared plainly to be a large fire … But then, plain style is quickly discarded: glaring orb, fiery vehicle, Evil Genius, demons, jaws … The impact with the border has generated a sudden figural leap (much like the ‘monsters’ of old mapmakers).2 As we approach the border, then, metaphors proliferate – or (in Moretti’s phrase) ‘figurality rises’.3 The question arises, of course, as to whether 1 Franco Moretti, Atlas of the European Novel 1800–1900 (London: Verso, 1998), p. 47. 2 Ibid., p. 44. 3 I think we can assume that for Moretti ‘metaphor’ and ‘figurality’...

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