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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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Toby Garfitt - Sylvie Germain: Fable, 'Cri', Echolalia -279


Toby Garfitt Sylvie Germain: Fable, Cri, Echolalia It is common to see the work of Sylvie Germain in terms of a meditation on the twin themes of evil and identity: a lyrical meditation, certainly, but one that is driven by philosophical concerns.1 She has of course spent time as a philosophy teacher, and her novels and essays can be seen as imagina- tive developments of her doctoral thesis with its ethical and metaphysical approach to the world. It can be argued, however, that her primary concern is with language, and more specifically with narrative, its origins, and the conditions of its production and transmission. In his long article on Michel Tournier in Michael Tilby’s volume Beyond the Nouveau Roman, David Gascoigne comments that ‘Tournier […] sees the requirement of writing a text which is less intellectualized, more primal, as a real challenge to a writer. One of his aims has been to cultivate a narrative technique in which the abstract significances of the story are implicit within the telling of the tale rather than made explicit in authorial ref lection or commentary.’2 Very much the same could be said of 1 See, for instance, Mariska Koopman-Thurlings, Sylvie Germain, la hantise du mal (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2007). This reference to the ‘face of the other’ is clearly indebted to Levinas, whose Sorbonne lectures Sylvie Germain followed in 1975–6, but the theme of the face is derived even more immediately from her earlier studies of painting and of the Christian mystical tradition: see...

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