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Visions of Apocalypse

Representations of the End in French Literature and Culture

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Edited By Leona Archer and Alex Stuart

Picturing the end of the world is one of the most enduring of cultural practices. The ways in which people of different historical periods conceive of this endpoint reveals a great deal about their imagination and philosophical horizons. This groundbreaking collection of essays offers an overview of the Apocalyptic imagination as it presents itself in French literature and culture from the thirteenth century to the present day. The contributors analyse material as diverse as medieval French biblical commentaries and twenty-first-century science fiction, taking in established canonical authors alongside contemporary figures and less well-known writers. The book also considers a vast range of other subject matter, including horror films, absurdist drama, critical theory, medieval manuscript illuminations and seventeenth-century theology. Moving from the sacred to the profane, the sublime to the obscene, the divine to the post-human, the volume opens up more than 750 years of French Apocalypticism to critical scrutiny.

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Part 3 Post-1945

Extract

Ana-Maria M’Enesti Dialectics of Apocalyptic Imagery in Eugène Ionesco’s Plays ‘Puisque le monde n’est un paradis, il ne peut être qu’un enfer’1 concludes Eugène Ionesco in Journal en miettes. In this movement of double nega- tion the author opens up the possibility that both these worlds coexist and intersect with each other. For instance, one of Ionesco’s avatars on stage, Bérenger, in Le Piéton de l’air, is a playwright and an incurable ide- alist, in search of something inexpressible that would save him from his monotonous and sterile life. During a stroll with his wife and daughter, they encounter ‘le passant de l’anti-monde’, a bizarre character from another world. This prompts Bérenger to talk with his daughter, Marthe, about the coexistence and interconnection between universes: ‘Il n’y a pas qu’un anti- monde. Il y a plusieurs univers, imbriqués les uns dans les autres. […] Ces mondes s’interpénètrent, se superposent sans se toucher, car ils peuvent coexister dans le même espace’.2 Drawing extensively on William Franke’s last published work, Poetry and Apocalypse, in which poetry and theology are merged into what he calls an ‘apocalyptic genre’, I propose an exploration of Ionesco’s plays through this prism. In the Ionesquian world of suf fering where evil seems to have its way, there are moments of hierophany, where a luminous pres- ence irrupts and transforms, albeit temporarily, the characters’ lives. The apocalyptic, in this sense, bears a double meaning: it does not only project a...

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