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Women Matter / «Femmes Matière»

French and Francophone Women and the Material World


Edited By Maggie Allison and Imogen Long

This volume is based on papers given at the biennial Women in French conference held in Leeds in May 2011. Drawing on a range of interconnecting disciplines and forms of cultural production, it explores the relationship between French and Francophone women and the material world. Bringing together researchers from the United Kingdom, France and other Francophone countries, the book reflects the engagement of women researchers with contemporary debates.
The first section focuses on the female body, examining dance and the performing arts but also the material objectification suffered by rape victims in France. The next highlights the contradictions of the im/materiality of the body, the act of writing and the text, in terms of dichotomies, permeable identities and fluid boundaries. The third section turns its attention to the practicalities of ‘the material’ in relation to women’s engagement with the economy – the gendering of domestic work, women’s discourse, the precariousness of women’s employment and the alienating impersonality of consumer spaces. The concluding section considers the relationship of the female body to the material object, whether subverting, co-opting or indeed absorbing it. In the final chapters of the book the tactile and the visual converge in explorations of ‘the material’ in cinematic representations of the female body.


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PART 1 Material Treatments of the Female Body


This section takes as its focus the female body, its projection through art forms (Marquié and Dobson), and its subjection via rape and the justice system (Fayard). Hélène Marquié’s chapter is the ideal introduction to the volume, tracing as it does not just the history of women’s body in relation to the male body via dance and convention (women historically often dictating the dance form) but the very (r)evolution of the dance form, the physical ef fect on the body and the interdependent interaction between practitioners versus the bodily requirements of the independent/ individual performer. Marquié, herself a dancer and choreographer, also examines principles by which dance causes the (in particular female) body to engage with space, other bodies and the extra-corporeal world in order to assert itself materially: attacking, defending, depending. Julia Dobson’s treatment of the work of Gisèle Vienne, continuing in the field of per- forming arts, takes the issue of the body’s materiality further by addressing Vienne’s predilection for the use of mannequins in theatre and her deliber- ate interchanging of them with the real body, producing the contradiction between the ‘increasing objectification of the body and the animation of the object’. ‘Objectification of the body’ is a key term in Nicole’s Fayard’s chapter on the French justice system’s attitude to rape in the twenty-first century. She refers not just to the material suf fering on the part of victims, and the ‘material proof ’ required in court cases, but extends this...

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