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Women Matter / «Femmes Matière»

French and Francophone Women and the Material World

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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 2 Im/materiality and Fluidity of Body and Text

Extract

This section shifts the ground in examining the material via an exploration of the relationship between the abstract and the concrete and the interplay between these changing and changeable states. In particular, this section addresses these questions with reference to the maternal Other and the dichotomy of self and body as in Renate Günther’s consideration of the site and significance of the body and its implications for gender in the work of Marguerite Duras. After a theoretical discussion drawing on the work of Simone de Beauvoir and Judith Butler, Günther shows gender identity in Duras’s writings as porous and f luid. Gabrielle Parker continues this analysis of permeable and pervious gender identities by focusing on the creation of the material from the immaterial in her investigation of the fiction of the transnational Chinese-Canadian French writer Ying Chen. Imogen Long turns to the importance of creation, genesis and mutual nurturing of the text in her exploration of the joint writings of Benoîte and Flora Groult; highlighting the material implications of such an enterprise, she exploits the permeability of boundaries between the two co-authors on the one hand, and on the other of fiction and reality. Renate Günther Bodies that Matter: Gender and Generation in the Work of Marguerite Duras Despite the increasingly abstract quality of her writing and the presence of disembodied voices characteristic of her cinema from the 1970s onwards, the figure of the body remains a constant element in Duras’s ambiguous engagement with the material...

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