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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 4 Consuming Matters: Reading, Viewing the Female Body


In this final section the ‘material’ is studied through a range of lenses, both metaphorical and literal. In her case studies of Olympe Audouard and Jane Dieulafoy, Dúnlaith Bird begins by showing how the paradigm of cloth- ing, cultural practices and embellishment of the body becomes a means to allow women to achieve a particular end, in particular increased freedom to travel and be published. Subsequently, Victoria Harrison develops this theme by evaluating young women’s adoption of political insignia and emblems during the Second World War. In her examination Harrison delves into French police archives in order to understand women’s use of material artefacts to make a political statement in the public sphere. Shifting from the relationship between the female body and its various forms of material adornment, Kamila Bouchemal turns to the material female body and its physical reconfigurations which are central to her intervention, highlight- ing francophone writers such as Gisèle Pineau and Malika Mokkadem. In keeping with the resonance of the optical evoked earlier in this section, Bouchemal looks at the inf luence of the gaze, be it male or female, on the body and the power of language to transform the body physically. Finally, two chapters examining cinematic works from late twentieth- and recent twenty-first-century production, draw the volume to a close by inquiring into the nature of the relationship between matter and substance and the gendered (female) body. In dif fering ways, each of the chapters in this section presents and researches this...

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