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From Bad Boys to New Men?

Masculinity, Sexuality and Violence in the Work of Éric Jourdan


Owen Heathcote

This book is the first critical survey of the work of Éric Jourdan. Jourdan first came to public attention as a schoolboy in 1955, when he published Les Mauvais anges, a sulphorous novel of adolescent male-to-male love, which was banned by the censors in 1956 and again in 1974. It did not officially appear until 1984. Despite the ban, and despite ongoing censorship, Jourdan continues to write novels, short stories and plays. His many books include the ‘trilogy’ Charité, Révolte and Sang, and other equally uninhibited texts such as Le Garçon de joie, Aux gémonies and Le Jeune soldat. More recent publications include short stories, historical novels ( Sans lois ni dieux, Lieutenant Darmancour) and the more autobiographical text Trois cœurs.
This study charts Jourdan’s writing career from Les Mauvais anges to the present day, situating his work in the context of writers from Peyrefitte and Montherlant to Guibert, Dustan and Guyotat. The analysis concentrates on three main themes: boyhood and masculinity; sex and (homo)sexuality; and violence and death. Throughout, a number of questions are paramount. What is the connection between masculinity and violence? How does Jourdan reconcile joie de vivre with pain and punishment? Do his young male protagonists progress from bad boys to new men? In what ways can his texts be seen as homoerotic, homosexual, gay or queer? What, ultimately, is the connection between sex, sexuality and writing in Jourdan?
The book includes detailed bibliographies of Jourdan’s works and, for the first time since its original, controversial publication in Arcadie, his short story ‘Le Troisième but’.


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A number of people have made the writing and the execution of this book possible. First and foremost my very particular gratitude goes to Éric Jourdan himself. Without his willingness to share his memory of the way his work was undertaken and developed, much of the material of fered here would never have seen the light of day. I am especially grateful for his contribution to the list of his works given at the beginning of the volume, for permission to publish one of the few photographs of him that have entered the public domain, and to refer to some of the personal exchanges we have had over a number of years. Without Éric Jourdan’s openness, kindness and wisdom this book would be infinitely diminished. Although none of the chapters in this book has been previously pub- lished, it is appropriate to mention those journals that have been hospi- table to commentary on Jourdan such as the French Studies Bulletin and Paragraph and those editors who have generously included earlier studies in their volumes: Lucille Cairns; Barbara Lebrun and Gill Lovecy; Helen Vassallo and Paul Cooke. Thanks also go to colleagues at several confer- ences of the Society for French Studies and the Association for the Study of Modern and Contemporary France who have welcomed work on Jourdan into their programmes and into ensuing, productive discussions. I also wish to record my warm gratitude to particular authors and publishers: to Chantal Chawaf for her unfailingly empathetic and practi- cal interest...

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