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From Bad Boys to New Men?

Masculinity, Sexuality and Violence in the Work of Éric Jourdan

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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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CHAPTER 7 New Men II: Éric Jourdan’s ‘History Boys’: Lieutenant Darmancour (2010); ‘Portrait d’un je

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une seigneur en dieu des moissons’ et autres nouvelles (2010); Le Garçon et le diable (2011) Having shown that Jourdan’s more recent, more psychological works illus- trate a shift from ‘bad boys’ to ‘new men’, it is now possible to turn to even more recent, and yet more historical, texts which place the same shift in a dif ferent perspective. It is perhaps not surprising that Jourdan’s historical texts of this period give a dif ferent dimension to one of his favourite themes of twinning and doubling: by taking historical personages or characters in history, Jourdan is able to place them both in the past but also in the perspective of the present and thus make them seem always already double, with, for example, the persona of the past refracted both through their own self-awareness and through the distancing ef fect of a contemporary lens. This double perspective in itself creates a distance between the personages and the present which can help remove some of the rawness of any violence they embody: the violence of these particular ‘bad boys’ is to some extent already defused by their remoteness and by their current cooption in and by literature. At the same time, any homoerotic desires and sentiments are also placed in a dif ferent perspective, since these too be seen to have a his- tory and, particularly if the characters define themselves as ‘gay’, as part of a gay history that antedates the supposed emergence of the ‘homosexual’ as a...

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