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Strange Adventures

Women’s Individuation in the Works of Pierrette Fleutiaux


Elizabeth Sercombe

Strange Adventures examines portrayals of womanhood in the works of prize-winning French author Pierrette Fleutiaux. Fleutiaux’s refreshing pictures of womanhood offer insights into how women can become more whole, substantial and free in themselves and in their relationships, as well as how they can contribute to the external world through their creativity and leadership. The study demonstrates how Fleutiaux’s heroines navigate the external, bodily and inner situations of adolescence, early adult life, marriage, motherhood, maturity, leadership and death, in the process developing greater inner resources of wisdom, compassion and resilience. This volume considers selections from Fleutiaux’s œuvre, from her first short fiction Histoire de la chauve-souris to her recent Loli le temps venu, including Métamorphoses de la reine (Goncourt de la nouvelle) and Nous sommes éternels (Prix Femina). Using a theoretical framework which draws on Jungian concepts and the philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir, the study analyses women’s individuation trajectories at each stage of life. Throughout, Fleutiaux’s depictions are shown to pose a challenge to existing conceptions of womanhood and individuality, thus opening up new understandings of what it means to be a woman, and to be human.
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Chapter 1: Towards a New Theory of Womanhood


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Towards a New Theory of Womanhood

We yield too much to the ridiculous fear that we are at bottom quite impossible beings.

— C. G. JUNG1

Fleutiaux’s women protagonists are distinctive in that they grow more substantial through crisis moments, overcoming inner and outer challenges to become more fully themselves and to make a contribution to the world around them. As such, they are ‘concrete cases’ which overspill current theoretical and fictional pictures of reality present in feminist theory and contemporary French women’s writing. The purpose of this chapter is to construct a theoretical framework through which Fleutiaux’s representations of women can be examined and evaluated. This framework will be woven from a nuanced understanding of Beauvoir’s concept of womanhood in Le Deuxième sexe, and of women’s agency, bodies, interpersonal relationships and the ongoing creation of society. More focus will then be given to key life stages in Beauvoir’s seminal work. Beauvoir’s emphasis on the external aspects of women’s situation will then be complemented by contributions from the work of Carl Jung on the inner landscape, with once again more detailed highlighting of aspects of his work which intersect with women’s life stages, including the process of becoming that Jung calls ‘individuation’, the individual’s relationships to her parents and to her ← 37 | 38 → romantic partner, and to ageing. The pertinence of this framework to the study of Fleutiaux’s heroines will then be delineated. To achieve this, we...

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