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Strange Adventures

Women’s Individuation in the Works of Pierrette Fleutiaux

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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 3: Negotiating (with) the Mother in Métamorphoses de la reine and Des phrases courtes, ma chérie

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CHAPTER 3

Negotiating (with) the Mother in Métamorphoses de la reine and Des phrases courtes, ma chérie

Est-ce donc moi qui fausse toutes les boussoles lorsque je suis avec ma mère?

Is it me distorting the compass readings when I’m with my mother?

— PIERRETTE FLEUTIAUX1

The question mark over the role of the grandmothers at the end of Allons-nous être heureux? raises the issue of the mother–daughter relationship in the development of the individual woman. As has been demonstrated, the mother–daughter relationships depicted in Le Deuxième sexe II are largely negative,2 with the mother channelling the hopes and desires which she has not been able to fulfil under patriarchy into the lives of her children, or holding back her daughters so that they remain as restricted as herself. Contemporary academic representations of mother–daughter relationships are likewise rather bleak.3 However, Jungian theory allows a more ← 147 | 148 → positive framing of these fraught relationships by suggesting that they are partly the result of unintegrated archetypal projections which entrap the mother and daughter in a complex. This reframing offers the possibility for mothers and daughters to work towards greater understanding and relational harmony.

The tapestry of the mother–daughter relationship is the obvious focus of Des phrases courtes, ma chérie, a text about the death of the nameless narrator’s mother. Yet I will also argue here that a mother...

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