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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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Anne sans le savoir a ouvert pour moi les fenêtres.

Anne, without knowing it, opened the windows for me.

— PIERRETTE FLEUTIAUX1

Through an exploration of representations of women’s individuation in the works of Pierrette Fleutiaux, this study has revisited the question ‘What is a woman?’ Fleutiaux’s fictions can be read as a complex response to concerns in recent feminist theory and contemporary French women’s writing about the increasingly abstract and fragmented pictures of womanhood and the portrayals of women as being to various degrees isolated, lost, or in the process of disintegrating. Drawing on the philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir in Le Deuxième sexe and the psychology of Carl Jung, an alternative, more liberating picture of historically situated, embodied, individuating women has been examined in Fleutiaux’s intricate treatments of questions pertaining to women’s personhood, and in particular the ongoing inner and outer liberation of the white western bourgeois intellectual woman.

Set against Beauvoir’s case studies, Fleutiaux’s representations reveal the gains and losses that women have experienced in the decades since the publication of Le Deuxième sexe. Beneficiaries of feminist achievements in law, education, intellectual development and financial independence, the women in Fleutiaux’s texts enjoy greater freedom in their external circumstances than their predecessors, yet nonetheless experience anxiety, a sense of alienation, problematic mother–daughter relationships and tensions with their romantic partners. Although Beauvoir’s call for concrete external freedom for women has in many ways been fulfilled,...

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