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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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Introduction

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Roman: vision et interprétation du monde.

Novel: vision and interpretation of the world.

— PIERRETTE FLEUTIAUX1

‘What is a woman?’ More than sixty years after the publication of Le Deuxième sexe,2 Simone de Beauvoir’s question continues to perplex and inspire, frustrate and fascinate.3 The enduring concern with defining what it means to be a woman is borne out both in feminist theory and in French women’s writing since 1949 as key to women’s liberation, since, as Toril ← 1 | 2 → Moi reminds us, ‘a picture [can hold] us captive’.4 Establishing a picture of womanhood that contributes to women’s ongoing liberation is still a task of vital importance today.

A reconsideration of the question of ‘What is a woman?’ is particularly urgent given the way womanhood is portrayed in French women’s writing at the start of the twenty-first century. Despite the gains achieved since 1949, representations abound of female protagonists in states of fragmentation, despair, relational breakdown, doomed mother–daughter relationships, and various forms of violence, both suffered and inflicted.5 However, the landscape of desolation in French women’s writing is only one side of the story. The representations of women in the works of prize-winning author Pierrette Fleutiaux offer an alternative and a challenge to prevailing strands of feminist theory, yet they are largely absent from recent academic criticism. Fleutiaux’s work highlights the everyday home and working lives of (typically) white, French, bourgeois, educated (and heterosexual) women, experiences...

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