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French Ecocriticism

From the Early Modern Period to the Twenty-First Century

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Daniel Finch-Race and Stephanie Posthumus

This book expounds fruitful ways of analysing matters of ecology, environments, nature, and the non-human world in a broad spectrum of material in French. Scholars from Canada, France, Great Britain, Spain, and the United States examine the work of writers and thinkers including Michel de Montaigne, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Arthur Rimbaud, Marguerite Yourcenar, Gilbert Simondon, Michel Serres, Michel Houellebecq, and Éric Chevillard. The diverse approaches in the volume signal a common desire to bring together form and content, politics and aesthetics, theory and practice, under the aegis of the environmental humanities.

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Ecoerotica in Stéphane Audeguy’s La Théorie des nuages (Jonathan Krell)

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Jonathan Krell

Ecoerotica in Stéphane Audeguy’s La Théorie des nuages

Abstract: In his extraordinary first novel about the men who shaped our understanding of clouds, Stéphane Audeguy proposes a provocative interpretation of ‘human geography’. Richard Abercrombie, travelling around the world in the 1890s to compile an atlas of clouds in texts and photographs, abandons science for a new obsession: female genitalia. His atlas, instead of containing scientific information, becomes a collection of photos of women’s sexual organs. Scribbled next to the pictures are enigmatic symbols and words like ‘origin’, ‘similitude’, and ‘infinite’. Audeguy merges gynaecology, meteorology and geology to form a geography of the body. The word ‘origin’ repeatedly written by Abercrombie is undoubtedly a reference to Courbet’s (in)famous oil painting L’Origine du monde [The Origin of the World] (1866), whose photographic quality is shockingly different from the portrayal of female nudes from the time. In his essay Opera mundi, Audeguy suggests that L’Origine du monde depicts a landscape, ‘une vallée extraordinaire, dont les plis semblent des coulées de lave souples et vivantes’, strikingly similar to the many paintings that Courbet made of the source of the Loue, a small river flowing from a cave near his home in Franche-Comté. Like Courbet – and Baudelaire (‘La Géante’), Sade (Justine), and Lucretius (De rerum natura [On the Nature of Things]), Audeguy develops a micro-cult of sexuality with origins in the macrocosm of the sky and the earth,...

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