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French Ecocriticism

From the Early Modern Period to the Twenty-First Century

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Edited By Daniel A. 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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The Individual as Environment: Watching Jean-Claude Rousseau’s La Vallée close with Lucretius and Simondon (Nikolaj Lübecker)

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Nikolaj Lübecker

The Individual as Environment: Watching Jean-Claude Rousseau’s La Vallée close with Lucretius and Simondon

Abstract: Over a ten-year period, the experimental filmmaker Jean-Claude Rousseau visited the Fontaine de Vaucluse, a natural spring in southern France. The result of Rousseau’s encounter with these landscapes, La Vallée close (1995), explores three processes of becoming. The first is cosmological: the director films the valley and its spring, bringing to life the landscape with its river, vegetation and grotto. The second is meta-filmic: the film thematises its very singular production process, discreetly showing how images combine without any cuts being made. The third is (auto-)biographical: towards the end of its 143-minute running time we understand that the film is a reflection on Rousseau’s childhood, and a semi-fictional chronicle of the break-up of a relationship. This chapter draws on Henri Bergson’s commentary on Lucretius’ De rerum natura (explicitly featured in the soundtrack to the film), Félix Guattari’s late ecosophical writings, and the process-oriented philosophy of Gilbert Simondon, in order to analyse Rousseau’s exploration of the relations between ontology, perception and subjectivity. From Simondon’s work, the chapter imports the concept of the individu-milieu [the individual as environment]. Simondon’s concept helps to explain how worldmaking and filmmaking connect in an individual, bringing it into being, pulling it apart, eventually renewing it. The chapter concludes that the individu-milieu is a thoroughly ecological concept with a relevance for ecocriticism that far exceeds the particular...

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