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French Ecocriticism

From the Early Modern Period to the Twenty-First Century

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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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Engaging with Cultural Differences: The Strange Case of French écocritique (Stephanie Posthumus)

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Stephanie Posthumus

Engaging with Cultural Differences: The Strange Case of French écocritique

Abstract: Ecocriticism has taken its place on the stage of literary and critical theory in the anglophone world, yet its reception in France has been mixed. In this chapter, I outline the cultural differences that contribute to the slow emergence of a French écocritique. Taking my cue from comparative literary studies, I avoid the construction of culture as an unchanging set of clichés and stereotypes, instead exploring diverse linguistic and socio-historical specificities that are useful for framing a ‘French’ écocritique. I take into account approaches such as écopoétique and géocritique that have emerged in France over the last ten years, and I argue for politically informed ecological readings of French literary texts. I draw on the non-dualistic, nature-culture thinking of Félix Guattari and Michel Serres to articulate the concepts of ecological subjectivity and ecological dwelling. These two concepts are used to develop ecological readings of contemporary fiction by Marie Darrieussecq and Marie-Hélène Lafon. My theorisations of French écocritique bring literature and ecological thinking together in the context of the contemporary French intellectual landscape.

In Le Nouvel Ordre écologique [The New Ecological Order] (1992), Luc Ferry denounces attempts made by environmental philosophy and animal ethics to attribute an elevated status to nature and to animals.1 Rejecting what he sees as an anti-humanist sentiment, Ferry takes up Immanuel Kant’s rational philosophy in order to...

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