Discussions of French ‘identity’ have frequently emphasised the importance of a highly centralised Republican model inherited from the Revolution. In reality, however, France also has a rich heritage of diversity that has often found expression in contingent sub-cultures marked by marginalisation and otherness – whether social, religious, gendered, sexual, linguistic or ethnic. This range of sub-cultures and variety of ways of thinking the ‘other’ underlines the fact that ‘norms’ can only exist by the concomitant existence of difference(s). The essays in this collection, which derive from the conference ‘Alienation and Alterity: Otherness in Modern and Contemporary Francophone Contexts’, held at the University of Exeter in September 2007, explore various aspects of this diversity in French and Francophone literature, culture, and cinema from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century. The contributions demonstrate that while alienation (from a cultural ‘norm’ and also from oneself) can certainly be painful and problematic, it is also a privileged position which allows the ‘étranger’ to consider the world and his/her relationship to it in an ‘other’ way.