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  • French & Francophone x
  • Art History x
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Edited by Matthijs Engelberts, Danièle de Ruyter-Tognotti, Karine Germoni and Helen Penet-Astbury

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Hannah Westley

Reconsidering the relationship between autobiography and self-portraiture, The Body as Medium and Metaphor explores the intertextuality of self-representation in twentieth-century French art. Situating the body as the nexus of intersections between the written word and the visual image, this book rethinks the problematic status of the self. Starting at the twentieth-century’s departure from figurative and mimetic representation, this study discusses the work of seminal artists and writers – including Marcel Duchamp, Michel Leiris, Francis Bacon, Bernard Noël, Gisèle Prassinos, Louise Bourgeois and Orlan – to articulate the twentieth century’s radical revisions of subjectivity that originated from and returned to representations of the word, the image, and the body.
This volume will be of interest to students of both French Literature and Art History, particularly those who are interested in the interdisciplinary exchanges between visual arts and literature.

Acts and Texts

Performance and Ritual in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance

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Edited by Laurie Postlewate and Wim Hüsken

For the Middle Ages and Renaissance, meaning and power were created and propagated through public performance. Processions, coronations, speeches, trials, and executions are all types of public performance that were both acts and texts: acts that originated in the texts that gave them their ideological grounding; texts that bring to us today a trace of their actual performance. Literature, as well, was for the pre-modern public a type of performance: throughout the medieval and early modern periods we see a constant tension and negotiation between the oral/aural delivery of the literary work and the eventual silent/read reception of its written text. The current volume of essays examines the plurality of forms and meanings given to performance in the Middle Ages and Renaissance through discussion of the essential performance/text relationship. The authors of the essays represent a variety of scholarly disciplines and subject matter: from the “performed” life of the Dominican preacher, to coronation processions, to book presentations; from satirical music speeches, to the rendering of widow portraits, to the performance of romance and pious narrative. Diverse in their objects of study, the essays in this volume all examine the links between the actual events of public performance and the textual origins and subsequent representation of those performances.

At the Periphery of the Center

Sexuality and Literary Genre in the Works of Marguerite Yourcenar and Julien Green

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Thomas J.D. Armbrecht

At the Periphery of the Center is the first comparison of two of France’s most important twentieth-century authors, Julien Green and Marguerite Yourcenar. It examines textual elements in their plays and novels to draw conclusions about the ways that they represent homosexuality in their texts. Both Yourcenar and Green turned to drama to explore aspects of same-sex desire that they felt unable to express in their prose. The analysis of their plays shows that an emphasis on dialogue and action makes drama a particularly appropriate genre for writing about homosexuality because it affords an author distance and therefore protection from the “proclivities” of his characters. The chapters on the novel show, by contrast, how prose fiction allows an author to explain a character's sexuality with a degree of subtlety difficult to achieve in theatre. Variations in narration and paratext allow writers to avoid condemning discourses and to find an original means of expression instead. At the Periphery brings a new, textually centered approach to Green’s and Yourcenar’s works that is unlike the psychological analyses that often typify queer readings. It will be of great interest to scholars of twentieth-century French literature and of Gender Studies. The book will also appeal to non-academic readers, however, since it is about two French authors who were also American citizens and who wrote about US history and contemporary culture.

The Endless Theory of Days

The Art and Poetry of Gérard Titus-Carmel

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Michael Bishop

The Endless Theory of Days: The Art and Poetry of Gérard Titus-Carmel seeks to set forth the case for the special, multiple genius of a man who, despite the experience of a biting melancholy resulting from loss, despite an ‘indefectible feeling of estrangement from the world’, despite, too, the corrosive sense of art’s, of languages’s, deceptiveness, has never lost sight of a curious duty to the shadows that haunt and that, with now a strangeness that smiles, yet beckon toward ‘the very place, finally clarified and recognised, of pure evidence. [The place,] that is, where beauty is named’. This place, Gérard Titus-Carmel may feel, lies no doubt impossibly beyond the strict locus of his art and his writing, but it is a place he has struggled with dignity and unceasingly deployed energy to bring to a semblance of incarnation in a vast plastic and poetical oeuvre that has stirred, and will continue to stir, the minds and hearts of all those – from Derrida and Bonnefoy, Alain Robbe-Grillet and Pascal Quignard to Jacques Dupin and Marie-Claire Bancquart, and countless others – who have witnessed its exquisitely solemn unfolding over, today, more than forty years.

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Temenuga Trifonova

The Image in French Philosophy challenges dominant interpretations of Bergson, Sartre, Lyotard, Baudrillard and Deleuze by arguing that their philosophy was not a critique but a revival of metaphysics as a thinking pertaining to impersonal forces and distinguished by an aversion to subjectivity and an aversion of the philosophical gaze away from the discourse of vision, and thus away from the image. Insofar as the image was part of the discourse of subjectivity/representation, getting rid of the subject involved smuggling the concept of the image out of the discourse of subjectivity/representation into a newly revived and ethically flavored metaphysical discourse—a metaphysics of immanence, which was more interested in consciousness rather than subjectivity, in the inhuman rather than the human, in the virtual rather than the real, in Time rather than temporalization, in Memory rather than memory-images, in Imagination rather than images, in sum, in impersonal forces, de-personalizing experiences, states of dis-embodiment characterized by the breaking down of sensory-motor schemata (Bergson’s pure memory, Sartre’s image-consciousness, Deleuze’s time-image) or, more generally, in that which remains beyond representation i.e. beyond subjectivity (Lyotard’s sublime, Baudrillard’s fatal object). The book would be of interest to scholars and students of philosophy, aesthetics, and film theory.

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Bettina L. Knapp

To trace the life of Marie Dorval through the turbulences and exhilarations of her epoch is to engage not just with the genesis and the full flowering of a rare theatrical genius but also with the teeming literary, emotional, economic and material dramas in which such a genius is implacably embroiled. Dumas, Vigny, Hugo, Sand, Gautier and many others mingle their creative and affective energies with Dorval’s in a ceaseless dynamic interplay. But to read Bettina Knapp’s exceptional story is to realize too the so easily overlooked backcloth to life in Marie Dorval’s times: poverty, the need to will one’s survival, unimaginably trying circumstances in which theatre is performed, whether in the provinces or in Paris. And the account that follows further seeks, upon this at once intimate and societal canvas, to give us some real insight into the uniqueness of Dorval’s acting techniques, simultaneously instinctive, viscerally natural, and learned, studied, though more from life than instruction. A book for actors, indeed; but a book, too, for lovers of the theatre and, beyond that, of the sheer improbable drama of existence.

The Abject Object

Avatars of the Phallus in Contemporary French Theory, Literature and Film

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Keith Reader

This book addresses representations and constructions of masculinity in crisis in contemporary French culture by way of two important concepts – the phallus (largely but not solely in (a) Lacanian sense(s)) and abjection (Kristeva). Scrutiny of these concepts informs readings of a number of texts – literary (Bataille, Adamov, Doubrovsky, Houellebecq, Rochefort, Angot) and cinematic (Ferreri, Eustache, Godard, Noé, Bonello) – in which the abject phallus is a significant factor. The texts chosen all describe or stage crises of masculinity and mastery in ways that suggest that these supposedly beneficent qualities – and the phallus that symbolizes them – can often be perceived as burdensome or even detestable. Abjection is a widely-used concept in contemporary cultural studies, but has not hitherto been articulated with the phallus as emblem of male dominance as it is here. The volume will be of interest to those working in the areas of French, gender and film studies.

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Edited by Romana Goedendorp, Sjef Houppermans, Nell de Hullu-van Doeselaar, Manet van Montfrans, Annelies Schulte Nordholt and Sabine van Wesemael

Zone of Evaporation

Samuel Beckett’s Disjunctions

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Paul Stewart

Zone of Evaporation: Samuel Beckett’s Disjunctions is a valuable, and very readable, addition to Beckett studies. From Dream of Fair to Middling Women to How It Is, the book traces the modes of disjunction Beckett employed in his effort to “eff the ineffable”. From the comic incongruities of Watt to the ontological gaps of The Unnammable, Zone of Evaporation demonstrates the crucial and consistent role disjunction played in Beckett’s novels. The book describes Beckett’s divergence from Proustian metaphor and the revelation of the “real” towards an art which exploited the gaps and fissures within language and narrative and, ultimately, to an art which would go on to upset the post-structuralism of Jacques Derrida.
For those coming fresh to the works, Zone of Evaporation, written with an eye on the comic instincts of Beckett, provides almost a disjunctive guide to Beckett’s early and mid-period novels. To the seasoned Beckett reader, Zone of Evaporation offers an engaging, and challenging, new perspective on Beckett’s aesthetic practice.