This monograph undertakes a detailed analysis of the œuvre of contemporary French writer Camille Laurens, exploring the ways in which her writing has developed and changed through psychoanalytic readings of a range of her texts. Jutta Fortin’s interpretation draws on André Green’s notion of the ‘mère morte’ (see Narcissisme de vie, narcissisme de mort (Paris: Minuit, 1983), pp. 222–53), giver of life but also of death, who is physically present yet emotionally absent. The figure of the ‘mère morte’ is shown to act as (invisible and unstated) linchpin in what this study describes as the ever-changing kaleidoscope of Laurens’s texts. Fortin argues convincingly that Laurens’s writing is ‘haunted’ by both the spectre of the ‘mère morte’ and by the repeated re-inscriptions of the death of Laurens’s baby son Philippe. A fascinating development is traced in Laurens’s work: in her early texts, Fortin argues, the mother is largely distracted by an extra-marital affair, whereas in her later writing the mother is represented rather as depressed, melancholically obsessed with the death of a child. Ultimately, then, the figuration of the ‘mère morte’ is inextricably bound up in the repeated textual return of Philippe. Yet Laurens’s 2006 text Ni toi ni moi, which features two characters with a ‘mère morte’ and indeed also explicitly refers to the ‘mère morte’ in its epilogue, is shown to mark a liberation of sorts, reflected in — and created by — a less pessimistic and more humorous narrative. The analysis of Laurens’s texts, particularly Ni toi ni moi, in this study is sensitive, nuanced, and elucidated through readings of a range of theorists (including Barthes and Lacan) and canonical French writers (Duras, for example, but also Racine and Mallarmé, amongst others). The concluding chapter alludes to wider historical trauma — the Second World War, the Holocaust, genocide in Rwanda — to note that references to these within Laurens’s texts echo the fragments of her individual and personal stories; it would be interesting to tease out the ethical implications of this further. Given the thematic structure of this study, which weaves together discussion of a range of texts within each chapter, an index would have been helpful to locate analysis of specific texts, but this is a minor quibble. This book offers a sophisticated reading of Laurens’s œuvre, tackles complex concepts and ideas without becoming over-reliant upon jargon, and develops an original perspective on the work of one of France’s best-known contemporary writers. It will be of interest to researchers working on Laurens or on contemporary French writing more generally. © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for French Studies. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: email@example.com
French Studies – Oxford University Press
Published: Jan 1, 2018
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