This wide-ranging collection of essays originated in three multi-disciplinary conferences held during March and April 2013 in Paris and Mulhouse, devoted to explorations of twentieth-century and contemporary practices and theories of self-expression. Contributions cover works taking literary as well as other cultural forms, and include studies of texts produced for therapeutic ends. Indeed, its attention to trans- and intermedial cultural artefacts comprises part of this volume’s claim to originality, with the last part of the collection focusing on analyses of works of self-expression found in the theatre, cinema, and plastic arts. The authors of the written works studied here include both canonical and non-canonical writers, and authors writing in languages other than French. The volume’s title is inspired by Proust’s concept of intermittence, which (as Stéphane Chaudier illustrates) emerges in À la recherche in opposition to his notion of éternité. Chaudier shows this phenomenon of intermittence to be affective as well as temporal: ‘car l’intermittence n’est pas seulement la discontinuité; elle est aussi la discordance, le caprice, le rythme incontrôlable des affects, le cycle imprévisible des absences et des présences’ (p. 169). Accordingly, the editorial vision for the volume comprises a broader understanding of the self’s experience of itself than is represented by the commonplace in French autobiography scholarship concerning the inevitable fragmentation of the human subject, which is often viewed as melancholic. Certainly, several of the essays included here explore discontinuities of memory and subjectivity occasioned as a result of traumatic experience, particularly (but not exclusively) the Holocaust. Yet the editors’ thesis is that contemporary culture has evolved a new relationship to the discontinuities constitutive of selfhood, and this is reflected in the preoccupations of the essays included here. Whilst not absent from the collection, Doubrovskyan autofiction recedes in favour of analyses of new writing, or overlooked writings by canonical authors including Perec, Nietzsche, and Ionesco, or newer forms of self-expression that harness the expressive capacities of (for example) installation art. In his Conclusion, Claude Burgelin maintains that, in contemporary cultural discourse, ‘l’intermittence change de rôle et de portée. Hier énigmatique, parfois douloureuse, matériau à introspection, la voici devenue la reine du spectacle’ (p. 382). His words emblematize some of the readings from the last part of the volume, but sit somewhat in tension with certain contributions to the first two parts, which analyse compelling contemporary narratives of suffering, both physical and psychological. The decision not to concentrate on purely French-language primary material helps to establish a transnational context for the insights offered here into contemporary expressions of selfhood. The consequent reduction in space available for the consideration of French-language material may be regretted, as there are some notable omissions from the collection, such as perspectives from marginalized subjects, or from some notable French authors working in this area (Chloé Delaume, Éric Chevillard). Nevertheless, researchers seeking new scholarly perspectives on the presentation of selfhood in contemporary metropolitan French culture will find this volume a very useful resource. © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for French Studies. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
French Studies – Oxford University Press
Published: Jan 1, 2018
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