Capital Letters sheds new light on how literature has dealt with society’s most violent legal institution, the death penalty. It investigates this question through the works of three major French authors with markedly distinct political convictions and literary styles: Victor Hugo, Charles Baudelaire, and Albert Camus. Working at the intersection of poetics, ethics, and law, Ève Morisi uncovers an unexpected transhistorical dialogue on both the modern death penalty and the ends and means of literature after the French Revolution. Through close textual analysis, careful contextualization, and the critique of violence forged by Giorgio Agamben, Michel Foucault, and René Girard, Morisi reveals that, despite their differences, Hugo, Baudelaire, and Camus converged in questioning France’s humanitarian redefinition of capital punishment dating from the late eighteenth century. Conversely, capital justice led all three writers to interrogate the functions, tools, and limits of their art. Capital Letters shows that the key modern debate on the political and moral responsibility, or autonomy, of literature crystallizes around the death penalty in works whose form disturbs the commonly accepted divide between aestheticism and engagement.
Changing Identities in Early Modern France offers new interpretations of what it meant to be French during a period of profound transition, from the outbreak of the Hundred Years War to the consolidation of the Bourbon monarchy in the seventeenth century. As medieval notions were gradually replaced by new definitions of the state, society, and family, dynastic struggles and religious wars raised questions about loyalty and identity and destabilized the meaning of "Frenchness." After examining the interplay between competing ideologies and public institutions, from the monarchy to the Parlement of Paris to the aristocratic household, the volume explores the dynamics of deviance and dissent, particularly in regard to women’s roles in religious reform movements and such sensationalized phenomena as the witch hunts and infanticide trials. Concluding essays examine how regional and confessional identities reshaped French identity in response to the discovery of the New World and the spectacular spread of Calvinism.
Contributors. Charmarie Blaisdell, William Bouwsma, Lawrence M. Bryant, Denis Crouzet, Robert Descimon, Barbara B. Diefendorf, Richard M. Golden, Sarah Hanley, Mack P. Holt, Donald R. Kelley, Kristen B. Neuschel, J. H. M. Salmon, Zachary Sayre Schiffman, Silvia Shannon, Alfred Soman, Michael Wolfe
Nathalie Sarraute University of Chicago Press, 2013 Library of Congress PQ2637.A783Z46413 2013 | Dewey Decimal 843.914
As one of the leading proponents of the nouveau roman, Nathalie Sarraute is often remembered for her novels, including The Golden Fruits, which earned her the Prix international de litterature in 1964. But her carefully crafted and evocative memoir Childhood may in fact be Sarraute’s most accessible and emotionally open work. Written when the author was eighty-three years old, but dealing with only the first twelve years of her life, Childhood is constructed as a dialogue between Sarraute and her memory. Sarraute gently interrogates her interlocutor in search of her own intentions, more precise accuracy, and indeed, the truth. Her relationships with her mother in Russia and her stepmother in Paris are especially heartbreaking: long-gone actions are prodded and poked at by Sarraute until they yield some semblance of fact, imbuing these maternalistic interactions with new, deeper meaning. Each vignette is bristling with detail and shows the power of memory through prose by turns funny, sad, and poetic. Capturing the ambience of Paris and Russia in the earliest part of the twentieth century, while never giving up the lyrical style of Sarraute’s novels, this book has much to offer both memoir enthusiasts and fiction lovers.
Inspired new translations of the work of one of the world's greatest fabulists
Told in an elegant style, Jean de la Fontaine's (1621-95) charming animal fables depict sly foxes and scheming cats, vain birds and greedy wolves, all of which subtly express his penetrating insights into French society and the beasts found in all of us. Norman R. Shapiro has been translating La Fontaine's fables for over twenty years, capturing the original work's lively mix of plain and archaic language. This newly complete translation is destined to set the English standard for this work.
Awarded the Lewis Galantière Prize by the American Translators Association, 2008.
This edition of Jean de La Fontaine’s fables includes an English translation published alongside the French text. Norman Spector adapted the French text from the 1883-85 edition by Henri Régnier, adding four tales from the 1962 edition by Georges Couton. Spector’s translation is in rhymed verse, and remains faithful to the original not only in metrical patterns and rhyme schemes but also in tone: wit and le mot juste are skillfully and wonderfully combined. This translation gives the reader of English a chance to enjoy the grace, wit, and versatility of La Fontaine.
From the creation of a neuter pronoun in her earliest work, L’Opoponax, to the confusion of genres in her most recent fiction, Virgile, non, Monique Wittig uses literary subversion and invention to accomplish what Erika Ostrovsky appropriately defines as renversement, the annihilation of existing literary canons and the creation of highly innovative constructs.
Erika Ostrovsky explores those aspects of Wittig’s work that best illustrate her literary approach. Among the countless revolutionary devices that Wittig uses to achieve renversement are the feminization of masculine gender names, the reorganization of myth patterns, and the replacement of traditional punctuation with her own system of grammatical emphasis and separation. It is the unexpected quantity and quality of such literary devices that make reading Monique Wittig’s fiction a fresh and rewarding experience. Such literary devices have earned Wittig the acclaim of her critics and peers—Marguerite Duras, Mary McCarthy, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Nathalie Sarraute, and Claude Simon, to name a few.
While analyzing the intrinsic value of each of Wittig’s fictions separately, Erika Ostrovsky traces the progressive development of Wittig’s major literary devices as they appear and reappear in her fictions. Ostrovsky maintains that the seeds of those innovations that appear in Wittig’s most recent texts can be found as far back as L’Opoponax. This evidence of progression supports Ostrovsky’s theory that clues to Wittig’s future endeavors can be found in her past.
Cool Memories II, 1987–1990
Jean Baudrillard Duke University Press, 1996 Library of Congress PQ2662.A853483C6613 1996 | Dewey Decimal 848.91203
Jean Baudrillard is widely recognized as one of the most important and provocative writers of our age. Variously termed “France’s leading philosopher of postmodernism” and “a sharp-shooting Lone Ranger of the post-Marxist left,” he might also be called our leading philosopher of seduction or of mass culture. Following his acclaimed America and Cool Memories, this book is the third in a series of personal records in hyperreality. Idiosyncratic, outrageous, and brilliantly original, Baudrillard here casts his net widely and combines autobiographical memories with further reflections on America, the crisis of cultural production, new ideas in fiction/theory, and the “verbal fornication” of the postmodern. In this wide-ranging discussion of events and ideas, Baudrillard moves between poetry and waterfalls, strikes and stealth bombers, Freud and La Cicciolina, shadows and simulacra, deconstruction and the zodiac, Reagan’s smile and Kennedy’s death, the “curse” on South America and the future of the West, the last tango of French intellectual life and the exemplary disappearing act of Italian politics. Writing at the site where the philosophic and the poetic merge, he once again offers us commentary in the form of the riveting insight, the short distillation of reality that establishes its truth with the force of recognition. Cool Memories II, Baudrillard’s latest commentary on the technopresent and future, an installment of his reflections on the reality of contemporary western culture, will entice all readers concerned with postmodernism and the current state of theory.
Keith L. Walker traverses the traditionally imposed boundaries of geography and race as he examines the literary culture produced by French speakers and writers born outside France. Focusing on the commonalities revealed in their shared language and colonial history, Walker examines for the first time the work of six writers who, while artistically distinct and geographically scattered, share complex sensibilities regarding their own relationship to France and the French language and, as he demonstrates, produce a counterdiscourse to their colonizers’ modern literary traditions. Martinique, French Guyana, Senegal, Morocco, and Haiti serve as the stage for the struggle these writers have faced with French language and culture, a struggle influenced by the legacy of Aimé Césaire. In his stand against the modernist principles of Charles Baudelaire, Walker argues, Césaire has become the preeminent francophone countermodernist. A further examination of the relationships between Césaire and the writers Léon Gontron Damas, Mariama Bâ, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Ken Bugul, and Gérard Étienne forms the core of the book and leads to Walker’s characterization of francophone literature as having “slipped the knot,” or escaped the snares of the familiar binary oppositions of modernism. Instead, he discovers in these writers a shared consciousness rooted in an effort to counter and denounce modernist humanist discourse and pointing toward a new subjectivity formed through the negotiation of an alternative modernity. Countermodernism and Francophone Literary Culture will engage readers interested in French literature and in postcolonial, Caribbean, African, American, and francophone studies.
Joseph Bédier (1864-1938) was one of the most famous scholars of his day. He held prestigious posts and lectured throughout Europe and the United States, an activity unusual for an academic of his time. A scholar of the French Middle Ages, he translated Tristan and Isolde as well as France's national epic, The Song of Roland. Bédier was publicly committed to French hegemony, yet he hailed from a culture that belied this ideal-the island of Réunion in the southern Indian Ocean.
In Creole Medievalism, Michelle Warren demonstrates that Bédier's relationship to this multicultural and economically peripheral colony motivates his nationalism in complex ways. Simultaneously proud of his French heritage and nostalgic for the island, Bédier defends French sovereignty based on an ambivalent resistance to his creole culture. Warren shows that in the early twentieth century, influential intellectuals from Réunion helped define the new genre of the "colonial novel," adopting a pro-colonial spirit that shaped both medieval and Francophone studies. Probing the work of a once famous but little understood cultural figure, Creole Medievalism illustrates how postcolonial France and Réunion continue to grapple with histories too varied to meet expectations of national unity.
Late nineteenth-and early twentieth-century French writer Romain Rolland remains best known for his epic coming-of-age tale, Jean Christoph. In A Critical Bibliography of the Published Writings of Romain Rolland William Thomas Starr Starr painstakingly collects the information on all writings by and about this prolific author through 1949. Organized into two parts, the bibliography lists the writings of Rolland first, and a devotes second section to studies, comments, reviews, attacks, and homages.
Critical Prefaces of the French Renaissance contains nearly 30 prefaces from the works of French poets and dramatists published from 1525 to 1611. Bernard Weinberg’s helpful book collects prefaces from the works of satirical poets, as well as dramatists, and provides a short introduction to each preface setting it in its literary and historical context. Lyrical and satirical poets represented vary from Marot to Du Bellay to Ronsard. Dramatists represented include Jean de la Tille and Larivey, among others. The larger introduction to the volume provides literary analysis of five longer texts by Sebillet, Du Bellay, Peletier du Mans, the obscure Pierre De-laudun, and Horace. Weinberg’s study brings attention back to these primary writings that are crucial for an understanding of the period.
This remarkable volume examines the process by which three deaf, French biographers from the 19th and 20th centuries attempted to cross the cultural divide between deaf and hearing worlds through their work. The very different approach taken by each writer sheds light on determining at what point an individual’s assimilation into society endanger his or her sense of personal identity.
Author Hartig begins by assessing the publications of Jean-Ferdinand Berthier (1803-1886). Berthier wrote about Auguste Bébian, Abbé de l’Epée, and Abbé Sicard, all of whom taught at the National Institute for the Deaf in Paris. Although Berthier presented compelling portraits of their entire lives, he paid special attention to their political and social activism, his main interest.
Yvonne Pitrois (1880-1937) pursued her particular interest in the lives of deaf-blind people. Her biography of Helen Keller focused on her subject’s destiny in conjunction with her unique relationship with Anne Sullivan. Corinne Rocheleau-Rouleau (1881-1963) recounted the historical circumstances that led French-Canadian pioneer women to leave France. The true value of her work resides in her portraits of these pioneer women: maternal women, warriors, religious women, with an emphasis on their lives and the choices they made.
Crossing the Divide reveals clearly the passion these biographers shared for narrating the lives of those they viewed as heroes of an emerging French deaf community. All three used the genre of biography not only as a means of external exploration but also as a way to plumb their innermost selves and to resolve ambivalence about their own deafness.
Raymonde Carroll presents an intriguing and thoughtful analysis of the many ways French and Americans—and indeed any members of different cultures—can misinterpret each other, even when ostensibly speaking the same language. Cultural misunderstandings, Carroll points out, can arise even where we least expect them—in our closest relationships. The revealing vignettes that Carroll relates, and her perceptive comments, bring to light some fundamental differences in French and American presuppositions about love, friendship, and raising children, as well as such everyday activities as using the telephone or asking for information.
The Culture of Disaster
Marie-Hélène Huet University of Chicago Press, 2012 Library of Congress D24.H77 2012 | Dewey Decimal 363.34
From antiquity through the Enlightenment, disasters were attributed to the obscure power of the stars or the vengeance of angry gods. As philosophers sought to reassess the origins of natural disasters, they also made it clear that humans shared responsibility for the damages caused by a violent universe. This far-ranging book explores the way writers, thinkers, and artists have responded to the increasingly political concept of disaster from the Enlightenment until today.
Marie-Hélène Huet argues that post-Enlightenment culture has been haunted by the sense of emergency that made natural catastrophes and human deeds both a collective crisis and a personal tragedy. From the plague of 1720 to the cholera of 1832, from shipwrecks to film dystopias, disasters raise questions about identity and memory, technology, control, and liability. In her analysis, Huet considers anew the mythical figures of Medusa and Apollo, theories of epidemics, earthquakes, political crises, and films such as Blow-Up and Blade Runner. With its scope and precision, The Culture of Disaster will appeal to a wide public interested in modern culture, philosophy, and intellectual history.