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  • ItemControlled Access
    Michel Serres’s Philosophy of Limits. Passages between the Philosophy of Science and Critical Theory
    Kroth, Lilian; Kroth, Lilian [0000-0002-8202-1168]
    This thesis examines Michel Serres’s philosophy of limits. Its aim is to trace limit formations as operative functions of thought, which perform interdisciplinary translations between philosophy of science, aesthetics, and critical theory. In order to pursue this aim, a number of Serres’s works revolving around the history and philosophy of science, writings on art and literature, and critical pieces are taken into account. These comprise, amongst others, his early Hermès-series, The Birth of Physics, The Natural Contract, as well as his series Foundations. The focus lies on Serres’s engagement with limit-formations (that is, the formation of boundaries, borders, frontiers, and margins) and their relation to three main fields. The thesis discusses his understanding of limits in respect to the history and philosophy of geometry (1), in respect to his understanding of topology (2), and in relation with entropy, conceived as a concept used in thermodynamics and information theory (3). It is argued that Serres’s understanding of limits fuels his prolific philosophical output in terms of both its content and form, challenging common understandings of being given and made. On the one hand, this thesis shines light on Serres’s historical account of the genesis of different limits, and how these travel between knowledge formations. On the other hand, it reconstructs Serres’s own use of limits, and how this sits within his philosophy of science, as well as his interpretations of aesthetic practices and understanding of contracts. The aim is to approach Serres’s work in its capacity to explain how limits both disconnect and connect. These analyses emerge from the background of the observation that Serres’s work, at first sight, does not engage with limits as a primary concern. His reservations towards limits as ontological givens, as politically non-negotiable, or straightforwardly socially constructed turn out to be highly productive. This informs a Serresian philosophy of limits that takes what the philosopher calls the North-West-Passage: a route that traverses lines between the sciences and the humanities, which speaks to an outlook that is both philosophical and historical. Within French-speaking philosophy and beyond, this confirms Serres to be a crucial and astonishingly original thinker of limits in their irreducible plural and, it is argued, a critical thinker. Distinguished from a post-Kantian understanding of critique, in this thesis, his work is read in terms of suggesting modes of criticality. The thesis consists of three main chapters, each oriented by three complexes of limit functions. The first chapter looks at Serres’s analysis of how the history of geometry draws on and engenders limits, in order to investigate the relationship between them being given and made. Tracing limits, borders, and boundaries through the history of geometry condenses and implicates multiple origins; it enacts a theatre of measurement, which has both origins in and consequences for conceptions of law, the distribution of property, aesthetic forms, and critical frameworks. The second chapter shines light on the way in which Serres relates the philosophy of science to laws and contracts from the perspective of topological boundaries, which are closely linked to the question of metaphors and the sea. Laws’ limits witness a decisive shift from a limit as exclusive and parasitical to a limit as inclusive and symbiotic, for which Serres harnesses a variety of metaphors, arriving at a topological approach to law and contract. The third chapter examines Serres’s understanding of limits through what I call entropic differences. It contextualises his understanding of the coupling of the thermodynamic and information-theoretical concept of entropy and traces how an entropic difference, that is, a particular differential deviation, translates between the sciences, the history of art and literature, social theory, and a new natural contract. In summary, this thesis attempts to offer a novel and comprehensive contribution to existing scholarship on Serres, and to highlight the potential uses of his thinking as an exceptional case for critical engagement with figures of limits across disciplines.
  • ItemEmbargo
    Thinking the Financial Subject with Contemporary French Thought: Ontology, Time, and the Critique of Capitalism in the Work of Catherine Malabou, Bernard Stiegler, and Frédéric Lordon
    Manche, Solange; Manche, Solange [0000-0002-8261-3163]
    This thesis explores how contemporary French thought can make a novel theoretical contribution to financialisation studies, and more specifically, to the field’s interest in the relation between finance and the subject. Mobilising Catherine Malabou’s notion of the *schème moteur*, I argue that unlike the current literature in financialisation studies, which still heavily relies on Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze to think a financial subject, the work of Malabou, Bernard Stiegler, and Frédéric Lordon can help us better understand the relation between individuation and financialisation. This thesis equally contributes to the field of French studies by offering an in-depth interpretation of Malabou, Stiegler, and Lordon. More precisely, it looks at how their ontologies, which either underpin their conceptualisation of individuation or that of the subject, inform their critiques of capitalism and their politics. Departing from this relation between critique and ontology, I note how for these three thinkers the loss of the subject’s power to act is characterised by the shared temporality of an excess of presentism that emerges from certain encounters of the subject with their material milieu, undoing subject’s possibility to unfold long-term habit-forming processes. I claim that this temporality stems from finance’s increased influence in shaping our material environment. Engaging with heterodox voices in economics and building upon the French regulation school’s Marxist analyses of structural finance, I map down the subcontracting chain to determine the precise ways in which macroeconomic financial mechanisms, investment, and their temporalities are shaping our preindividual milieu that in turn shapes the subject. Using a case study of the German recruitment app *Zenjob*, I hold that their workers are finance’s ideal subjects. On the contrary to most theoretical considerations of the financialisation of everyday life, I do not argue that all subjects are financialised equally. Using Lisa Adkins, Melinda Cooper, and Martijn Koning’s notion of the asset economy, informed by Hanna Szymborska’s three-class system, I argue that a new class divide plays out along the lines of asset ownership and portfolio diversification: the greater the diversification, the greater the stability of the milieu. I conclude the thesis with a proposal for a politics for habit which I hold to be anticipated by Lordon and Bernard Friot’s rethinking of communism.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Time of the Telling: Affective Temporalities in the Chansons de geste
    Young, Geneviève
    The Old French and Old Occitan epic poems, called chansons de geste, have long been held up as a celebration of the medieval warrior elite. Although they build a world of great deeds and noble families, the epics are nonetheless a poetry of violence whose outlook challenges prescriptive notions of ideality and perfection. This thesis problematizes the laudatory view by asking readers to reconsider the fine line the chansons de geste present between heroism and catastrophe. It does this by reframing how the chansons de geste conceive of the passage of time in their own narratives, how they move through the world as cultural artifacts, how they enter into conversation with their immediate cultural surroundings, how they straddle past and present, and how they contribute to imagined futures across eras. The first chapter uses Roland Barthes to read repetition and death in the Roland tradition and in the Chanson de Guillaume, and contends that when death scenes are repeated, they create an echo that brings the past forward and renders time uncertain. The second chapter employs Kristevan abjection to read selections from the Old French Crusade Cycle as a locus for memory and a focus for anxieties about the extremities of violence. In a departure from previous scholarship, it frames abjection as being dependent on proximity, or temporal closeness, which relies on ‘witnessing’ as a process of repetition in which events are re-lived and re-presented. The third chapter reads the thirteenth-century Canso de la crozada through selections from philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy with a focus on ‘mythic thinking’ and community-formation. Through its analysis of the unfinished manuscript decorations and the presence of two politically opposed poets, it shows that the creation of myth in chansons de geste is the result of historical desires. The final chapter applies medieval biblical exegesis and the senses of scripture to the subgenre of Enfances, reading them as a philosophical exercise in which temporal layering and mythmaking come full circle when poets take up the practice of writing predictive histories for the epic heroes, turning both triumph and catastrophe into destiny. Time in the chansons de geste, whether narrative, historical, or grammatical, is not neutral, nor are the myriad ways in which the passages and movements of time are marked. The experiences of time that the chansons de geste underpin are necessarily affective and the possible degrees of temporal affectivity are malleable depending on the content of the poems themselves and the context in which they are received. Reading these affective temporalities as signs is one way to test the limits of violence in the epic tradition, and, critically, to rethink how experiences of violence alter the role the epic poems play in either supporting or challenging historicizing narratives.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Anarchisms and the Short Story in Fin-de-Siècle France, 1871-1901
    Stefiuk, Eleanor
    This thesis explores the relationship between the short story and anarchism at the end of the nineteenth century. In doing so it interrogates the tendency in existing scholarship on anarchism and literature during this period to rely on analogies between literature and the bomb. This is partly due to a lingering association of anarchism with the 1892-94 period of terrorist attacks. I seek to nuance this critical position in three chapters featuring little-discussed short stories by Auguste Villiers de L’Isle-Adam, Octave Mirbeau, and Jean Grave and Louise Michel. Whilst it is true that contemporary writers employed metaphors of the bomb, it was not always simply as a destructive and terrorising force. Nor was it the only concept to inform literature’s relationship to anarchism. Indeed, as my thesis explores, fin-de-siècle anarchism was a heterogenous and plural concept and therein lay much of its appeal to the period’s artists and writers. I contend that the short story form offers a privileged lens through which to explore the anarchists’ investment in intellectual emancipation and their vision of revolution and the future society. Jean Grave’s newspaper (Le Révolté (1879-87), La Révolte (1887-94), Les Temps Nouveaux (1895-1914)) is a central thread through my discussion. The paper sought to reflect contemporary anarchist debates and its varied voices. Moreover, its literary supplement played a key role in bringing together cultural and political spheres in the anarchist community. It was through this newspaper that many workers, artists, and writers alike encountered anarchism. The authors I discuss in this thesis are no exception: all had a connection with this newspaper. In Chapter One, I focus on Villiers. Through close readings of two of his late short stories, I return to the Paris Commune as a key event for anarchism, considering anarchism’s position in the event’s legacy. In Chapter Two, I turn to Mirbeau and make the case that his short stories offer a print-based activism that is at once aesthetic and political. Finally, in Chapter Three, I discuss the children’s stories of Michel and Grave. Here, I consider the importance of education for anarchism, namely as utopian process. Reflections on anarchist pedagogy inform my discussion of how these writers might resist the authoritarianism of their form and their claim to writerly authority, specifically through the fostering of critical reading strategies. My project concludes by drawing out a reflection on the divergences and convergences of anarchist and State practices of propaganda. This thesis offers insights into the works of non-canonical authors and obscure literary works as well as a contribution to studies on the relatively understudied form of the nineteenth-century short story.
  • ItemControlled Access
    Opératrice dans les coulisses: Re-evaluating filles de l’Opéra Through the Case of Élisabeth-Claire Le Duc (1721-1793)
    Wilson, Aubrae
    Aubrae Nichole Wilson Abstract: Opératrice dans les coulisses: Re-evaluating filles de l’Opéra Through the Case of Élisabeth-Claire Le Duc (1721-1793)— Since the eighteenth century, filles de l’Opéra—women employed at the Académie royale de musique as singers and dancers—have garnered much attention due to their controversial morality and socially transgressive sexualities. Analysis of extant texts by their contemporary critics has flourished in recent years. Yet as much as the contextualization of the period, and circumstances, in which these women lived has rendered a deeper understanding of their place in Parisian society of the Old Regime, a great number of questions remain as to the material realities of the filles de l’Opéra. What were they paid? Where did they live? Why did they pursue prestigious lovers? Did they obtain social and financial mobility? What did they achieve from this mobility? And how do these material realities permit further enquiries into the relationship between the institution of the Opéra and its female performers? This thesis seeks to move past discussions of the actress/prostitute trope to probe the ways in which this group of women were both constrained and liberated by the institution to which they belonged. Archival and manuscript sources are utilized to investigate their financial and cultural activities off the operatic stage. The case study of Élisabeth-Claire Le Duc (1721-1793), a figurante (low-ranking dancer) at the Académie royale de musique, allows greater examination of the opportunities afforded to women of the theatre in the domains of finance, social mobility, and cultural patronage. The first chapter considers the institutional history of the Académie royale de musique, the wages of its female performers from 1713-1738, their sites of residence, and the institutional practices that contributed to the behaviour of filles de l’Opéra. Chapter two analyzes the surviving historiography concerning Le Duc, the role of anecdote in relevance to its production, and reviews the span of her short, five-year career (1737-1742) at the Opéra as a means of emphasizing how the majority of what is known about filles de l’Opéra has been based on rumour and anecdote. The third chapter investigates Le Duc’s financial dealings, such as her investments and property ownership, in order to more fully explore the opportunities for financial independence available to filles de l’Opéra. Finally, the fourth chapter examines Le Duc’s role as a broker at the society theatres of her lover, the comte de Clermont (1709-1771), and her influence in their output. The material realities of Le Duc’s life as a fille de l’Opéra ultimately demonstrate that each woman’s experience of social and financial mobility was unique, and that further examination of individual filles de l’Opéra is needed to best grasp their role in society—rather than continuing to lump these female performers together by relying on eighteenth-century anecdote.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Negative faith: the heretical writings of Valéry, Bataille and Laruelle
    Le Gargasson, Mathias
    The aim of this thesis is to outline a new concept: negative faith. Negative faith is an unsayable, unknowable faith without an object, a form of energeia that explains the existence of what can be called impossible texts. Negative theology, Valéry’s Cahiers, Bataille’s more mystical works and Laruelle’s non-philosophy all revolve around non-referents such as God, the One or the Real. Nothing can be said or known about these non-referents, and yet this corpus is written almost exclusively around them, creating a seemingly unsolvable paradox. This thesis argues these texts are completely empty in an epistemological sense, but that their essence resides beyond the words themselves, the texts undergoing a form of self-destruction upon being read. They are radical heresies that disregard the traditional framework of reason, logic and scientific positivism to explore what in humans does not belong to the World. Taking root in both theological and philosophical traditions, from Pseudo Denys to Meister Eckhart, from Plotinus to Derrida, this thesis attempts to translate into academic terms the mystical and unfathomable role of this negative faith that unites these authors in what can be called an idempotent, immanent community.
  • ItemControlled Access
    A Different Subject: Autotheory in Contemporary French Self-Writing
    Owen Rowlands, Lili
    This thesis considers the increased entanglement of contemporary French self-writing and theorising in the 2000s, with particular reference to questions of gender, sex and sexuality. The study of modern French autobiography has long emphasised the intimate connection between developments in intellectual thought and formal experimentation. Yet while the belated reception of queer theory and gender studies in France has generated significant critical interest, how these paradigms are both absorbed into and reconjugated by life writing has yet to be extensively examined. Attending to this omission, this thesis focuses on the generically hybrid works of four contemporary writer-theorists — Anne F. Garréta, Paul B. Preciado, Virginie Despentes and Didier Eribon — who make implicit and explicit use of theoretical precepts gleaned from gender studies and queer theory so as to narrate, reinterpret and retheorise the self. In so doing, this thesis establishes ‘autotheory’ — a genre which has gained recent critical interest to describe Anglophone texts that blend autobiography with theory — in the French context, arguing that its emergence marks a formal and ideological rupture with the predominant mode of autofiction. Chapter one establishes the critical ascendance and political valence of confessional French autofiction in the 1990s and 2000s through a reading of Anne F. Garréta’s faux autofiction, Pas un jour (2002). Bringing Lauren Berlant’s concept of the ‘juxtapolitical’ into conversation with Garréta’s baroque Oulipian textuality and her own literary criticism, this chapter considers the psychoanalytic diagnostic of desiring and gendered subjectivity contained by the genre and its potential for renewal. Chapter two addresses the underexplored Derridean impulses of Paul B. Preciado’s Testo Junkie (2008) to argue that Preciado rewrites the self beyond any one ‘genre’ through a deconstructive method of contamination, in which theory is both absorbed into and secreted out of the textual ‘body’. Chapter three re- positions Virginie Despentes’s King Kong Théorie (2004) as a work of ‘low theory’ that refuses to be confined to subject-centred realm of memoir and instead excavates a comprehensive theory of the sex-gender regime from Despentes’s exposure to sexual violence, sex work and pornography. Yet the chapter also examines the possible limitations of theorising in the first-person by narrowing in on the text’s racial lacunae. The final chapter discusses Didier Eribon’s Retour à Reims (2009) as a work that demonstrates the autotheoretical undertow of the older French tradition of ‘autosocioanalyse’. Blending sociological theory with his own anti-psychoanalytic queer theories, Eribon inverts the primacy of interiority in his project of self-knowing, even as this rejection of the psychoanalytic reproduces the self’s opacity. French autotheory emerges as a lens through which to consider the divisions between the universal and the particular, the abstract and the embodied, the first-person and the political.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Communication, Relevance, and Power in Montaigne's 'Essais'
    Perkins, Marina Webster
    This study explores Michel de Montaigne’s interest in how communication functions through intention and inference. Throughout his Essais, Montaigne suggests that communication, whether verbal or extralinguistic, is fundamentally an interaction between minds. To account for this portrayal of human interchange, the thesis draws on relevance theory, a cognitively-inflected framework of utterance interpretation in the field of pragmatics. Relevance theory holds that communicative acts provide only sparse evidence of the communicator’s intended meaning. The addressee must engage in a series of inferential processes to fill in the gaps and arrive at an interpretation of the utterance, gesture, or text, as the case may be. Relevance theory’s attention to the cognitive mechanics and non-verbal aspects of communication allows the thesis to depart from debates over strictly textual meaning in the Essais that dominated Montaigne scholarship in the latter half of the twentieth century. Rather than focusing primarily on the status of the Essais as Montaigne’s communicative act, on the play of signifiers in the text and the stability or instability of the meaning it produces, the thesis considers how Montaigne conceives of communication as an interactive process with implications for the social and political spheres. To that end, the thesis examines Montaigne’s discussions of communication in four contexts, devoting a chapter to each: conversation, diplomacy, law and jurisprudence, and exegesis and prayer. The sustained use of a pragmatic framework to analyse Montaigne’s evocations of four seemingly disparate communicative domains, typically treated separately by intellectual history, reveals patterns in his thinking that traverse these domains. In each setting, this analysis underscores Montaigne’s persistent concern with how power discrepancies and social hierarchies affect communication, and how communication shapes society in turn. In exploring this facet of the essayist’s thinking, the thesis pushes beyond relevance theory’s largely apolitical account of the fundamental mechanics of interchange. It draws on additional theoretical models to better grasp the power dynamics Montaigne evokes, including speech act theory and Erving Goffman’s sociological study of human interaction. By supplementing relevance theory with these frameworks, the thesis effects a rapprochement between the emerging field of cognitive literary criticism and analysis attentive to power and politics.
  • ItemOpen Access
    The Mazarin Salon: French Exiles in Seventeenth-Century London
    Nicholson, Annalisa
    Abstract Annalisa Nicholson: The Mazarin Salon: French Exiles in Seventeenth-Century London This thesis examines the history and literary output of the Mazarin salon, which was formed by French exiles Hortense Mancini, Duchesse de Mazarin, and Charles de Saint-Évremond. Established in London in 1676, the Mazarin salon brought together the capital’s growing community of French exiles with Restoration London’s elite to converse, to perform, and to participate in Anglo-French cultural exchange. Although salon culture is a burgeoning field within early modern French studies, the Mazarin salon has rarely been studied and no monograph has been devoted to the subject, probably owing to the salon’s location outside of France. In attending to this salon, this project investigates what happens when the model of the salon moves beyond France’s borders and becomes a space devoted to the survival of its exile community. The thesis is divided into six parts with an introduction, four chapters, and a conclusion. The introduction sets out the stakes of the project alongside a literature review on the Mazarin salon. Chapter One traces the formation of the Mazarin salon, beginning with the Royalist exile in Paris in the 1650s that set the foundations for Anglo-French friendships and collaborations, which are then reinforced with the resettling of numerous French exiles in London from the 1660s onwards. Chapter Two turns to the salon's sensory environment, establishing its size, location, and interior experience. Chapter Three examines the religious dynamics of the salon as a space occupied by Catholics, Huguenots, Anglicans, and Dutch and Italian Protestants to consider the negotiation of religious difference. Chapter Four focuses on the salon’s operas, written and performed by its members to an intimate audience, to think about how they constitute the salon’s self-fashioning. The conclusion draws together the previous four chapters and argues that, in translating the model of the salon beyond France's borders, the salon becomes a pan-European space, combining its French roots with a more diffuse, continental identity.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Individualist Anarchism in France and Its Legacy
    Frayne, Carl Tobias
    This thesis rehabilitates an understudied branch of the libertarian movement, namely French individualist anarchism, which was most active during the Belle Époque. I provide a synthetical examination of the individualist tradition that challenges dominant historical narratives and dissolves the notion of a stable, fixed, and unitary anarchist subject and culture, thereby revealing the plurality, heterogeneity, and rhizomatic nature of the anarchist movement. My analysis of individualist anarchism also helps clarify debates regarding the philosophical orientation and sociological composition of present-day anarchism. I argue that postanarchism can be read as the latest philosophical revival of the individualist tradition. My work contributes to bringing to light the complexity and fecundity of anarchism as a dynamic and holistic social movement, political ideology, and ordinary way of life.
  • ItemControlled Access
    Medievalism in the French Renaissance: Literature, History, and Nation in Claude Fauchet's Veilles ou Observations (1555)
    Bruder, Anthony
    This thesis explores the place of medieval French literature in the formation of national identity in sixteenth-century France. It focuses on an unpublished and little-studied manuscript miscellany, the Veilles ou Observations de plusieurs choses dinnes de mémoire en la lecture d’aucuns autheurs françois. The Veilles are a collection of essays inspired primarily by readings in medieval French literature, written in 1555 by Claude Fauchet (1530-1602). I read this text in relation to the socio-cultural currents of its moment, arguing that the Veilles represent a seminal moment in the nascent conceptualisation of the French nation and its medieval heritage. Given that early modern discourses of nationhood have traditionally been characterised by their prominent valorisation of Classical Antiquity, the overtly positive evaluation of the medieval found in the Veilles is unexpected and requires interrogation. In Chapter 1, I introduce the contents, immediate context, and material history of the Veilles, arguing that this text reveals a relation to the native past characterised by the desire to recover lost texts and traditions. Chapter 2 therefore takes a step back, asking how this desire for recovery arose. Using a book-historical approach, this chapter argues that during the 1530s and ’40s a French literary culture characterised by continuity with its medieval inheritance underwent a process of rupture, resulting in turn in a felt need for recovery: a need epitomised in the Veilles. The nature and purpose of recovery as practised in the Veilles is examined in chapter III, which focuses on the importance of native exemplarity – the exemple domestique – to Fauchet’s notion of Frenchness. Chapter IV places Fauchet’s emphasis on the exemple domestique in conversation with Pléiade poetics, exploring Fauchet’s conception of the place of native history in the construction of Frenchness through literature. I conclude that traditional literary-historical periodisation which isolates ‘the Middle Ages’ from ‘the Renaissance’ does not reflect the reality of early modern French culture. Rather, the Veilles testify to the way these period concepts were themselves forged through the recovery of a native past in the early modern period.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Magical Artifice and Artificial History in the 'Roman de Perceforest'
    Atkin, Timothy
    The 'Roman de Perceforest' contains fascinating and original portrayals of magical artifice, which have intrigued scholars of Old French for many decades. It is also a peculiarly overt project of 'artificial' history, filling in a lacuna of Arthurian genealogy: King Perceforest's dynasty in pagan Britain. Under the umbrella of 'artifice', this thesis seeks to understand and explore the author's sense of his own artifice - that of writing a fictional history - through the text's portrayals of magical artifice, and artifice in other forms. Magic was a polemical topic in the late middle ages, and the matter of fiction appears similarly thought-provoking!
  • ItemEmbargo
    An End in Herself: Non-Motherhood in Contemporary French Women's Writing
    Cooper, Jasmine; Cooper, Jasmine [0000-0002-5683-6224]
    Depictions of non-motherhood remain a rarity in Francophone literature. The persistent silence surrounding maternal refusal communicates the strength of pronatalist and naturalising discourses which undergird notions of “normalcy” (typified by the heteronormative family). Within these discourses, the Mother remains the ethical figure par excellence and is the central vector in assessing successful femininity. Iterations of maternal refusal, when depicted, see non-mothers invariably figure both as a threat to the natural order (suggestive of the paradoxical symbolic power wielded by the childless cisgender woman in the collective imaginary) and bound by narratives which produce them as lacking, deviant or unnatural women, commensurate with a failed and futile existence. Condemned to endure clichéd representations, non-mothers are all-too often rendered faceless, voiceless and powerless anomalies in a sea of women qua would-be mothers. Further, binary thinking of “voluntary” or “involuntary” childlessness is imperfect, often masking a host of intersecting issues relating to “choice” around becoming a mother. Through an intersectional framework and a diverse corpus of authors, my thesis explores how authors challenge (or, indeed, fall foul of) such portrayals and how the non-mother reveals the failings of the feminist project in the contemporary to extricate the “woman” from the Mother, something which traps mothers and non-mothers alike. I draw on the theoretical works of Paul B. Preciado, Judith Butler, Sara Ahmed, Anne Dufourmantelle, Cathy Caruth, Lauren Berlant, Françoise Vergès, amongst others. Breaking the silence on both disempowered, dysphoric motherhood and the possibility of empowered, fulfilled non-motherhood, my first chapter explores Fatou Diome’s Inassouvies, nos vies (2008). Rewriting the traditional enmity between mothers and non-mothers, the central themes of un/fulfilment and dis/empowerment are enhanced through several childless figures, who give voice to alternative, extra-familial models of kinship and connection, permitting for a radical recasting of ethical (co-)existence. In my second chapter, I look at the iniquity of what I term the “political infertility” of queer couples seeking to become parents in the novels of Désorientale (2016) by Négar Djavadi and Gabrielle (2015) by Agnès Vannouvong. As laws expand to allow queer couples access to fertility treatments, I am interested in how the decidedly heterosexual stigma of the childless figure translates to operate within an emergent homonormative queer paradigm. I show how the female protagonists appeal to female biological determinism and normative affective responses towards the childless body to assert their right to become mothers. I also explore the convergence of racial discrimination in the context of (queer) reproduction. The second half of the thesis moves to work on two authors who explicitly choose not to have children. Whilst their treatment and exploration of non-motherhood emerges from vastly different circumstances, I am interested in the way in which refusals of motherhood can be not only an act of defiance, but positive affirmations of female subjectivity as “an end in itself” rather than a body for others. In Linda Lê’s autofictional letter À l’enfant que je n’aurai pas (2011), maternal refusal is also one which writes against the narrowness of feminine ideals and the myths of “bad” women, revealing the way in which female bodies are heavily pressurized and biopolitically managed to conform. My final chapter turns to Holocaust survivor and filmmaker Marceline Loridan-Ivens’s memoirs, Et tu n’es pas revenu (2015) and L’amour après (2018). Having survived Auschwitz-Birkenau, Marceline raises important questions about female trauma, female pleasure and female subjectivity in relation to naturalizing discourses about the female body. After the prison of the camps, her refusal to reproduce is situated as a refusal of the imprisonment that women found themselves outside the camps and is as much a refusal of maternity as it is an act of choosing freedom.
  • ItemEmbargo
    Marguerite Duras and Claire Denis: Cinema at the Edge of the Political
    Pleming, Katherine
    This thesis examines the films of Marguerite Duras and Claire Denis, two celebrated French filmmakers who exhibit a profound and sustained engagement with questions of the political through their cinematic work. In particular, both Duras and Denis are attentive to subjects who exist at the edge of sites of political inclusion. Yet both filmmakers display challenging, often extreme or problematic approaches to their representation of these marginalised subjects, which frustrate and interrupt monolithic, optimistic political readings of their work. Chapter One examines the ways in which Duras seeks to bring to representation the unarticulated suffering and censored histories of colonial and postcolonial subjects. Drawing on Jacques Rancière’s politics of aesthetics, I suggest that Duras’s formal strategies in her treatment of subjects of colour might be read optimistically as cinematic interventions in the sensible. At the same time, the films examined here invite critique, as their radical formal strategies risk reproducing representational modes associated with erasure, tokenising gestures, ethnographic distancing, and silencing. This chapter attends to these risks, drawing on Jonathan Beller’s reflections on the racist violence of the ontology of the photographic image. This critical reading of the image, predicated on the violence of visibility and concomitant objectification, informs the chapter’s turn to postcolonial theory. Édouard Glissant’s theory of opacity, and Brandon LaBelle’s model of sonic agency, offer ways of thinking the non-white subject’s withdrawal from view and from comprehension. At the same time, Glissant’s poetics of Relation provides a means of reading sound as the basis of a community not predicated on sameness or comprehension - and thus offers a means of thinking community beyond Rancière’s demand for mutual intelligibility as the basis for political inclusion. Chapter Two examines Denis’s exploration of themes of dispossession and exclusion via marginal ethical and erotic assemblages. In particular, I focus on the recurrent motif of father-daughter incest in her work, which often emerges as a site which exceeds the domination of violent political regimes. The chapter addresses the opposition of hostile public topographies and intimate, domestic spaces, and draws on Rosalind Galt and Sara Ahmed in order to examine the phenomenological and spatial investments of normative narratives versus the disruptive trajectories and blockages of incestuous desire. Turning to philosophers of biopolitics – Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben, and Achille Mbembe – as well as Jackie Stacey’s concept of the “genetic imaginary”, and Laura Marks’s “haptic visuality”, the chapter also explores the ways in which Denis makes visible vectors of power and domination, which are positioned in opposition to the tender visuality of care and devotion which marks the closed, incestuous community. Yet at the same time, the closed, marginal community grounded in incestuous desire is shown to be haunted by the threat of violence from within. Thus, via Sianne Ngai’s affect theory, Julia Kristeva’s figure of the abject and Georges Bataille’s reflections on eroticism, the chapter examines the implications of Denis’s strategy of positioning her political critique from within an ethical model which constantly asserts its potential for rupture and violation.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Masculinities in Immigrant Women's Writing in France and Canada
    (2020-09-22) Kistnareddy, Oulagambal Ashwiny; Kistnareddy, Oulagambal [0000-0001-6701-857X]
    Abstract This study focuses on the representation of masculinities in texts written by women who have immigrated into France or Canada from a range of geographical spaces. Centring on the premise that the migratory experience creates a form of tabula rasa which destabilizes identity, I chart the various ways in which the texts examined permit a reconfiguring of masculinities within the migratory spaces represented by France and Canada. I explore texts by Léonora Miano (Cameroon), Fatou Diome (Senegal), Assia Djebar, Malika Mokeddem (Algeria), Ananda Devi (Mauritius), Ying Chen (China), and Kim Thúy (Vietnam), to gauge the extent to which migration generates new ways of understanding and writing masculinities. I draw on a range of theoretical perspectives, including Postcolonial theory, Affect theory, Critical Race theory, amongst others. Through the lens of hospitality as theorized by Jacques Derrida in De l’hospitalité (1997a), I examine Miano’s, Diome’s, Chen’s and Thúy’s texts to investigate the ways in which both the host country and, sometimes, the migrant’s own reluctance to cede to the new paradigms presented by a new society, have a role to play in the inhospitality experienced by (im)migrants. In Chapter Two Jean-Luc Nancy’s notion of community in La Communauté désoeuvrée (1983) and Être singulier pluriel (1996), is deployed as a means of interrogating the positioning of Afropean masculinity in France. The concept of an emergent Rancierian improper community is foregrounded in Mokeddem’s text, as a woman’s discordant voice is heard against hegemonic masculinities, while Devi develops the concept of a writing community comparable to Nancy’s own theory. Chapter Three discusses women’s writing as a means of speaking with men and creating new modes of communication which allow for an equal and mutually understanding relationship with masculinities. Drawing on Hélène Cixous’s Coming to Writing (1991), Gayatri Spivak’s ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’ (1988) as well as Djebar’s own Ces Voix qui m’assiègent (1999), the final chapter delves into the ways in which immigrant women writers are re-inscribing new modalities for reshaping masculinities within the narrative space.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Of (un)Sound Mind: Louis-Ferdinand Céline and the Phenomenology of Reading and Perception
    (2020-10-24) Warde, Luke
    This thesis examines the postwar writings and interviews of the controversial French writer, Louis-Ferdinand Céline. Broadly, I argue for what Maurice Merleau-Ponty called ‘the primacy of perception’ when reading him, and pay particular attention to the faculty of audition. First, the thesis explores sound and noise, often experienced via hallucination and tinnitus, as they are represented in Céline’s writings, especially Féerie pour une autre fois and Normance. Later, drawing on a recent move in literary studies toward questions of aurality and voice, I turn to the phenomenology of reading. The thesis’ overarching theoretical approach is heavily informed by recent developments in the cognitive sciences, especially those which emphasise the paramountcy of prior experiences, beliefs and expectations in structuring perception. The thesis explores how this plays out both in Céline’s writings themselves, where traumatic experiences from the First World War aurally recrudesce for his narrators in the form of vivid hallucinations, and in how there is an aural dimension–––or the potential for one–––to reading Céline, particularly if readers have been previously exposed to his voice through his interviews. This aural dimension is not, I argue, merely perceptual but also affective. Knowledge of who Céline was, coupled with intimacy with his voice will, for many readers, induce a sense of discomfort and even disgust, especially when recent scholarship on Céline, in particular Pierre-André Taguieff and Annick Duraffour’s 2017 book, Céline, la race, le Juif: légende littéraire et vérité historique, has blackened the portrait of an already malign figure. Later chapters attempt to articulate what it might mean to read in the wake of such works. I eschew an approach that merely seeks to identify aspects of Céline’s virulent and overt racism and antisemitism. I refrain from this for two primary reasons. First, scholars from Alice Kaplan, to Philip Watts, to Duraffour and Taguieff most recently, have already done much of this crucial work in significant, if not exhaustive, detail. Second, insofar as my focus is thoroughly reader-centric, the thesis is interested in those who continue to read Céline (for better or for worse), an aspect of whose lurid appeal is precisely that he is abhorrent or seen as beyond the pale. If his being somewhat illicit is something already priced in to many readers’ decisions to read him, by highlighting where he is most problematic, do we not risk getting caught in a double bind whereby his appeal is in fact bolstered, however grotesquely? Far from an abdication of ethical responsibility, an in-depth examination of such an appeal, however unsavoury, and how it operates, has implications for how we think about contemporary manifestations of hatred and its rhetoric. Throughout the thesis, I attend to how Céline, especially in how we comports himself in the interviews, dispositionally and rhetorically foreshadows aspects of contemporary neo-fascist discourse, most notably in his penchant for provocation and ‘doubling down’ on his past enormities, as well has his weaponising of irony and outrage.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Critical encounters: Bataille, Blanchot and the literary real
    Angeli, Zoi
    The overall aim of this thesis is to examine the encounter of the real and literature – as thematically crystallized in the contrivance of the literary real – in terms of an irreducible tension. The encounter of literature and the real (their coexistence and inseparability) is examined conjointly with the encounter (the meeting and interlinking) of Georges Bataille and Maurice Blanchot – as generated by the comparative angle that structures the thesis. The literary real addresses both the question of what kind of ‘real’ is involved and disclosed in writing (and how that might differ from reality in its more traditional sense – or more precisely from more conventional representations of reality), as well as the question of writing’s own ‘being’ (that is, the particularity of its mode of being, its peculiar reality/unreality). The thesis aims to provide a renewed (and overlooked) reading of both thinkers as situated at the crossroads of post-deconstruction (welcoming the real, experience) and anti-realism (differentiating the real from – its equation and reduction to – empirical reality and the current state of affairs). In parallel, and more broadly, the project, via Bataille and Blanchot, calls for a recasting of key terms of the literary and aesthetic tradition (such as creation and inspiration, autonomy and mimesis), but also of concepts relevant to wider current debates, such as space, inside and outside, time, experience and the event, visibility and invisibility, intimacy and distance.
  • ItemControlled Access
    Scripture in the Vernacular in Seventeenth-Century France: Antoine Arnauld and the Defence of the New Testament of Mons
    Al-Faradzh, Elizaveta
    The thesis studies the translation of the New Testament published in 1667 by the theologians from Port-Royal, their ideas about the translation and vernacular Bibles and consists of Introduction, Seven chapters and Conclusion. The Introduction places the dissertation in the context of existing knowledge about Port-Royal and the cultural influence which emanated from there. The Introduction highlights the role of Antoine Arnauld in the polemical defence of the right of the “smallest ones” to access the Scriptures. The Introduction also sets the frame of the research, centred on the New Testament of Mons, first published in 1667, and the texts written in relation to the translation and publication, both for and against it. The first three chapters of this dissertation are dedicated to the intellectual context in which the New Testament of Mons had appeared. They cover the place of the Bible in post-Tridentine piety, the Catholic biblical translations published before the New Testament of Mons and the theoretical views of the Solitaires on the translation. The fourth chapter provides the chronological core for this study, it tells the story of the publication of the New Testament of Mons and gives an overview of the related polemics. Chapters five and six are dedicated to the two main area of criticism: the language of the translation and the idea of universal reading of the Bible. There I analyse the contributions of Antoine Arnauld as the main defender of Port-Royal biblical translations. The final chapter of this dissertation sheds light on Arnauld’s theory of polemics and his defence of strong rhetoric. The thesis concludes with a discussion of the cultural role of Port-Royal biblical translations and suggests further axes of research in this field.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Derrida's Institutions: The Political Philosophy of Jacques Derrida
    Ó Fathaigh, Cillian
    This thesis examines the role of institutions in Jacques Derrida’s philosophy. It argues that there is an intimate connection between Derrida’s political engagements and his philosophy which has hitherto been neglected. Drawing on a range of unexamined television, print and radio contributions by Derrida, as well as archival research into his unpublished seminars, the thesis places these in dialogue with canonical texts and critical interpretations, thus contributing to a more precise understanding of his philosophy in the light of his substantial political involvement. The text opens with a consideration of iteration, determination and effacement in Derrida’s work. I argue that these are the major terms for understanding Derrida’s political philosophy. This is sustained throughout the thesis, through a consideration of exappropriation and the terms promesse and mémoire. Within this framework, and in a broadly chronological way, Derrida’s institutional and political engagements are analysed. I coin the term exappropriating institutions to describe a shared structure and coherent strategy across these interventions. This includes work on educational reform in the GREPH and the Collège international de philosophie; support for undocumented migrants, including his neglected collaboration with Pierre Bourdieu to support persecuted intellectuals; his view of media institutions, télétechnologies and the need to reform public space; his position on Europe and particularly his support for a European army; and, finally, his focus on international law and its institutions alongside the need to reform the United Nations and his support for altermondialisme. Throughout the thesis, I argue that the double movement of Derrida’s philosophy, the critique/plus-que-critique, is present within his political engagements and that this connects it closely to his philosophy. Through this we come to see the importance of critique for Derrida, but also that the movement beyond this is also closely tied to determination. Ultimately, I argue that exappropriating institutions is a normative structure in Derrida’s philosophy and represents a model for politics. Overall, this work demonstrates the important intersection between philosophy and the political that marked much of Derrida’s career, and I argue on this basis that these interventions and engagements should be understood as part of a consistent and coherent Derridean political philosophy.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Ronsard's Idoles: Epic, Ghosts and Irony in Pierre de Ronsard's Poetic Works
    (2020-05-16) Roullière, Alice Aurelia; Roullière, Alice Aurelia [0000-0003-1162-7143]
    This dissertation concerns the role of ghostly figures inspired by Homeric ‘eidola’ in Pierre de Ronsard’s poetic works. I argue that, although Ronsard’s poetry is concerned with expressions of death and decay, ghostly apparitions named ‘idoles’ propose a reflection on fiction, humour and illusion. Through a selection of emblematic texts, this work proposes a new reading of Ronsard’s poetic ghosts highlighting their irony which reveals the paradoxes underpinning early modern discourses on French origins, national identity and religion. By representing ghosts, Ronsard enters in a dialogue with his contemporaries and engages in a broader discussion about the effects of ghostly illusions: the dissertation therefore also includes a discussion of texts written by Du Bellay, La Gessée, Des Masures and Protestant pamphleteers in response to Ronsard. This dissertation is structured in two main sections with chapter subdivisions. In section A ‘Epic Ghosts in Ronsard’s Poetry’, I analyse epic idoles in the ‘Ode de la Paix au roy’ (1550), the Franciade (1572) and the lyric (1552-1578). In Section B ‘Complicit Fictions: Daimons an Allegories’, I study ghosts in the Hymnes (1555-1556) in light of the paradigm of the epic simulacrum identified in the first chapter by showing how the introduction of ghosts in genres such as hymnic poems can be blended with comic undertones. Drawing on the humorous identity of ghostly illusions, I finally turn to the irony underpinning ghostly apparitions featuring in the ‘Elegie à Loïs des Masures’ (1560) and the Discours des Misères de ce temps (1561-1563).