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Le cœur, l’âme et le corps: Expressions de l’intime féminin dans sept romans du XIXe siècle et de l’extrême contemporain
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Languages, Department of Modern Languages, Romance Languages.
2015 (French)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
The Heart, the Soul and the Body : Women Writing the Intimate in Seven Novels from the 19th Century and the Present Day (English)
Abstract [en]

This thesis examines representations of the intimate as experienced by female protagonists, through expressions related to the heart, the soul and the body, in a comparative study of novels by French women writers from the 19th century and the present day. The corpus consists of seven novels : Ourika by Claire de Duras (1822), Lélia by George Sand (1833 & 1839), Monsieur Vénus. Roman matérialiste by Rachilde (1884), Femme nue, femme noire by Calixthe Beyala (2003), Vous parler d’elle by Claire Castillon (2004), Le Cœur cousu by Carole Martinez (2007), and Mon cœur à l’étroit by Marie NDiaye (2007).

As a starting point, the thesis provides an extensive literature survey of existing research on the intimate as well as an introduction of the feminist and psychanalytic approaches underpinning the subsequent analyses, which are conducted in two parts, according to the personal and relational dimensions of the intimate. The theories of Beauvoir, Kristeva and Lacan offer perspectives on the intimate experience of women characters which is conveyed in literary imagery as the desire of the Other, and which is oppressed in a patriarchal symbolic order, although an aesthetic with specific narrative techniques related to women’s experience of the intimate is identified in most of the novels. These features include blurring and fragmentation of spatiotemporality, a marked intricacy of narrative voice, proximate first-person narrators, and the development of themes such as the writing of the body, sensed as a container. A discrepancy is noticed between the dominating androcentric posture of the heroines which is found in underlying discourse, and the sensorial dimension of their experience. This leads to a sublimation of body and sexuality in the romantic novels, a masochistic exaltation of the body and pain in the decadent novel and a psychotic and paranoid state in the novels from present day literature. The themes of female sacrifice and of death and denial of the body are very strong throughout the corpus.

Relationships within the family are explored, including the mother-daughter relationships that are emphasised in the recent novels but not in those from the 19th century. Family structure, Christian culture and patriarchal, hierarchical social organisation are analysed as grounds for women’s alienation in the novels. The issue of perversion, which is striking in the novels on several different levels, is described as a transgression which involves the reader.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2015. , 275 p.
Studia Romanica Upsaliensia, ISSN 0562-3022 ; 81
Keyword [en]
French novels, « intime », intimate, women writers, 19th century, extreme contemporary, heart, soul, body, psychoanalysis, feminist theory, semiotics, Claire de Duras, George Sand, Rachilde, Calixthe Beyala, Claire Castillon, Carole Martinez, Marie NDiaye.
National Category
Languages and Literature
Research subject
Romance Languages
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-260215ISBN: 978-91-554-9309-7OAI: diva2:846702
Public defence
2015-10-10, Ihresalen, Engelska Parken, Humanistiskt centrum, Thunbergsvägen 3L, Uppsala, 14:15 (French)
Available from: 2015-09-18 Created: 2015-08-17 Last updated: 2016-01-26

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