Stars and Strife Conference
Stars and Strife: Writing America in Recent French and Francophone Literature
Florida State University
William Cloonan (FSU), Martin Munro (FSU), Jeannine Murray-Román (FSU), Corbin Treacy (FSU)
Salim Bachi is the author of eight novels including, most recently, Le Consul (Gallimard, 2014). In 2001, he was awarded the Prix Goncourt du Premier roman for Le chien d'Ulysse (Gallimard). He has held a number of residencies, including at the Académie de France à Rome and University College Cork (Ireland).
Antoine Bello's latest novel is Les producteurs (Gallimard, 2015), the concluding installment of a trilogy that includes Les falsificateurs (2007) and Les éclaireurs (2009).
Felicia McCarren is Professor of French at Tulane University. She is the author of Dance Pathologies: Performance, Poetics, Medicine (Stanford, 1998) and Dancing Machines: Choreographies of the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (Stanford, 2003). Her most recent book, French Moves: The Cultural Politics of le hip hop (Oxford, 2013) explores the urban dance of minorities in France.
Jean-Marc Moura is Professor of Comparative Literature and Francophone Literatures at the Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense. In addition to his scholarly activities, he is the author of La musique des illusions (Albin Michel, 2014), a novel.
Abdourahman Waberi is Professor of French and Francophone Studies at The George Washington University. He is the author of Passage des larmes (Lattès, 2009), Aux Etats-Unis d'Afrique (Lattès, 2006), Transit (Gallimard, 2003), and Balbala (Le Serpent à plumes, 1997).
The influence of American fiction on the contemporary French novel is well known and frequently discussed. But beginning around 2010, the American presence in French writing has taken a markedly different turn, manifesting itself in several striking ways. An increasing number of Hexagonal novels are set in the United States and center on American personnalités. Examples include: Eric Vuillard's Tristesse de terre (Buffalo Bill), Frédérique Beigbeder's Oona & Salinger (Oona Chaplin, née O'Neil, and J.D. Salinger), Simon Liberati's Jane Mansfied 1967, and the inevitable Bye-Bye Elvis by Caroline de Mulder. Other French novels feature obscure or unlikely Americans such as Nathalie Léger's Supplément à la vie de Barbara Loden, Jean Rolin's Le ravissement de Britney Spears, Hubert Catherine Mavrikakis' Les derniers jours de Smokey Nelson, Hubert Haddad's Théorie de la vilaine petite fille, and Céline Minard's Hollywood Western, Faillir être flingué. There have been road novels, such as Dominique Falkner's Ça n'existe pas l'Amérique and Arno Bertina's Je suis une aventure. In 'beur' literature, Karim Madani's Hip Hop Connection, Lakhdar Belaïd's World Trade Cimeterre, and Hamid Jemaï's Dans la peau d'un youv and 2 jours pour faire des thunes are thick with references to American cultural products and recent history. Finally, the parody/pastiche of American literary forms seems to be growing in popularity, as witnessed in Tanguy Viel's La disparition de Jim Sullivan, Joël Dicker's La vérité sur l'Affaire Harry Quebert, and Antoine Bello's Le roman américain. This list is far from exhaustive and only represents a sampling of this growing trend in contemporary French fiction.
Francophone voices from the past decade offer other representations of Americans, American popular culture, and US foreign policy. The protagonist in Abdourahman Waberi's Transit compares himself at various times to the Marlboro Man, Madonna, and Michael Jackson, and the narrator of Mustapha Benfodil's Archéologie du chaos (amoureux) makes references to William Burroughs, Marilyn Manson, Lou Reed, and Aerosmith, while Salim Bachi's Tuez-les tous is told from the point of view of one of the 9/11 attackers. In Le Prince noir de Lillian Russell, Haitian authors Kettly Mars and Leslie Péan explore notions of race and sexuality in 19th-century New York, while travel and migration to the U.S. are perennial themes in Caribbean writing more generally. America often enters the francophone novel to enable a critique of globalization, muscular defense policies, and hegemonic forms of capitalism, but American slang, music, TV, and film references populate these narratives and redraw the map of cultural affinity beyond the confines of the France-former colony binary.
This conference will address the questions: Why is all this happening, and why now? Is this a passing curiosity and hence of limited scholarly interest, or is it a reflection of the changing image of the United States? Are French and francophone authors finding American society more compelling or provocative than their own? In what ways are these American figures used as reflections of or foils for more local contemporary social concerns? Is the current readership of novels in French more fascinated with New York than Paris? While some recent novels can be read as compelling critiques of "the American way of life," it would be simplistic to assume that this was the only or primary reason for the growing allure of the American scene. While political differences have always weighed heavily (and usually negatively) on the French view of the United States, and while American culture in France has at times been reduced to Mickey Mouse, McDonalds, and EuroDisney, the cultural expression of this fascination/agacement appears to be taking new, more sophisticated forms. What might be the origins or import of this relatively recent phenomenon?
Possible topics include:
American pop culture in beur and francophone fiction
Narratives of (im)migration to/from the US
Intertextuality/hypertextuality: connections/allusions to American fiction
Globalization and the American multinational corporation
US foreign policy in French and francophone fiction
Celebrity culture and mass media
Exiles and expats
America in/and la bande dessinée
"On the Road" novels in France
American justice in the French novel
We invite proposals for panels and papers on this theme. Please submit proposals by February 28, 2017.
Proposals for papers may be submitted here.
Proposals for panels may be submitted here.
For more information contact:
Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics
Florida State University
Tallahassee, Florida 32306-1540