What Forms Can Do

BookWhat Forms Can Do

What Forms Can Do

The Work of Form in 20th- and 21st- Century French Literature and Thought

Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures, 69


February 26th, 2020

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This volume responds to important questions about the formal properties of literary texts and the agency of form. A central feature of twentieth- and twenty-first century French and Francophone writing has been the exploration of how cultural forms (literary, philosophical and visual) create distinctive semiotic environments and at the same time engage powerfully with external realities. How does form propose a bridge between the environment of the text and the world beyond? What kinds of formal innovations have authors devised in response to the complexity of that world? How do the formal properties of texts inflect our reading of them, and perhaps also our apprehension of the real? In addressing such questions as they apply to a wide corpus of texts, including the novel, life writing, the essay, travel writing, poetry and textual/visual experiments, the chapters in this volume offer new perspectives on a wide range of creative figures including Proust, Picasso, Breton, Bataille, Ponge, Guillevic, Certeau, Camus, Barthes, Perec, Roubaud, Chauvet, Savitzkaya, Eribon, Ernaux, Laurens and Akerman. Collectively, they renew the engagement with form that has been a key feature of French cultural production and of analysis in French studies.

'This volume is of a very high calibre. It offers a broad cross-section of readings in French and Francophone Studies, bringing together a vibrant range of texts through a collective endeavor to rethink the concept and practice of literary form.'
Anna-Louise Milne, The University of London Institute in Paris

Author Information

Patrick Crowley is Senior Lecturer in French at University College Cork. Shirley Jordan is Professor of French Studies at the University of Newcastle and Co-Director of the Centre for Contemporary Women’s Writing (CCWW) in the School of Advanced Studies, University of London.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Introduction: What Forms Can Do: The Work of Form in 20th- and 21st-century French Literature and Thought9
Part 1: Interrogating Form29
1. ‘Fixé par les cris des hirondelles au vol géométrique du désir’ (Picasso, 7 June 1936): Patterns and Permutations in Picasso's Wrting31
2. A Gaggle of Geese or Technical Rigour: Re-forming the Novel in 1940s France47
3. ‘Faire ceci ou faire cela?’: Barthes and the Choice of Form61
4. The Eclipse of Form in Roland Barthes’s La Chambre claire75
5. Going on, or Achieving Interruption: Jacques Roubaud's Quelque chose noir89
Part 2: Form and Life Writing103
6. Narratives of Forgetting: Memory and Literary Form105
7. The Time of Our Lives: Repetition, Variation and Fragmentation in French Women's Life Wrting121
8. Vertical Travel, Listing and the Enumeration of the Everyday139
9. Eugène Savitzkaya: Fictional Forms of Remembrance155
10. A Voice Takes Form: The Sounds of Autobiography in Louis René des Forêts's Poèmes de Samuel Wood169
Part 3: Form and Social Experience185
11. Circuits of Reappropriation: Accessing the Real in the Work of Didier Eribon187
12. Metaphor, Parody and Madness: Two Readings of Marie Chauvet's Folie203
13. Aesthetic Form and Social ‘Form’ in À la recherche du temps perdu: Proust on Taste215
14. ‘La recherche que l’on peut dire formelle’: Proust with Bourdieu227
Part 4: Forms and Formless: World, Movement, Thought243
15. How to Think Like a Plant?: Ponge, Jaccottet, Guillevic245
16. Certeau’s Landscapes: What Can Images Do?263
17. A la dérive: Drifting in and out of Form in French Literature and Visual Art from Bataille to Bergvall279
18. Convulsive Form: Benjamin, Bataille and the Innervated Body295
19. Form and Energeia in the Work of Barbara Cassin (For M)311