Traces of War

Interpreting Ethics and Trauma in Twentieth-Century French Writing

Colin Davis

- +

ISBN: 9781786940421

Publication: November 28, 2017

Series: Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures 49

The legacy of the Second World War remains unsettled; no consensus has been achieved about its meaning and its lasting impact. This is pre-eminently the case in France, where the experience of defeat and occupation created the grounds for a deeply ambiguous mixture of resistance and collaboration, pride and humiliation, heroism and abjection, which writers and politicians have been trying to disentangle ever since. This book develops a theoretical approach which draws on trauma studies and hermeneutics; and it then focuses on some of the intellectuals who lived through the war and on how their experience and troubled memories of it continue to echo through their later writing, even and especially when it is not the explicit topic. This was an astonishing generation of writers who would go on to play a pivotal role on a global scale in post-war aesthetic and philosophical endeavours. The book proposes close readings of works by some of the most brilliant amongst them: Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Charlotte Delbo, Paul Ricoeur, Emmanuel Levinas, Louis Althusser, Jorge Semprun, Elie Wiesel, and Sarah Kofman.

Colin Davis is a Research Professor of French and Comparative Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London

Introduction: Don’t Mention the War

Section A: Ethics, Trauma and Interpretation
Chapter 1. Trauma and Ethics: Telling the Other’s Story
Chapter 2. Traumatic Hermeneutics: Reading and Overreading the Pain of Others

Section B: Writing the War: Sartre, Beauvoir, Camus
Chapter 3. Sartre and Beauvoir: A Very Gentle Occupation?
Chapter 4. Camus’s War: L’Etranger and Lettres à un ami allemand
Chapter 5. Interpreting, Ethics and Witnessing in La Peste and La Chute

Section C: Prisoners of War Give Philosophy Lessons
Chapter 6. Life Stories: Ricoeur
Chapter 7. Afterlives: Althusser and Levinas
Chapter 8. Levinas the Novelist

Section D: Surviving, Witnessing and Telling Tales
Chapter 9. Testimony/Literature/Fiction: Jorge Semprun
Chapter 10. Elie Wiesel: Witnessing, Telling and Knowing
Chapter 11. Sarah Kofman and the Time Bomb of Memory

Conclusion: Whose War, Which War?

'A very significant intervention in the field, likely to be a major point of reference for future work'
Margaret Atack, University of Leeds


Format: Hardback

Size: 239 x 163 mm

264 Pages

ISBN: 9781786940421

Publication: November 28, 2017

Series: Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures 49

Related products

Scroll to top