The Landscape Space Place Research Group

French Suburbias: Urban Sprawl in French Literature

Trent A49
Wednesday 25th May 2016 (15:00-16:00)

Our next LSP Session will be taking place on Wednesday 25th May, 3-4pm, in Trent A49. We hope you will be able to join there us for Isha Pearce’s session on ‘French Suburbias: Urban Sprawl in French Literature.’ Isha has provided us with two critical texts as well as some literary extracts, which will be circulated to everyone on the mailing list in advance of the session. Isha has also offered the following introduction to the material and her session:

During the session I'll be leading on the 25th May, I was really hoping for some help. One thing I'm struggling with is the relationship between the fictional spaces I'm studying, and the 'real' spaces which they imitate. I.e.: What is the point of artistic representations of space?  I've included three readings (two are just over a page). But I want to underline that you don't need to have read any of them to come – if you have anything to say about the relationship between fictional spaces and 'real' space, I'd be really grateful!

My research:

In my PhD I'm looking at two French authors (Michel Houellebecq and Marie NDiaye) and an Austrian filmmaker (Michael Haneke), and how they depict spatial change – in particular the spatial change that has occurred in particular societies that have changed from Fordism (lots of factories, primary and secondary sectors, focus on production) to post-Fordism (no factories, tertiary sector, focus on consumption). So I look at representations of particular places that are either post-Fordist, (chain cafés and restaurants, fast-food) or have increased in number (shopping centres, small flats, offices), or not necessarily increased in number but have changed in nature (airports, the street, rural/countryside, urban, suburban housing estates), over the last 40 odd years.

The (short!) readings:

I've included two theoretical readings about literature and space from theorists I work a lot on, but the point is that they don't really solve my problem (though they might provide the start of the discussion). One is Henri Lefebvre, taken from the intro to The Production of Space (section VII), the other is from David Harvey's Condition of Postmodernity. They both show opposing views on how literature can help represent space. (Harvey has done this by page 5 with the bit about Flaubert so don't worry about the rest of it if you don't have time).

The extracts (provided in English and French) are an example of descriptions of space from a novelist I'm studying called Marie NDiaye. The novel is about a young woman called Fanny who grew up in the city, and who desperately wants to be accepted by her mum's rurally based family. They systematically exclude her because she looks different (a difference that is never explicitly stated, but many critics have interpreted to be racial). The extracts depict parts of the novel where the characters notice the space around them changing. I want to point out that the translations are mine (sorry), but the ludicrously long sentences are all NDiaye!

  • David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernism, ch. 16, 'Time-space compression and the rise of modernism as a cultural force', pp. 260-283.
  • Henry Lefebvre, The Production of Space, pp. 14-17.
  • Marie NDiaye, En Famille (1990), Selected extracts

We look forward to seeing lots of you there on the 25th! All postgrads and staff welcome!

Centre for Regional Literature and Culture

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