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Telling Anxiety

Telling Anxiety: Anxious Narration in the Work of Marguerite Duras, Annie Ernaux, Nathalie Sarraute, and Anne Hébert

  • Book Info
    Telling Anxiety
    Book Description:

    InTelling Anxiety, Jennifer Willging examines manifestations of such anxieties in the selected narratives of four women writing in French.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8485-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction: Narrative Anxiety, Narrative Desire
    (pp. 3-24)

    The desire to tell a story and the anxiety that sometimes accompanies such telling are forces that can leave their trace in the narrative text. They are the forces, the energy, that convert imagination or memory into story and that turn blank pages into text. That desire is a force seems apparent; it induces human beings to take the actions necessary to obtain what they want. Psychoanalytic theory maintains that even when an individual avoids, for whatever reason, active pursuit of the object of her desire, the energy of this desire is not lost, but rather is diverted. It manifests...


    • 1 ‘Truth’ in Memory and Narrative: Marguerite Duras’s ‘Monsieur X. dit ici Pierre Rabier’
      (pp. 27-72)

      La douleur(‘pain’ or ‘grief’) distinguishes itself from most of what Marguerite Duras published between the late 1950s and early 1980s in that the first several texts it contains are narrated overall in a less abstract and more classically realist mode than these earlier texts.¹ That is, while these short narratives still contain plenty of narrative ‘particularities’ as I will call them (for lack of a more precise term that would still encompass the variety of narrative techniques I will point out below), they are peopled by identifiable characters who live in a recognizable and coherent world and who behave...

    • 2 Shame in Memory and Narrative: Annie Ernaux’s La honte
      (pp. 73-114)

      In Annie Ernaux’s autobiographicalLa honte (Shame)(1997), the autodiegetic narrator describes a painful childhood experience to which there is no explicit reference in any of the several accounts of her youth the author had previously published.¹ In that unembellished style she calls ‘l’écriture plate’ (flat writing),² Ernaux writes: ‘Mon père a voulu tuer ma mère un dimanche de juin, au début de l’après-midi’ (My fathertried to kill my mother one Sunday in June, in the early afternoon).³ It quickly becomes evident that the memory of this ‘scene’ (as the author refers to it), which Ernaux struggles to recount in...


    • 3 The Anxiety of Influence and the Urge to Originate: Nathalie Sarraute’s Entre la vie et la mort
      (pp. 117-153)

      Is it living or dead? This is the crucial question that the writer in Nathalie Sarraute’sEntre la vie et la mort(1968) obsessively poses about the text he is attempting to create.¹ What he desperately wishes to know but cannot decide is whether his text grasps the essence of reality as he perceives it, in all its organic flux, or whether it simply dissects, describes, and catalogues that reality post mortem, as a medical student does her cadaver. This uncertainty is the source of the writer’s greatest anxiety, which he experiences most acutely when alone at work, facing ‘la...

    • 4 The Sound of the Semiotic: Anne Hébert’s Les fous de Bassan
      (pp. 154-187)

      Anne Hébert’sLes fous de Bassan(1982) is a sort of postmodern mystery tale in which several narrators tell their version of the events leading up to and following the murder of two adolescent girls.¹ The novel might be characterized as postmodern in that the ‘same’ story is narrated several times from different perspectives, a narrative technique that calls attention to the subjectivity or relativity of truth. One way in which it is perhapsnotpostmodern (and the reader is grateful for this) is that the question posed throughout the narrative – the identity of the murderer – is answered...

  7. Conclusion
    (pp. 188-196)

    In ‘Fathers, Daughters, Anxiety, and Fiction,’ Sheryl Herr discusses the effects of the burden of thousands of years of literary ‘fathering’ on both male and female twentieth-century writers. In it she quotes the comments of Donald Barthelme, a postmodern American writer ‘fathered’ by James Joyce. Reminded by the interviewer to whom he is responding that he once suggested that collage was ‘the central principle of all art in the twentieth century,’ he supplies the following elaboration: ‘The point of collage is that unlike things are stuck together to make, in the best case, a new reality. This new reality, in...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 197-238)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 239-250)
  10. Index
    (pp. 251-261)