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Annie Ernaux: The Return to Origins

Siobhán McIlvanney
Volume: 6
Copyright Date: 2001
Edition: 1
Pages: 248
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5vjfz3
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  • Book Info
    Annie Ernaux
    Book Description:

    In this first critical study in English to focus exclusively on Annie Ernaux’s writing trajectory, Siobhán McIlvanney provides a stimulating and challenging analysis of Ernaux’s individual texts. Following a broadly feminist hermeneutic, this study engages in a series of provocative close readings of Ernaux’s works in a move to highlight the contradictions and nuances in her writing, and to demonstrate the intellectual intricacies of her literary project. By so doing, it seeks to introduce new readers to Ernaux’s works, while engaging on less familiar terrain those already familiar with her writing.

    eISBN: 978-1-84631-257-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vi-vi)
    S. M.
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Introduction: Con/textualising the Corpus
    (pp. 1-16)

    Annie Ernaux is one of the most commercially successful writers in France today. Her works appear repeatedly on bestseller lists, have been translated into more than fifteen languages, and she is a familiar figure on literary arts programmes in France, such asBouillon de cultureand its predecessor,Apostrophes. Ernaux is also relatively wellknown in Anglophone circles, due to the popularity of her texts on British school and university syllabi and to her regular visits to Britain in order to discuss her writing with students and academics. While Ernaux’s writing clearly strikes a chord with general readers, who, like herself,...

  6. CHAPTER 1 The Early Years: Classifying Sexuality in Les Armoires vides and Ce qu’ils disent ou rien
    (pp. 17-48)

    As the title of this study suggests, the formative influences of childhood shape the many themes and concerns which make up Ernaux’s corpus – even, as Chapter 2 argues, in a work as firmly anchored in the present asPassion simple. Underlying and uniting these thematic recurrences is the role played by social class in the narrator’s socialisation process, and the psychosexual consequences of the confrontation between her working-class childhood and her middle-class education. If, for Ernaux, class and sexuality are imbricated in the construction of individual subjectivity, it is nonetheless the former which provides the conditions for the development of...

  7. CHAPTER 2 The Adult Woman: Female Behaviour Paradigms in La Femme gelée and Passion simple
    (pp. 49-86)

    This chapter provides a feminist reading of Annie Ernaux’s portrayal of the female condition inLa Femme geléeandPassion simple. While the contrasting degrees of emotionalengagementreflected in the respective titles of these works would suggest that they have little in common,La Femme geléeandPassion simpleare unusual among Ernaux’s works in their representation of a female narrator as a sexually active wife or mother. The narrator’s migration from working to middle class and her ongoing process of adjustment, which form the main subject matter of Ernaux’s writing, are replaced in these texts by an emphasis...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Writing the Auto/biographical Legacies of La Place and Une femme
    (pp. 87-116)

    La PlaceandUne femmesignal a marked evolution in Ernaux’s writing project. As Chapter 2 illustrates, that evolution is nonetheless foreshadowed by the transitional status ofLa Femme gelée, a text which can be seen to bridge the emotional intensity of the earlier works and the more reconciliatory attitude towards the past portrayed inLa PlaceandUne femme. The nostalgia for childhood inLa Femme geléeand the narrator’s ability to perceive her parents’ characteristics as resulting from a combination of historical and social circumstances, rather than existing solely to frustrate her desires, pre-empt the greater narrative empathy...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Self/representation through the M/other in the Diaries of ‘Je ne suis pas sortie de ma nuit’, Journal du dehors and La Vie extérieure
    (pp. 117-152)

    This chapter examines two very different examples of the diary form in Ernaux’s writing;‘Je ne suis pas sortie de ma nuit’andJournal du dehors/La Vie extérieure. While the first work is a highly personal account of the physical and psychological degeneration of the narrator’s mother through Alzheimer’s disease, the latter two comprise a more objective series of literary snapshots, capturing everyday life in aVille Nouvellein the Paris suburbs. The adoption of the diary form in‘Je ne suis pas sortie de ma nuit’is presented as more than mere literary convention: the narrator claims to have...

  10. CHAPTER 5 The Return to Origins: La Honte and L’Evénement
    (pp. 153-176)

    The final chapter of this study focuses on Ernaux’s two most recent non-diary works,La HonteandL’Evénement. IfLa HonteandL’Evénement’schronological position makes them appropriate texts with which to conclude a study of Ernaux’s writing, they equally represent a culmination of the many ‘Ernausian’ themes and techniques discussed in previous chapters, yet a culmination which is oddly circular. By way of conclusion, then, the following analyses ofLa HonteandL’Evénementwill incorporate references to earlier works. As this study has highlighted, the narrative structure of Ernaux’s texts is typically circular, in that a female narrator provides...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 177-220)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 221-232)
  13. Index
    (pp. 233-240)