Evil in contemporary French and francophone literature

Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Press (2011)
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Abstract

Evil remains a primary source of inquiry in contemporary literature of French expression, even among its most secular writers. In considering French-speaking authors from France, Belgium, the United States, the Maghreb, and Sub-Saharan Africa, this collection delineates a rich international perspective on some of the most disturbing events of our time. Each essay testifies to the urgency expressed in works of fiction to give an account of human catastrophes, from the Shoah and the Rwandan genocide to the terrorist attacks of September 11, and the ongoing oppression of women in Islamic nations. Themes underlying this volume include an investigation into the origins of evil, its representations in writing, and the ethical responsibilities of authors who write on human suffering. Contemporary fiction on evil confronts us with fundamental questions: Can evil be attributed to intentionality, is evil "subconscious," or is it the result of impersonal forces? Which styles of writing are ethically appropriate or effective for depicting evil? Can we speak of a veritable "poetics of evil" shared by contemporary authors? When does a literary text on evil become "evil"? In providing informed and nuanced answers to these important questions, the scholars engage in crucial theories of psychoanalysis, post-structuralism, and post-modernism, address a number of issues raised by trauma and genocide studies, and draw from critical frameworks in literary theory on testimony, the limits of representing the extreme, and "transgressive" writing.

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