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Title: Representations of the hysteric in contemporary women's writing in French
Author: Jackson, Laura Ann
ISNI:       0000 0004 5359 9969
Awarding Body: Queen Mary, University of London
Current Institution: Queen Mary, University of London
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis explores how the celebratory figure of the hysteric as imagined by proponents of écriture féminine is developed and complicated in more recent representations of hysterical female bodies in contemporary women’s writing in French. With the aim of understanding the evolution of the hysteric from a traditionally negative embodiment of patriarchal parameters of femininity to a potentially revolutionary female figure, this thesis undertakes single-chapter studies of the most telling contemporary representations of hysterical bodies. The first chapter focuses on the physicality of Lorette Nobécourt’s writing in La Démangeaison (1994) and La Conversation (1998), and argues that the abject subject matter of the former coupled with the innovative and experimental form and style of the latter constitutes an almost physical performance of ‘madness’. The second chapter focuses on Marie Darrieussecq’s Truismes (1996) and argues that Darrieussecq’s hybrid narrator harnesses the anti-establishment carnival force of the hysteric in a shifting and grotesque body which forms the epitome of all that threatens order. The final two chapters focus on anorexia as a contemporary equivalence of Victorian hysteria. The first of these deals with Petite (1994) by Geneviève Brisac and Thornytorinx (2005) by Camille de Peretti and examines how these writers recreate the fragmentation of the anorexic self through a realist, performative ‘rhetoric of anorexia’. The second deals with Amélie Nothomb’s Robert des noms propres (2002), Biographie de la faim (2004) and Métaphysique des tubes (2000), and argues that Nothomb privileges a disembodied aesthetic that presents a masculine fantasy of the female body which all but erases the feminine. Ultimately, this thesis seeks to discover how and why selected contemporary female authors choose to engage with – and reject – 1970s models in which writing by women was presented as a means of finding one’s own voice, as well as a platform for politically significant action. It argues that new configurations of the hysteric nevertheless achieve a certain social and political impact.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: French literature ; French Women writers ; Hysteria in literature ; Feminism