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Title: Shifting selves : identity quests and innovation in the novels of Marguerite Duras, Patrick Modiano, and Marie Darrieussecq
Author: Young, Morag Briony Eileen
Awarding Body: Oxford Brookes University
Current Institution: Oxford Brookes University
Date of Award: 2007
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This thesis examines the prevalence of the identity quest in contemporary French fiction through detailed analysis of the novels of Marguerite Duras, Patrick Modiano and Marie Darrieussecq. I establish how, for these three writers from successive generations, the preoccupation with selthood entails a retreat to the margins, where the shifting nature of identity can be better explored. By considering topics such as national, gender and family identity, I uncover both marked similarities and significant differences in their depiction of selfhood, thus illustrating how the central themes of the literary identity quest lend themselves to innovative permutation. I then turn to the subject of genre and narrative form, demonstrating how each author's overriding concern with identity leads both to formal experimentation and to genre mixing involving the crossing of traditional boundaries and the rejection of convention. The thesis goes on to explore the effect of the centrality of the identity quest on narrative structure, showing how the frequent recourse to memory by the three writers affects the chronology of their novels as linearity is replaced by new narrative shapes. Finally I move to the linguistic sphere, tracing the connection between the authors' use of personal pronouns and narrative tenses and the imperatives of the identity quest. While Duras's novels and Modiano's earlier works have been extensively studied, Modiano's later writing and the totality of Darrieussecq's literary output have not yet received much critical attention. Additionally, literary critics have failed to address more than cursorily the linguistic topics which I explore. By demonstrating that the central theme of identity affects the form, structure and language of the novels of Duras, Modiano and Darrieussecq, I reveal common threads linking these very different articulations of selthood, which suggest a measue of continuity in the French literary identity quest of the last seventy years.
Supervisor: Jordan, Shirley ; Worth, Valerie Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral