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Title: Narrative identities in contemporary French autobiographical literature and film
Author: Russell, Deirdre Doran
ISNI:       0000 0001 3540 3000
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2008
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This thesis uses concepts of narrative identity to assess the functions and characteristics of storytelling in the articulation of personal and cultural identity in four French literary and filmic autobiographical texts from the 1980s and 1990s: Azouz Begag's novel Le Gone du Chaäba (1986), Claire Denis' film Chocolat (1988), Annie Ernaux's book Journal du dehors (1993) and Dominique Cabrera's film Demain et encore demain (1998). Synthesising various accounts of narrative identity expounded by a range of philosophers, sociologists, psychologists and historians (including Paul Ricceur, David Carr, Jerome Bruner and Adriana Cavarero), the thesis argues that they offer a fruitful approach to autobiographical discourse in terms of the temporal configuration of lived experiences, the blend of historiographical and fictional modes and above all the intersubjective basis of autobiographical identity. The enquiry focuses on evaluating the texts' critical interrogations of the storytelling mode alongside their own uses of narrative. Structured in two parts, the analyses in Part I focus on textual narrative approaches to the intersections and tensions of contested myths and histories in the constitution of hybrid postcolonial identities. Chapter One argues that using a narrative approach to lives and selves to analyse Le Gone du Chaäba yields insights into the formation and expression of identities by individuals located between conflicting traditions and discourses. Chapter Two, on Chocolat, broaches similar territory, but with a greater emphasis on memory processes and the visual dynamics of identity. The analysis probes the film's depiction of the narrative underpinnings of imperialism and its remembrance, as well as how the text develops alternative narrative practices which undermine the totalising knowledge of History in favour of a subjective positioning which foregrounds its own European perspective and limitations. Part II shifts attention to two diaristic works as a means of assessing the validity of the concept of narrative identity regarding texts which appear to eschew the narrative form as the best means of representing lives. Chapter Three, examining Journal du dehors, contends that a spontaneous narrative impulse is crucial to the text's responses to everyday experience and urban public life, and is ultimately expressive of the author's autobiographical identity. Chapter Four focuses on the twofold narrativity of Demain et encore demain: that of living (during the filming), and that of textual revision (during the editing), arguing that the interplay of these two levels and mediation of documentary and fictional registers are central to the therapeutic value of the project. The thesis concludes that while the four texts share a certain scepticism regarding the ideological uses of narrative, they also all express desires to understand and articulate the narrative fabric of lives.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available