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Title: Uncovering class in the works of Annie Ernaux, Christine Angot and Virginie Despentes
Authors: Jobling, Jemima Rose
Issue Date: 2023
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This thesis addresses expressions and performances of class in the texts of three contemporary French women writers: Annie Ernaux, Christine Angot and Virginie Despentes. Unearthing the foundational underpinnings of class-consciousness across their texts, this study examines class expression and its interactions with lived and embodied experience. All three of these writers’ oeuvres expose the intimacies of contemporary women’s issues, and their texts explore myriad experiences, such as abortion, birth and marriage, abuse, rape and incest, and motherhood, daughterhood and girlhood. Whilst vastly different in their approach, and providing each a unique readerly experience, all three writers studied feature a selfconfessed espousal of the ‘subliterary’ and an unshaking focus on female experience and, crucially, dynamics of class. Critical writings on class currently feel largely dissatisfying. Whilst Angot, Despentes and Ernaux criticism has somewhat (and often only implicitly) addressed the class-based currents across these authors’ texts, critical appraisals focused solely on class remain a relative scarcity. Discussions of class in Ernaux have centred around questions of place (McIlvanney (2001)), staining (Jordan (2007)) and psychological shame and anxiety (Kemp (2013), Day (2007)). In the case of Angot, interrogative threads around class dynamics have surfaced only briefly in studies into the incest trope and trauma theory (Cruickshank (2009), Rye (2010)). Despentes’ graphically violent and sexual writings have garnered critical attention largely focused on gender-based (rather than class-based) transgression and radicalism (Fayard (2006), Jordan (2004)). As such, this study is the first to centre the textual performance of class across Ernaux, Angot and Despentes. In approaching class via the umbrella motifs of access and exclusion, and through exploring a range of thought-provoking thematics, including vulgarity and vulnerability, and respectability and abjectness, this thesis exposes the pertinent and timely conclusions to be drawn at the interstices of class and gender dynamics in contemporary French women’s writing.
Description: Ph. D. Thesis.
Appears in Collections:School of Modern Languages

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