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Writing the real, forging links

Écrire le réel, tisser du lien

“Involved writing” and contemporary French literature (1968-2018)

Écritures impliquées et littérature française contemporaine (1968-2018)

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Published on Monday, August 27, 2018 by Céline Guilleux

Summary

In this issue of RELIEF, we will address the topic of new forms of literary realism, looking in particular at political and social devices in contemporary French stories, or how texts and stories build on what is “ordinary” and “democratic” to create anonymous existences that are not necessarily destined for literature. This line of research will be a continuation of the works of Bruno Blanckeman (2002, 2004), Dominique Viart (2002, 2005, 2008), Jacques Rancière (2007) and Sandra Laugier (2006), building on them while also taking note of critical developments of recent years, focusing less on “écritures engagées” (“engaged writing”) and more on “écritures impliquées” (“involved writing”) We will also consider a new metamorphosis of “literature” and the of status or profession of the writer. This issue will prioritise methods of sociocritism and socio-pragmatics. Case studies are welcome, as long as they are accompanied by a theoretical reflection.

Announcement

RELIEF — Revue électronique de littérature française

Objective

In this issue of RELIEF, we will address the topic of new forms of literary realism, looking in particular at political and social devices in contemporary French stories, or how texts and stories build on what is “ordinary” and “democratic” to create anonymous existences that are not necessarily destined for literature. This line of research will be a continuation of the works of Bruno Blanckeman (2002, 2004), Dominique Viart (2002, 2005, 2008), Jacques Rancière (2007) and Sandra Laugier (2006), building on them while also taking note of critical developments of recent years, focusing less on “écritures engagées” (“engaged writing”) and more on “écritures impliquées” (“involved writing”) We will also consider a new metamorphosis of “literature” and the of status or profession of the writer. This issue will prioritise methods of sociocritism and socio-pragmatics. Case studies are welcome, as long as they are accompanied by a theoretical reflection.

  • How can texts, stories and narrations create the “ordinary” in the present day?
  • How can writing and reading produce a specific kind of social link?
  • Which social and individual issues are demonstrated by forms of re-engagement with literature?
  • How does “involved writing” give rise to “involved reading”?

State of research

By placing the “extrême contemporain” (the corpus of French literature from the past decade) within the historical overview of French literature from the second half of the 20thCentury to nowadays, this issue of RELIEF will endeavour to define the main trends in contemporary French literature (from 1968 to today) with the aim of outlining the specific periods, forms, authors, interests and assumptions involved in them. Historical, sociological and theoretical contextualisation will make it possible to compare different writing practices. “Writing the real, forging links” aims to investigate the contemporary and “extrême contemporain” corpora, perhaps less in terms of renewing forms and more their in terms of their implications, both political (writing the real) and social (forging links). The primary focus here will be “écritures impliquées” (“involved writing”) — an expression coined by Dominique Viart.

From the works of Christophe Charles (1990) and Gisèle Sapiro (1998 and 1999), the 20thCentury was clearly the great century of “intellectuals”. Whatever the case, from Voltaire to Albert Camus, from Victor Hugo to Simone de Beauvoir, the forms and clashes of “engaged” literature can be easily distinguished, and various works (Marc Angenot, 1982; Pascal Ory and Jean-François Sirinelli, 1986; Benoît Denis, 2000) have shown how the complicated relationships between social, political, ideological and literary fields are explored and created. However, the vast majority of these works attest to a vertical and somewhat authoritarian interpretation of literature, assuming without questioning the social authority from which it benefits. They assume that the writer is necessarily “engaged” and that words are ways of acting, taking for granted that authors are automatically legitimised by the assumed autonomy of literature. In contrast, very few works look at ordinary forms of engagement. We believe that it is possible to consider politics of literature as something other than just “engagement of writers”.

Turning to real-life practices (frequently documented by critical theory) or in situ observations, such as writing “à l’effacé”, where the narrator is removed and provides no commentary, these “involved writers” no longer engage in politics of literature contingent upon “the opinions they hold, the slogans they defend, the manifests they sign, the conferences they attend”, as Roland Barthes put it. This is not to say that there are no more engaged writers, counter-cultures or fundamentally political texts in France (consider, for example, Édouard Louis, currently engaged against liberalism, or Jean-Marie Le Clézio’s works on the fate awaiting immigrants); rather, starting from the final quarter of the 20th Century, writing practices have been more reserved and held back, more sensitive, less absolute and assertive. Naturally, it is also important to consider that the notion of engagement and the mythological heroism to which the Republic clings have worn somewhat thin, and equally, from a more statutory angle (what is a writer?), to consider how the legitimacy or responsibility of writers have ebbed away: have media writers given way to war writers in the same way that experts supposedly replaced intellectuals in the public and the media?

In the first quarter of the 21st Century, the French writer has undoubtedly stepped down as the prosecutor or judge of nation’s business; however, there are some practices of writing at play that can re-politicise literature by perceptibly getting involved in the lives that they tell of and accompany. However diverse the stories behind these relational ethics are, it is through them that we can reflect on links and socialities within the democratic forum, as well as on the relationship that literature has with its outside, its way of being present (or not) in society; it allows us to reflect on the destiny of texts and writers today in France.

Theoretical position

What is important here is not the fact that literature is a discourse of “exception” (Guillaume Artous-Bouvet, 2012), but rather that it can be seized as an opportunity (one of many) to subjectivise, as a possibility (one of many) to create and update links between different individuals. This is the very issue that the “extrême contemporain” corpus looks at: how literature comes into social living, exposing the subject to lives other than its own, acting as an essential cog of democracy with its ability to demonstrate and acknowledge initially foreign points of view.

Problematic

How can a text or story produce a specific kind of social link? How can texts, stories and narrations create the “ordinary” in the present day? Which social and individual issues are demonstrated by forms of re-engagement with literature? We believe that politics of literature should not exclusively be considered from “above”, with the privileges of an “authoritarian writer”, even a media writer. They should also be considered more ordinarily as the shared ability of all people to appropriate literature, reading, writing, stories and sometimes even poetry. In this way, any politics of literature must also be thought of as politics of reading, conscious of their precarious position and socially variable. They must take on “contradicting, compared representations with which individuals and groups give meaning to the world that belongs to them” (Chartier, 1989).

In a notable scene of Journal du dehors (1993), Annie Ernaux describes people reading the newspapers at a kiosk in the shopping arcade of a supermarket. Meanwhile, in Les outils, Leslie Kaplan talks about writing workshops in prisons, libraries in the banlieue or within companies. In both of these cases, although they don’t buy the newspapers or books, these anonymous, solitary individuals all spend a few minutes together, sharing in reading. There is certainly more to this on-the-fly reading than meets the eye; in its own way, it is testament to a literary community “where reading becomes a shared way of interpreting reality” (Julien Lefort-Favreau, 2015). In what way does “involved writing” give rise to “involved reading”?

Recommendations for authors

Proposals, including the title of the contribution and a fifteen-line summary, must be sent to Olivier Sécardin (olivier.secardin@gmail.com) and revuerelief@gmail.com 

by 15 October 2018.

Final contributions must be submitted by 30 January 2019 via the journal’s website (www.revue-reflief.org). Articles can be written in French or English and must be between 5000 and 8000 words. They must comply with the editorial charter, available at https://www.revue-relief.org/docs/instructions_FR.pdf

Articles that do not follow these guidelines will not be reviewed.

Review protocol

Articles submitted will undergo a double-blind review. The decision to publish an article will be made following the committee’s collective deliberation.

RELIEF (https://www.revue-relief.org) is an international journal that targets researchers and readers interested in French-language literature and culture from the Middle Ages to the present day. RELIEF is published twice a year and is available through open access.

Date(s)

  • Monday, October 15, 2018

Keywords

  • écriture, implication, extrême, engagement, responsabilité, écrivain

Contact(s)

  • Olivier Sécardin
    courriel : olivier [dot] secardin [at] gmail [dot] com

Information source

  • Olivier Sécardin
    courriel : olivier [dot] secardin [at] gmail [dot] com

To cite this announcement

« Writing the real, forging links », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Monday, August 27, 2018, https://calenda.org/471884

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