FIGSO Working Papers Series
Wed, October 9, 2013 • 1:00 PM • HRH 2.118 (Lounge)
Meredith Lehman, Sarah Lube, and Jocelyn Wright to present
Meredith Lehman (French Studies)
The Author Behind the Camera: Rethinking Zola’s Aesthetics of Representation
This paper considers a selection of photographs taken by Émile Zola of Paris during the 1878 and 1900 World Fairs in light of Naturalism’s dedication to realist observation and experimentation. Though Zola’s novels and art criticism have been given much attention, scholars make reference to the author’s practice of photography as a mere extension of his writing, at best, or as simply a hobby taken up at the end of his career. In this paper, I propose a re-reading of Zola through the lens of his photographs and argue that these images reveal a crisis of representation through which Zola negotiates the place of artistic agency in what was often claimed as the most objective and “real” form of representation in nineteenth-century France. Rather than see this as “grotesquely misleading” or as a failure to authentically represent social reality, these images shed new light on Naturalism and Zola’s often elusive aesthetic.
Sarah Lube (French Studies)
The Monstre of Amour-Propre in Racine’s Phèdre
The word “monstre” appears seventeen times throughout Racine’s Phèdre. Previous critical studies on monstrosity in Phèdre have read the play historically as representing destructive passions unable to be controlled by reason or have understood monstrosity as connected to a failure to achieve the historical ideal of honnêté in knowing oneself and others. Unlike these critics, however, I situate my understanding of monstrosity in Phèdre within the context of Jansenist theology, according to which all human beings might be termed “monsters” as a result of their amour-propre. This amour-propre not only blinds them to their own internal state of wretchedness and monstrosity after the Fall, but also causes them to view everyone except themselves as “monsters.” Within this context, I interpret Phèdre as a tragedy of amour-propre, in which characters constantly struggle to understand the illusions and theatricality of amour-propre.
Jocelyn Wright (French Studies)
Rapping to Remember: Médine’s Musical Critique of Colonization
France’s relationship with Algeria has, historically, been one of forgetting. Even though colonization was a major part of both countries’ pasts, it has been largely ignored in French public discourse because the shame of imperialism and its aftermath, particularly the Algerian War, are too painful for the state to revisit. Médine, a Franco-Islamic rapper, creates music that fills a gap in the French educational system by teaching its listeners about France’s history of imperialism and immigration. His music counters French forgetting by criticizing colonization and highlighting the contemporary problem of discrimination in France, particularly Islamophobia. Médine’s albums, music videos, and live shows act as lieux de mémoire or spaces for collective remembering. These lieux de mémoire counter the forgetting in France’s hegemonic historical narrative by preserving the history of French colonization in Algeria. Médine’s songs about past events build a present-day identity, creating an object around which a collective can form, preserve, and share memories, thus keeping the Algerian past alive in a country that suppresses the mixed identities of second and third generation immigrants. This paper presents a critique of Médine’s role as a popular historian and analyzes his manipulation of the past to condemn the social, political, and economic situation of Algerian immigrants in present-day France.