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Writing the Nomadic Experience in Contemporary Francophone Literature

Katharine N. Harrington

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In this book, Author Katharine N. Harrington examines contemporary writers from the French-speaking world who can be classified as literary “nomads.” The concept of nomadism, based on the experience of traditionally mobile peoples lacking any fixed home, reflects a postmodern way of thinking that encourages individuals to reconsider rigid definitions of borders, classifications, and identities. Nomadic identities reflect shifting landscapes that defy taking on fully the limits of any one fixed national or cultural identity. In conceiving of identities beyond the boundaries of national or cultural origin, this book opens up the space for nomadic subjects whose identity is based just as much on their geographical displacement and deterritorialization as on a relationship to any one fixed place, community, or culture. This study explores the experience of an existence between borders and its translation into writing that.

While nomadism is frequently associated with post-colonial authors, this study considers an eclectic group of contemporary Francophone writers who are not easily defined by the boundaries of one nation, one culture, or one language. Each of the four writers, J.M.G. LeClézio, Nancy Huston, Nina Bouraoui, and Régine Robin maintains a connection to France, but it is one that is complicated by life experiences, backgrounds, and choices that inevitably expand their identities beyond the Hexagon. Harrington examines how these authors’ life experiences are reflected in their writing and how they may inform us on the state of our increasingly global world where borders and identities are blurred.
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Lexington Books
Pages: 154Size: 6 1/4 x 9
978-0-7391-7571-2 • Hardback • November 2012 • $75.00 • (£49.95)
978-1-4985-0357-0 • Paperback • October 2014 • $34.99 • (£23.95)
978-0-7391-7572-9 • eBook • November 2012 • $34.99 • (£23.95)
Katharine N. Harrington is assistant professor of French at Plymouth State University. She has published articles on the writing of Nancy Huston and Régine Robin and is co-editor of a book on innovative foreign language pedagogy Recipes for Success in Foreign Language Teaching: Ready-Made Activities for the L2 Classroom. Her current research interests include contemporary writers of France and the Francophone world, French and Québécois film, and North American Francophone communities.
INTRODUCTION: The Evolution of the Notion of Nomadism and its Implications for Contemporary Literature
CHAPTER 1: Writing from the Margins: Cultural Nomadism in the Life and Work of J.M.G. Le Clézio
CHAPTER 2: Nancy Huston and the Art of Negotiating Strangeness
CHAPTER 3: Writing as “Seeing” Between Categories in the Novels of Nina Bouraoui
CHAPTER 4: From the Page and Beyond: Régine Robin and Transcribing Deterritorialization
CONCLUSION: Mapping Out Territories Now and Into the Future
Literary nomadism stems from nomadism as sociological phenomenon and existential category. Like other contemporary critics, Harrington (Plymouth State Univ.) points out that cultural nomadism is a postmodern phenomenon that forms new identities that test "the limits of any one fixed national or cultural identity." To illustrate nomadic identities as a cultural phenomenon and a literary aesthetic, the author provides close readings of work by four contemporary Francophone writers. Each represents a different facet of being deterritorialized in relation to national belonging, and each reflects on experience and translate it creatively. J.-M. G. Le Clézio is an "engaged travel" who "gives ... voice to marginalized people around the world." Western Canadian by origin, Nancy Houston writes in French, expressing the anguish that she cannot feel un vrai bilingue. Nina Bouraouri, daughter of a French mother and an Algerian father, articulates the violence of the nomadic experience, which leads her to a "preference for short simple sentences and significant amount of repletion." Polish Jewish Régine Robin left Paris for the villa nomade Montreal. Written in both French and English, her work reflects a "patchwork style" in reaching out to the virtual nomadic communities. Insightful and well organized, this study concludes with useful bibliographic information. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.
CHOICE


This compelling analysis of the nomadic experience in the lives and the literary works of four key contemporary Francophone writers examines the work of J.M.G. Le Clézio, Nancy Huston, Nina Bouraoui, and Régine Robin. ... Engaging and well-written, Writing the Nomadic Experience in Contemporary Francophone Literature achieves its proposed aims of attempting to widen the scope of the study of nomadism in contemporary French and Francophone literature, and to expose the wide range of nomadic subjects and experiences that are present in literature today through the study of four key authors. ... Timely in its anticipation of the current proliferation of nomadic identities and cultural expressions of hybrid identities, and innovative in its selection of four highly diverse and significant Francophone writers today, this book is an important contribution to its field, and will be of interest to scholars of contemporary French and Francophone literatures, transnational writing, and nomadic identities.
Bulletin of Francophone Postcolonial Studies


This original and highly rewarding study explores the complex evolution of nomadism in addition to the myriad of implications that this way of thinking entails for the modern world. Through the lens of the diverse writings of four contemporary authors (J.M.G. Le Clézio, Nancy Huston, Nina Bouraoui, and Régine Robin) whose works and cultural origins defy simplistic categorization or appropriation, Harrington presents a compelling and cogent argument as to why the multifaceted phenomenon of nomadism is more relevant than ever. Harrington successfully underscores that cultural, linguistic, literary, and digital nomads are all endeavoring to carve out a space for a rich hybrid identity in an effort to resist integration into a monolithic global environment increasingly characterized by homogeneity and monoculturalism. Seamlessly blending close textual analyses of numerous narratives with the works of major literary theorists, Harrington also compels the reader to ponder what divergent forms that nomadism will adopt in the future. Harrington notes that given recent inventions, such as the Internet, nomads will undoubtedly continue to play an important role in resisting rigid boundaries and hegemonic domination.
Keith Moser


This book explores the nomadic experience from a vantage point that entails a new perspective, dismantling familiar borders, linguistic and cultural constructions regarding the self and the others. The first chapter focuses on J.M.G. Le Clézio cultural and philosophical nomadism in his fictional and non-fictional works, which enhance our awareness toward other societies and cultures. In chapter two, Nancy Huston’s novels and essays reveal that if displacement can have destabilizing effects for the deterritorialized individual as a linguistic nomad, it can also be a constructive necessity for survival. Nina Bouraoui’s nomadic condition, studied in chapter three, allows criticizing societal practices and beliefs free from any constraint, while the content and the writer’s style and language recall always violence. Regine Robin explored in chapter four, offers a unique nomadic experience through experimental writing, oscillating between traditional book format and web site exploration, and continually pushing the limits of writing.
This book is an important contribution to the field of Francophone Literature with its focus on nomadic experience and its ramifications in Migration Studies, within a cultural perspective.

Névine El Nossery, University of Wisconsin-Madison


Writing the Nomadic Experience in Contemporary Francophone Literature is a fascinating study of authors who inhabit an 'inbetween' space, between nations, languages and cultures. The issue of nomadism is timely, since the cultural, political and social changes wrought by globalization and the legacies of colonialism create new subject positions and identity formations. Harrington's choice of J.M.G. Le Clézio, Nancy Huston, Nina Bouraoui and Régine Robin provides an illuminating comparison of the literary nomad, who inhabits a position that is at once privileged and painful. Harrington deftly combines close reading with theoretical analysis to tease out the differences between these four writers' representation of nomadism in their work and takes the unique approach of charting the changing effects of their nomadism across their oeuvre. The result is a very readable study that combines questions of exile, diaspora, autofiction, multilingualism, and the inflections of sexuality and religion upon the writing self.
Natalie Edwards, University of Adelaide


The introduction, which explores the changing significance over time of such terms as nomadism, diaspora, and exile, sets the stage for a thought-provoking discussion of several well-known contemporary Francophone writers and the narrative conceptualizations of place and identity in their respective oeuvres. As Harrington posits, a primary aim of the volume is to ‘widen the scope of the study of nomadism in contemporary French and Francophone literature’ through her selection of four authors with complex bicultural and/or bilingual backgrounds who ‘envision writing as a way to anchor themselves in their uncertain position between nations, cultures, languages, and even between the past and the present’. Each of the book’s four chapters provides biographical information on the authors, references to significant theoretical texts, and a critical analysis of the literary works that best exemplify the evolution of the concept of nomadism in a particular writer’s work. . . .This useful study should be of great interest to scholars of Francophone literature and culture.
The French Review


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