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Title:Documents et Cheminements: tracing the postmemory of the second world war and the Algerian war of independence
Author(s):Charrat, Priscilla Carole
Director of Research:Mathy, Jean-Philippe
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Mathy, Jean-Philippe
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Blake, Nancy; Keller, Marcus; Rothberg, Michael
Department / Program:French and Italian
Discipline:French
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:Ph.D.
Genre:Dissertation
Subject(s):Literature
French
France
Algeria
Algerian
Second World War
WW2
Algerian War of Independence
Sebbar
Modiano
Lepront
Sansal
Ruillier
Benguigui
graphic novel
comics
adaptation
postmemory
Camus
Daoud
Jardin
memory
trauma
history
postcolonial
maghreb
maghrebi
North Africa
Francophone
transmission
guilt
silence
Abstract:This dissertation proposes ways out of traumatic silence in contemporary French and Francophone North African fiction. While silence has been the focus of trauma-centered texts in recent decades, I bring in the theoretical frameworks of affect theory, cultural translation, and new media as possible ways out of narrative rupture. These ways out of literary silence lead me to propose new mechanisms of empathy between victims, perpetrators, and their descendants in novels, films, and graphic novels depicting the aftermath of the Second World War, the Algerian War of Independence, or migration crises in France and Algeria. Specifically, this project will look at Leïla Sebbar’s novel La Seine était rouge, Zineb Sedira’s Mother Tongue, an art installation that uses video clips, Catherine Lépront’s novel Le Beau visage de l’ennemi, Patrick Modiano’s novel Dora Bruder, Boualem Sansal’s novel Le Village de l’Allemand ou le journal des frères Schiller, Pascal Jardin’s novel Le Nain jaune, Alexandre Jardin’s novel Des gens très bien, Yamina Benguigui’s documentary film Mémoires d’immigrés, Jérôme Ruillier’s graphic novel Les Mohamed, Albert Camus’s novels L’Etranger and La Chute, and Kamel Daoud’s novel Meursault, contre-enquête. This dissertation also focuses on the question of vectors of memory in France and Algeria, as well as intermediality in contemporary French and Algerian narratives. My guiding theoretical framework throughout the dissertation draws on Marianne Hirsch’s discussions of what she calls “postmemory.” However, while postmemory for Hirsch focuses on the transmission of the memories of an event from first to subsequent generations who have not lived the event directly, I use my first chapter to highlight – through the works of Leïla Sebbar – how specifically literary texts express silence, and the multiple implications such an expression can have beyond merely signaling trauma in the narrative. Can the various factors and causes of silence help us envision paths to self-understanding and self-authoring beyond the assessment of a crisis of transmission of memory? This chapter will therefore extend the existing discussion of postmemory—which focus on successful, albeit difficult, transmissions—by looking at non-linear heritage of memory despite or due to initial silence. Building on the idea that ruptures in postmemory—represented as literary silence— need not entail the loss of memory altogether, the second chapter suggests that rupture rather calls for postmemory’s recuperation through the use of memory prosthetics. To develop this point, I put Marianne Hirsch’s postmemory framework into dialogue with the “prosthetic memory” framework theorized by Alison Landsberg. Analyzing Catherine Lépront’s novel Le beau visage de l’ennemi on the postmemory of the Algerian War of Independence, this second chapter looks at how objects (photographs, diaries, letters, etc.) may assist the recuperation of postmemory, while also opening up the discussion about the limits of such prosthetic remediation. The third chapter complicates and rounds out the previous one by discussing literary instances where prosthetic remediation needs to be supplemented by an affective sense of belonging to the memorial community. While the second chapter investigated prosthetic memory-objects, the third chapter focuses on prosthetic memory-sites, which can act as affective links between those who participate in historical events and their would-be memorial inheritors born after the events. Patrick Modiano’s novel Dora Bruder offers an interaction with places that enable the narrator of his texts to invest affectively in a historical event. To explicate this, I introduce Michel de Certeau’s distinction between space and place which, I argue, clarifies the role embodied memory plays in the narrator’s walks in the city. The fourth chapter proposes a new concept—transcategorical postmemory—to supplement the existing framework of postmemory, by including the underdeveloped field of perpetrator postmemory. The proposed concept of transcategorical postmemory names the mechanism by which descendants of perpetrators can empathize with the victims of their forefathers. Through a reading of Boualem Sansal’s Le Village de l’Allemand ou le journal des frères Schiller, this chapter further distinguishes two modes of the concept: one pathological (melancholic transcategorical postmemory), one future-oriented (productive transcategorical postmemory). The fifth and last chapter analyzes three literary texts in order to illustrate how the concept of transcategorical postmemory coined in the previous chapter constitutes a generative theoretical tool for approaching rewrites of first-generation texts. Looking at three pairs of works involving postmemory (by Pascal and Alexandre Jardin; Yamina Benguigui and Jérôme Ruillier; and Albert Camus and Kamel Daoud), this chapter will not only show the concept of transcategorical postmemory at play, but also illustrate how attention to the dynamic between each pair of texts enables a richer reading of each work individually. The conclusion will summarize and situate this dissertation’s contributions within the field of postmemory studies, as well as show how these contributions can shed new light on familiar first-generation texts. The conclusion also highlights how the concept of transcategorical postmemory lays the foundation for further research on group identities that challenge the victim/perpetrator divide, and whose memory might have consequently fallen out of public discourses.
Issue Date:2017-07-12
Type:Thesis
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/98273
Rights Information:Copyright 2017 Priscilla Charrat
Date Available in IDEALS:2017-09-29
Date Deposited:2017-08


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