Events Calendar
Apr 3
18:00 - 19:00
Centre for Modern European Literature Postgraduate Seminar
Centre for Modern European Literature Postgraduate Seminar
Dominique Carlini Versini, Mykyta Steshenko

Dominique Carlini Versini (University of Kent) will give a paper entitled 'The Gendered Body Out-of-Bound in Virginie Despentes's Les jolies choses (1998).'

Abstract: Les jolies choses, Virginie Despentes's third novel, is the story of twin sisters, Pauline and Claudine, involved in an identity swap. Claudine, an incarnation of hyper-femininity, asks her sister to pretend to be her and to sing at a concert where she is supposed to perform. After Claudine commits suicide, Pauline decides to adopt her sister's identity in order to sign a deal with her music production company and pocket the contract advances. I argue that this bizarre plot allows an interrogation of the performance of gender and its inscription on the female body in the narrative.

Indeed, to become Claudine, Pauline must learn to perform her gender according to the codes of hyper-femininity. In this paper, I will demonstrate that this performance is defined by excess throughout its parodic and metamorphic dimensions. It involves transforming the female body to correspond to unreachable norms and expectations. It also means symbolically crossing the subject's boundaries to reduce the body to an object of gaze, touch, and ultimately consumption. In that perspective, this paper will particularly look at the representation of street harassment and the mechanisms of objectification and dehumanisation it implies. At the same time, the excess displayed by the text allows to deconstruct gender politics and questions "the politically empowering potential of performance and spectacle" (Damlé 2013: 23). Ultimately, this paper will argue that the text offers a reflexion on gender performance and the gendered body as a produced and unstable process (Butler 1990, 2004, 2015), and a masquerade (Despentes 2006). It also resonates with current debates around the female body in the public space, sparked by the #MeToo or Time's Up movements, constituting this way an important – albeit ambiguous - piece in recent French feminist writing.

Mykyta Steshenko (Paris IV Sorbonne) will give a paper entitled 'Aesthetic Values of the Epistolary Correspondence in the Twentieth Century: On the Example of François Mauriac's Epistolary Heritage.'

Abstract: Often considered to be a "writer of the Catholic Church" or a "bourgeois writer", François Mauriac's personality is more complex and requires a more profound analysis due to his various engagements during the First World War, the Second World War as well as during various events in French and world history. Not only did his long literary career allow him to express his opinion in a sharp, rather conservative way, but he also drew his readers' attention to some important aspects of human life, including the sense of brotherhood, camaraderie, unity, and respect. Mauriac believed that by fostering these positive values, humanity could rid itself of its destructive defects. My research attempts to draw a more realistic portrait of this important member of the French Academy, while countering inaccurate and superficial stereotypes which often harm literary research.

Correspondence is often neglected by some critics who believe it has less literary value than poetry or the novel. Nevertheless, this literary genre is a direct heir to the ancient rhetoric tradition which seems to be absent in modern literary discourse. The epistolary relationship contains an important treasure of eloquent expressions which are part and parcel of any writer's style. Studying Mauriac's letters will enable a more accurate definition of the writer's aesthetics and his contribution to Modern Literature. 


Seminar Room 4,
Templeman Library,
University of Kent,
United Kingdom


Open to all,

Contact: Lyle Young


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Last Updated: 10/01/2012