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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The politics of aesthetics: Nation, region and immigration in contemporary "French" culture
by Spieser, David, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, 2015, 263; 3735365
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines the tensions at work in contemporary French cultural politics between, on the one hand, homogenizing/assimilating hegemonic tendencies and, on the other hand, performances of heterogeneity/disharmony especially in literature but also in other artistic forms such as music. “Regional literature/culture” and “banlieue (ghetto) literature/culture” are studied as two major phenomena that performatively go against France’s “state monolingualism”, here understood as much as a “one-language policy” as the enforcement of “one discourse about Frenchness” (mono-logos). I rely on Jacques Rancière’s notions of “archipolitics” and “aesthetic regimes” to suggest that May 1968 has constituted an epistemological shift which has made it possible for alternate French discourses to emerge and become perceptible. Literatures displaying such discourses (either regional-related or immigration-related or both) are termed “accented literatures”, with “accent” being defined both as “variation from the linguistic norm” and “variation from the discursive norm”. These “accented literatures” become a distinctive trait of “democracy”, or “agonistic community”, allowing space for disharmonic representations of the “French” “nation”. Regarding regional (Alsatian) literature, I focus on André Weckmann’s literary use of magical surrealism and of a dialogic “Germanic French language”; regarding immigrant identity and banlieue literature, I first explicate the profound implications, for banlieue literature as a whole, of the “two-generation theory” developed by Algeria-born French rapper and writer Mounsi, with Azouz Begag’s literary production as a case study. Then turning to Abd al Malik, a French rapper/writer/filmmaker of Congolese origin, I pinpoint his concept of “pacific, new French revolution” as an ultimate form of accentuation of French discourse, scrutinizing the ways in which his art performs Frenchness as well as Islam. Because the notion of “accent” is closely linked to those of “prestige” and “legitimacy vs. lack thereof”, this dissertation eventually leads to a redefinition of “legitimate culture” in France. As a practical consequence of these literary-political debates, I advocate for the teaching, within the French public school system, of both regional languages and immigrant languages such as Arabic as a way to address identity challenges specific to the contemporary postcolonial era.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Mecchia, Giuseppina
School: University of Pittsburgh
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 77/04(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Modern literature
Keywords: Accented literature, Immigrant literature, Jacques Ranciere, Minority literature in france, Political philosophy, Regional literature
Publication Number: 3735365
ISBN: 978-1-339-24194-4
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