Lucile Richard (UCL) - 2019-20 Students

The Poetics of Gendered Voices: Contemporary Francophone Women’s Writing

At a time when individuals are reclaiming their uniqueness and the essentialist tendencies of Western feminism are unveiled, the study of feminine writing feels incredibly dated. Among the many questions raised by the notion of women’s literature – the literary particularity of women writing in a structurally masculine linguistic system and the difficulty of escaping it, the sociological experience of women writers in a masculine tradition, the political issue of the representation of women through literature – most find their source in the perpetual silencing of women and their inability to speak for themselves. Because the study of female literature revolves around the breaking out of silence, it seems relevant and even crucial to shift to a vocal analysis, drawing on recent studies of voice in philosophy (see Adriana Cavarero’s work on voice). Women voice a different experience which has often been silenced and diminished in a literary tradition which allowed women to be seen but never heard. Attending to diverse female voices could be a way to eradicate the universalizing tendencies of feminist criticism and make every experience resonate. Listening to the voice of female authors means considering their language and writing not in terms of meaning and theme, but in terms of style and poetics, to enlighten the specific voice of the text. This alternative study of women writers will consider the acoustic sphere of literature as a pre-discursive space, placed outside the phallocentric system of language, as an answer to and a continuation of the gynocritics’ search for a non-masculine system of theory. This project will focus on the use of voice by Hélène Cixous, Assia Djebar, Danielle Collobert and Vénus Khoury-Ghata. The oral quality of these authors’ works will illuminate women’s capacity to be heard rather than seen and enable a wider propagation of their speech. The combination of French and so-called Francophone authors and the recognition of different levels of proximity to France and the French language will allow this vocal approach to literature to erase essentializing categorizations. In an analysis of each writer’s voice, francophonie will keep its original, broader meaning: the non-hierarchized multitude of voices speaking French.

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