Les écrivains d’outre-France : French literature, world literature and the translingual text

Professor Charles Forsdick will be presenting a research paper entitled Les écrivains d’outre-France’ : French literature, world literature and the translingual text’ at the University of London Institute in Paris on Thursday 22 January at 5pm.

The presentation explores (and historicizes) the recent emergence within French literature of a substantial group of authors known as ‘translingual’, i.e. those whose relationship to France, French and Frenchness is not based primarily on colonialism and its afterlives, but is linked instead to a choice to migrate culturally, linguistically and (usually also) geographically into a sphere of French influence. What such texts reveal is that the traditional ‘linguistic family romance’ (Yildiz) of which literature is an essential vehicle is under real strain as we see a new potential for ‘French’ literature to be de-colonized, de-ethnicized and de-territorialized. Translingual literature in French is often read, however, as being more about the demonstration of creative potential or the indication of cultural complexity than the actual performance of new literary possibilities. Concluding with a consideration of the work of specific authors, including Vassilis Alexakis and Dai Sijie, the paper suggests that translingual authors encourage us nevertheless to read literature in French – and to understand the genesis of that literature – in ways that reflect what Robert Stam has called a ‘relational, contrapuntal, polycommunal multiperspectival history’. In the light of this approach, it is suggested that translingual writing in French permits a particular glimpse of French as a language increasingly detached from its close ties to a single nation, and of French literature as a body of texts whose transnational and even multilingual dimensions are becoming more and more apparent.

In the Granville-Barker room, 4th floor. See http://ulip.london.ac.uk/CF for further details.

Charles Forsdick is James Barrow Professor of French at the University of Liverpool, and AHRC Theme Leadership Fellow for ‘Translating Cultures’. He has published widely on travel writing, colonial history, postcolonial literature and the cultures of slavery. He is also a specialist on Haiti and the Haitian Revolution, and has written widely about representations of Toussaint Louverture.