projet de recherche
Telling Terror/isms in Modern and Contemporary French and Francophone Literature
This research project sets out to analyze the ways in which French and Algerian francophone literary works of the modern and contemporary eras have portrayed the complex and labile reality of terrorism. It postulates that these texts help us conceive better the modalities of a plural phenomenon and the relationships that fiction and representation entertain with it.
Historical, political, military, socio-psychological, and legal accounts of the concept, practice, and punishment of terrorism have abounded since 9/11. Much literary criticism on anglophone fiction about terrorism has also been produced. In contrast, studies of French and francophone literature on the subject of 18th- to 21st-century terrorism remain scarce. Yet a host of novels, plays, and essays testify to the emergence of the concept of “Terror” during the French Revolution, the development of various forms of terrorism in French-speaking territories in the 1900s and 2000s, and the debates they have generated amongst public intellectuals facing totalitarian states, decolonization and the post-colonial period.
“Telling Terror/isms” attempts to fill this gap by turning to well-known modern and contemporary French writers as well as major authors from the Mediterranean basin, with an emphasis on the works of Nobel Prize laureate Albert Camus, whose contribution to a reflection on and the representation of modern terror and terrorism is critical. The approach adopted for this study is interdisciplinary: poetic craft is analyzed in relation to ethics and politics. Literary figuration notably allows for an understanding of extreme political violence beyond problematic forms of visibility, including popular clichés, sensationalistic media coverage, the publicity fashioned by terrorists themselves, or the impersonality and externality sometimes inherent in specialized discourses and strategic policies. Four clusters that associate a pivotal moment or prominent face of terrorism with the contributions of French (Hugo, Michelet, Camus) and French-speaking (Fanon, Mimouni, Djebar, Boudjedra, Sansal, Khadra or Daoud) writers will be examined, and particular attention will be paid to the critical and ethical implications of the poetic and aesthetic approaches deployed in each work: (1) the Reign of the Terror; (2) mid-twentieth century State and party-based terrorism; (3) nationalist terrorism during the Algerian War of Independence; and (4) post-independence, Islamic terrorism.
Ultimately, the project aims to identify key ways in which an understudied yet varied and meaningful corpus incarnates the imbrication of historico-political and human factors that underlie terrorism(s). It probes the language through which French and francophone artists expose, diagnose, question, or subvert this perplexing reality. The monograph that is to emerge from my examination should constitute a bidirectional reflection on the role played by literature in comprehending terror/isms and the role played by this multiform phenomenon in shaping both representations of the polis and literary forms in which the faces of violence, victimhood, criminality, and community formation and deformation fluctuate, if not collide.
Ève Morisi is Assistant Professor of French in the Department of European Languages and Studies at the University of California, Irvine. She holds a PhD in French literature from Princeton University and the Sorbonne.
Her research examines the intersections of poetics, politics, and ethics in nineteenth- and twentieth-century French (and English) poetry and prose. It focuses on the representations of extreme violence, suffering, and marginality, with an emphasis on Hugo, E. A. Poe, Baudelaire, and Camus studies.
Camus et l’éthique, (ed.), Classiques Garnier, Paris, 2014.
'Baudelaire et Camus : penser la peine de mort', La Revue des Lettres Modernes, Série Albert Camus 23, Minard, Paris, 2014, pp. 263-81.
Albert Camus. Le Souci des autres, Classiques Garnier, Paris, 2013.
'La Misère au quotidien. Camus et la Kabylie', in A. Benhaïm & A. Glacet, Camus au quotidien, Presses Universitaires du Septentrion, Lille, 2013, pp. 101-119.
''Poésie-boucherie.’ Baudelaire’s Aesthetics and Ethics of Execution', in J. Acquisto (ed.), Thinking Poetry: Philosophical Approaches to Nineteenth-Century French Poetry, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2013, pp. 75-95.
Albert Camus contre la peine de mort, Éditions Gallimard, Paris, 2011.
Invitée dans le cadre du programme EURIAS à l’IEA de Paris