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The Politics of Aesthetics: Nation, Region and Immigration in Contemporary "French" Culture

Spieser, David (2015) The Politics of Aesthetics: Nation, Region and Immigration in Contemporary "French" Culture. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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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.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Spieser, Daviddavidspieser@yahoo.fr0000-0002-1712-4267
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMecchia, Giuseppinamecchia@pitt.eduMECCHIA
Committee MemberDoshi, Neildoshi@pitt.eduDOSHI
Committee MemberPettersen, Daviddpetter@pitt.eduDPETTER
Committee MemberAndrade, Susansza@pitt.eduSZA
Date: 5 October 2015
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 26 May 2015
Approval Date: 5 October 2015
Submission Date: 9 June 2015
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 262
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > French
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: postcoloniality, France, Jacques Rancière, regionalism, immigration, accented literature
Date Deposited: 05 Oct 2015 18:15
Last Modified: 05 Oct 2017 05:15


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