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The Algerian Island in the Novels of Albert Camus: The End of the Pied-Noir Adventure Tale

Tarpley, James Hebron (2004) The Algerian Island in the Novels of Albert Camus: The End of the Pied-Noir Adventure Tale. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Albert Camus's novels provide insight into the worldview of the pieds-noirs, Algerian-born descendants of European settlers facing ever-increasing pressure to abandon what they saw as their homeland as decolonization accelerated after the Second World War, when Camus was writing. This study examines Camus's four main novels, L'étranger, La peste, La chute, and Le premier homme in their colonial context. Through a careful analysis of Camus's use of the tropes and imagery associated with the robinsonnade, or island adventure tale, and its inherent connection to colonialist discourse, this study nuances our understanding of Camus's position on the subject of Algeria. We will argue that Camus's fiction suggests mixed feelings about the colonial project in Algeria and furthermore that he clearly anticipated the impending end of the French-Algerian experiment. In L'étranger we see how the Algerian landscape is defined by impenetrable borders, forcing mutually antagonistic groups into violent encounters within narrow spaces. In La peste we examine the islanding of the city of Oran due to the plague outbreak, and we note how the functioning of the city is laid bare due to the pressure of quarantine. La chute shows us that Camus was fixated on an insular Algeria even when writing of northern Europe. Le premier homme provides final proof that the island Algeria portrayed in Camus's novels is associated with the colonial adventure of the pieds-noirs, and that this adventure will end, as in all robinsonnades, with a return to the mother country.The novels of Albert Camus were read as expressions of universal existentialist truth until Conor Cruise O'Brien pointed out the importance of considering them in the colonial Algerian context. Subsequent criticism of Camus has been largely shaped by O'Brien's approach and by that of the late Edward Said, who followed up O'Brien's critiques with an even stronger indictment in Culture and Imperialism of Camus as being in "outright opposition to Algerian independence" and in assuming that the French colonial project in Algeria is immutable. We will more clearly analyze Camus's perspective on the French colonial endeavor in Algeria as it is expressed in his novels.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Tarpley, James Hebrontarpley@pitt.eduTARPLEY
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairWatts, Philipwatts@pitt.eduWATTS
Committee MemberMecchia, Giuseppinamecchia@pitt.eduMECCHIA
Committee MemberSmith, Philip
Committee MemberCitton, Yvescitton@pitt.eduCITTON
Date: 27 June 2004
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 11 December 2003
Approval Date: 27 June 2004
Submission Date: 13 April 2004
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Faculty of Arts and Sciences > French
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Algeria; Camus; colonial; Francophone; island; literature; pied-noir
Other ID:, etd-04132004-110130
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:36
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:39


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