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LIterature, Representation, and the Image of the Francophone City: Casablanca, Montreal, Marseille


This dissertation is concerned with the construction of the image of the city in twentieth-century Francophone writing that takes as its primary objects the representation of the city in the work of Driss Chraïbi and Abdelkebir Khatibi (Casablanca), Francine Noël (Montreal), and Jean-Claude Izzo (Marseille). The different stylistic iterations of the post Second World War novel offered by these writers, from Khatibi's experimental autobiography to Izzo's noir fiction, provide the basis of an analysis of the connections between literary representation and the changing urban environments of Casablanca, Montreal, and Marseille. Relying on planning documents, historical analyses, and urban theory, as well as architectural, political, and literary discourse, to understand the fabric of the cities that surround novels' representations, the dissertation argues that the perceptual descriptions that enrich these narratives of urban life help to characterize new ways of seeing and knowing the complex spaces of each of the cities. As second cities, Casablanca, Montreal, and Marseille invite comparisons to urban capitals, comparisons that, through the French language, become focused on Paris as an exemplary urban form. The specificity of urban detail on the micro-scale and general absence of macro-scale descriptions of the city in each of the novels questions the validity of an urban image that is dependent on comparisons with a distant center or attempts to raise a city's profile through development. Instead, as this dissertation argues, the literary representation of each of these second cities is the basis of a way of seeing Casablanca, Montreal, or Marseille as a total environment that makes space for narrative and memory, as well as perspective and perception. The novelistic construction of subjectivity and perspective creates a fiction, or imaginary, of urban experience that responds to theorizations of the urban subject in sociology, philosophy, and architecture. In their descriptions of urban space, the novels play on the differences between a collectively formed, and officially sanctioned, image of the city and individual urban imaginaries that bring memory, perception, and atmosphere into the experience of the urban environment.

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