Welcome to Paroles gelées! The editorial board would like to thank all of those who helped to make our archives available online and facilitate our transition to online publishing. Special recognition goes to Stacey Meeker for her assistance as Publications Director for the Graduate Student Association at UCLA and to Michelle Tu for designing the new Paroles gelées logo. Further acknowledgements to the many students and staff who contributed to this achievement are available in the Spring 2009 issue of Paroles gelées.
Volume 31, 2018
L'empire du voyage: Travels of Mind, Body, Soul
Gender has been an extremely lively area of research for decades, and this is especially true in medieval studies. Recently, medievalists have directed efforts to understanding cross-cultural and cross-religious contacts. However, these two research directions-- gender and cross-cultural encounters-- have yet to merge in a sustained exploration. My project aims to investigate the link between religious difference and gendering in a study of Le Conte de Floire et Blanchefleur. This romance crafts a narrative that suggests that there is a correlation, if not causation, between religious status and gender presentation. Floire is a pagan (though presumably Muslim) prince who falls in love with Blanchefleur, who is the daughter of aChristian servant. The young prince voyages to the East to save his beloved from the clutches of an emir. However, what is curious is the process of religious conversion he undergoes and the resulting changes in his appearance as his journey progresses. His travels and the people heencounters apper to function to underscore Floire’s various attributes. One can trace how Floire’s physical appearance changes from something feminine to masculine as he assumes a Christian identity through his rescue quest and conversion.
Floire’s metamorphosis is compelling in that is it an inversion of the later medieval paradigm of Saracen women falling in love with Christian men. I plan to examine the significance of Floire’s inversion and conversion toward Christianity and masculinity. The text offers one of the earliest examples of gendering discourse in the romance genre, and it is distinct from the later conversion tales that involve Saracen women. The project will thus examine the topos of converted Saracen women in other medieval texts that deal with issues of gender and religious difference in order to understand how potentially transgressive Floire’s transformation is. This comparative investigation would elucidate if Floire et Blanchefleur is unique in how it treats gender and religion in a multicultural context. The romance offers a glimpse into some medieval French notions of the Other through this lens of travel, which uncovers attitudes toward gender and religion.
This paper explores the desire for traveling infusing the final poem of Charles Baudelaire's collection Les Fleurs du mal, the poem Le Voyage (variously translated as Travel or The Voyage). I focus on the yearning of the speaker and the poet for the abandoning of the known world, on the desire for renouncing of the underwhelming earthly existence for the discovery of the Unknown and the New. This transgressive urge, the essay argues, lies at the heart of Baudelaire's poetic sensibility, and is a powerful harbinger of modernist aesthetics. I comment on the daring, defying excess of the poem, on its dreaming of and indulging into a journey that effaces and escapes the boundaries and limitations of reality. Le voyage thus becomes a vehicle of evasion, of radical abandonment to the unknown outcomes of a journey conceived as relinquishment. Among various travelers, it is those who embark on journey for the journey's sake who receive the poet's highest commendations. I characterize the paradoxical coexistence of the yearning for a metaphysical breakthrough, and full awareness of the existential void, of the futility of any travel whose purpose lies outside of itself, as crucial to Baudelaire's artistic temperament. I also proceed to comment on the far reaching consequences of Baudelaire's pessimistic and confrontational poetics. An argument is made that interpretation of Baudelaire needs to acknowledge at all times the fierce and irreconcilable attitude of the poet, an attitude which has all too often been downplayed by more tame and conformist readings of the Fleurs du mal.
Algerian born French writers Albert Camus and Assia Djebar both employ their memories and experiences, and those of their family and friends, within French-Algerian landscapes, to construct travel narratives that blend myth with reality. Albert Camus’ Le Premier Homme, published posthumously in 1994, is a blend of fiction and non-fiction that can be described as a semi-autobiographical novel. Le Blanc de l’Algérie, published in 1995 by Assia Djebar, is a memoire on loss. Although written four decades apart and published one year apart, together their descriptions of physical and mental voyages demonstrate their unique representations of Algeria pre and post independence.
For Camus, writing during the colonial period, his Algerian journey is both literal and imaginary. For Djebar, having published before and after independence, this particular journey of the nineties describes Islamist conflict and civic turmoil and is predominantly political. In Le Premier Homme Camus, a pied-noir of French and Spanish ancestry talks about his impoverished childhood but he specifically contrasts his early travels in Algeria with his later travels from France to his former Algerian homeland in a deliberate attempt to trace his roots and visit his father’s grave. In Le Blanc de l’Algérie Djebar, of Arab and berber origin, discusses the final journeys of her fellow Algerian friends and writers who lost their lives during the Algerian Civil War.
Travel within Algeria and between Algeria and France enables Camus and Djebar to discuss the effects of colonization and decolonization on their lives and the lives of their friends and families. I will demonstrate how travel facilitates their narratives to and from the Algerian nation as they expose the hybrid identities that exist in French-Algeria. Indeed, their travelling through Algerian space and time allows them to re-appropriate Algeria and overcome identity crises and displacement associated with their homeland.
An interview with Laure Murat