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 26, Issue 1, 2010
Critical readings of James Baldwin’s Giovanni Room have largely focused on what is considered its displacement of blackness unto whiteness in the form of the novel’s white protagonist, David, and stage a sort of lynching party to search out and expose to the critical gaze the “absent black man” in the text. Only a few recent readings, beyond biographical surveys of expatriate writers, have considered expatriation outside of Baldwin’s biography and essays, or seriously attempted to locate exile as a key theme and strategy in his fiction. Since, as Méral has noted, Paris is “closely linked with the first fictional attempts to deal with the subject of homosexuality” (223), there must be something about the city which is ripe as a setting for exploration of homosexual themes.
In an attempt to address this lacuna, and to unite Baldwin’s biographical and fictional interest in the productive functions of expatriation, this article examines the symbolic function of the places and displacements in Giovanni’s Room through the prism of the décalage afforded by Parisian exile. I argue that, through the depiction of the Parisian spaces—the city itself, the gay bars, and Giovanni’s room—and their contrast with American spaces, Baldwin shows the function of exile and otherness in not only evading, but producing and reinforcing (sexual) identities. With the freedom afforded “under a foreign sky” to ‘find oneself,’ David explores, then excises and exorcises, his hidden, “dirty,” “dark,” gay self in the figure of the guillotined Giovanni. As such, David reproduces heteronormativity through, literally, torturous means, highlighting the contortions required to maintain the heteronormative status quo, as well as white American identity.
This paper will examine the expanded role Contemporary art has assumed in rebranding Paris, France’s flagship capital, as a cutting edge, technological, innovative and competitive global city. Paris has effectively incorporated contemporary art into the fabric of the whole city with exhibitions such as those originating at the Grand Palais spreading to venues throughout the inner and outer ‘quartier’. France has used arts and culture to claim supremacy in the world whether colonial or local for centuries with Paris the ultimate ‘brand’. Post WWII Paris however, saw this brand diminished and claims to artistic supremacy replaced by New York. In an effort to regain some relevancy Paris, and by extension France, began the process of re-branding concordant with political, economic and technological advancement through the fervent promotion of contemporary art. Contemporary Paris through contemporary art aspires to a transnational and post-national site of spectacle; a leading locus for art to be consumed. Paris’s mass contemporary art consumption era began in 1972 with De Gaulle’s efforts to replace military and imperial power with cultural dominance (though the recent concurrent inaugurations of outposts for the French military and the Louvre in Abu Dhabi may suggest a ‘rapprochement’ of the domains), inaugurating a litany of new contemporary exhibitions, art fairs, monuments and museums. Furthermore, with the redefinition of contemporary French art from an art produced by French artists to art produced in the “territory of France”, this universalizing re-branding of contemporary art attempts to validate Paris’s claim to global cultural supremacy. I discuss particular events such as the art fair FIAC, La Force de L’ Art and Monumenta to illustrate the use of Contemporary art to shape and brand contemporary Paris.
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September 1, 1999, saw the opening of Paris Las Vegas, the most ambitiously themed of Las Vegas’s resorts to that date. In 2001, Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Le Fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain were released to huge popular success. These two films share with the Vegas resort the mobilization of the brand or commodity “Paris,” and function via a shared alchemy of appeals to potential consumers (tourists and viewers in all cases). All feature prominent use of totemic Parisian imagery to situate their narratives, and invite us to travel to a “Paris” born of collective memory.
This paper examines how Paris is commodified by the films and resort, as well as what these three examples can reveal about the image of Paris as an imaginary construct. It is necessary to examine the three phenomena as equal manifestations of a spike in an enduring fascination with particular concepts of Paris in the popular imagination and in the uses of commodity culture – a vogue heightened around the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the next. Analysis of the of the Parisian phenomenon circa 1999-2001 – as manifest by the resort and the two feature films – benefits from consideration of its relationships to Guy Debord’s theories of the spectacle, and to theorizations of nostalgia and the touristic drive. This analysis reveals how the brand of Paris may have been mobilized in an especially pronounced way at this particular cultural moment to serve as a container or palliative for anxieties around the impending turn of the century, the new millennium and the global changes this particular passage of time seemed to underline.