French Urban Space: 1. Arriving in the City
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This research has developed from my teaching French-language literature in Canadian Studies at the University of Edinburgh since 2005 and as the start of my doctoral work in French at Newcastle University. The research work aims to discover the way contemporary urban literature works to create space. The particular focus is on the French-speaking metropolis of Montreal and on migrant writers or the representation of newly-arriving migrants by contemporary French-language authors in Canada. The approach starts with, and moves on from twentieth-century work in the field by Douglas Ivison (1998) and Jean-Xavier Ridon (2000) and continues with two themes I developed completing my M.LITT Dissertation (presented at the Society for French Studies Leeds Conference 2005), firstly that literary writing functions to reclaim the urban space for the writers and works to re-insert them into a well-documented city. Secondly, the writing seeks to incorporate the writers, by naming the newly-encountered objects and signs with a language and vocabulary that is more authentic to their own experience before they encountered the city. As a practising writer myself, it is an approach I have used in my own poems, for example, in the Europa cycle (Mansfield 2006), which explores my move from the English Peaks to teach in Lille and then Paris in the 1990s. Work in the field of French Studies on nineteenth century French literature has addressed the use of space. In particular Colette Wilson’s 2004 work on the Emile Zola novel, L’Assommoir and the book-length study by Kristin Ross (1988) on the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud. My research draws on these primarily as a way of using the theoretical writing of Henri Lefebvre to approach literary texts and also to situate my research in the tradition of twentieth-century French critical study.