Nathalie Sarraute’s Quiet Revolution

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Poster for: Nathalie Sarraute’s Quiet Revolution
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2019; 4:30 PM | 111 EAST PYNE

Speaker: Annabel L. Kim, Assistant Professor of French, Harvard University

Nathalie Sarraute, a major figure in French modernism commonly associated with the Nouveau Roman, or New Novel, is not usually seen as a political writer. As she expressed in an interview with the actress Isabelle Huppert, she is feminist as a citizen but not as a writer, which we can take more broadly as a statement of a political engagement that stops with literature. While most readers of Sarraute have taken Sarraute at her word when it comes to the cordoning off of the political in Sarraute’s life and work, the radical lesbian feminist Monique Wittig is an exception: Wittig grounds her own revolutionary, explicitly political writing in Sarraute’s oeuvre. This talk reads Sarraute through Wittig’s political lens to see what it was that Wittig considered to be so revolutionary and politically inspiring in Sarraute’s writing. Read from a Wittigian position, Sarraute’s oeuvre sheds the aestheticized veneer it has had to reveal the political germ that it contains of a vision and use of language that is nothing if not revolutionary.

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