From the countryside and city to the edges and interstices : places and spaces of the quotidien in contemporary French film and literature



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This dissertation examines the use of the quotidien (the everyday) in contemporary French film and literature to understand its relationship with notions of place and space. Defined as the paradoxical process of how one repeatedly constructs each day "anew" on a routine basis, the quotidien in the texts of my analysis is not static, but rather a means for articulating changes in French communities and ways of life, while further reflecting ongoing changes to attitudes, politics, and identity. I advance current readings of the quotidien by viewing it as both descriptive, a recurring manifestation of change, as well as transformative, able to effect change. I argue that, in these depictions, the quotidien effectively erodes traditional spatial categories to create and reveal new and less stable versions. Specifically, places lose their real and symbolic sway to indeterminate spaces in which meaning is uncertain, in flux, or non-existent. My dissertation is novel for its interest in tracing the quotidien across spatial categories, so that its chapters move from the more "stable" categories of the rural and the urban to those in more obvious flux, edges and interstices. Chapter 1 studies the depicted quotidiens of rural France in Agnès Varda's film, Les Glaneurs et la glaneuse (2000), and Raymond Depardon and Claudine Nougare's film series, Profils paysans (2000-2008). Chapter 2 investigates the quotidiens of urban centers in Cédric Klapisch's film, Chacun cherche son chat (1996), Patrick Modiano's novel, Dora Bruder (1997), and Laurent Cantet's film, Entre les murs (2008). Chapter 3 examines everyday France at the periphery of Paris in Gérard Gavarry's novel, Hop là! Un deux trois (2001). The Conclusion addresses the emergence of a new space, the interstitial, in which its dwellers float, move, or exist between places on a daily basis, such as a commute to work. I analyze Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas's short film, Loin du 16ème (2006), Abdellatif Kechiche's film, La Graine et le mulet (2007), and Alain-Paul Mallard's film, L'Origine de la tendresse (1999). These mini-ethnographies of French society reveal a France grappling with issues related to globalization, shifting populations, the relative newness of the European Union, and consequently, identity. Who is French, and where does "authentic France" lie?