Contemporary, French, Literature
This introduction begins with a detailed overview of what has been called the ‘return to the story’ in contemporary French literature. This overview pays particular attention to how this ‘discourse of return’ defines the boundaries of an era (the contemporary), of a cultural or linguistic space (French), and of an aesthetic territory (the literary). Examining contentious postmodernist and declinological accounts of the contemporary, I then offer an overview of some of the ways that popular literary forms have been politicized or could be productively repoliticized in the period that we have called the contemporary. After a short discussion of Jean Echenoz’s The Greenwich Meridian (1979), which problematizes the borders of the conceptual constitution of the contemporary as a literary period, I discuss the methodology and corpus of Beyond Return, with a particular emphasis on how this book reads the politics of popular story forms. In addition to providing an overview of the chapters on Jean Rouaud, Jean-Patrick Manchette, Jean Echenoz, and Antoine Volodine, this introduction thus makes a case for revising and rethinking the literary historical metaphor of return.
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