Daphne du Maurier: A Critical Reassessment
Daphne Du Maurier: A Critical Reassessment – An International Interdisciplinary Conference
27-28 June 2019
Venue : Le Mans Université, Department of Anglophone Studies, Avenue Olivier Messiaen, 72085 Le Mans cedex 09, France
Key Words: Daphne du Maurier – Short fiction – Novels – Film adaptations – Didactics --Biography – Psychoanalysis – Local history
Organizing Committee: Xavier LACHAZETTE (3LAM, Le Mans, France), Nicole CLOAREC (LIDILE, Rennes I), Anne HALL (Independent Researcher)
Scientific Committee: Redouane ABOUEDDAHAB (3LAM, Le Mans), Nicole CLOAREC (LIDILE, Rennes 1), Anne HALL (independent researcher), Fiona HANDYSIDE (Centre for Interdisciplinary Film Research, Exeter), Xavier LACHAZETTE (3LAM, Le Mans), Delphine LETORT (3LAM, Le Mans), Christine REYNIER (EMMA, Montpellier), Michelle RYAN-SAUTOUR (CIRPaLL, Angers), Karima THOMAS (CIRPaLL, Angers), Taina TUHKUNEN (3LAM, Angers), Emmanuel VERNADAKIS (CIRPaLL, Angers).
CALL FOR PAPERS:
Entrenched in her adopted home of Cornwall, detached from literary trends and schools, avoiding the media and participating only very rarely in radio or television programmes, Daphne Du Maurier owes her uninterrupted popularity to her works and her personality alone. Few authors can boast, even after their death, of inspiring the erection of a statue on publicly-owned land (The Rook with a Book, 2018), an annual festival (Fowey), and an increasing number of film adaptations (The Scapegoat, Charles Sturridge, 2012 or My Cousin Rachel, Roger Michell, 2017, and a projected new version of The Birds by the BBC). Few works have given rise, as the novel (and play) Rebecca has done, to so many radio, television and film adaptations, to an opera, a musical comedy, an original film score, a pastiche, and various prequels and sequels.
And yet, Du Maurier’s relationship with literary criticism has been conflictual ever since the international phenomenon of Rebecca, a work’s popularity necessarily implying its lack of value, in the eyes of some. Often published, beginning with Gerald: A Portrait (1934), in affordable Gollancz editions with unflattering yellow covers or in various women’s magazines, Du Maurier’s works never received anything better from these critics than the condescending epithet ‘romance’.
Fortunately, in 1963, a generally favourable article in the TLS suggested that Rebecca and The Scapegoat would remain classics – six years before the publication of the major novel The House on the Strand. Then, beginning in the 1990s, Avril Horner and Sue Zlosnik breathed new life into the field of Du Maurier criticism. Finally, since 2000 Helen Taylor has undertaken two major critical initiatives (The Daphne Du Maurier Companion in 2007 and the Du Maurier issue of Women: A Cultural Review in 2009).
One can hardly ignore the interpretative richness of the critical response to several of Du Maurier’s works. In a novel like Rebecca, for example, academic criticism has underlined, in a sometimes contradictory manner, a mimetic class conservatism, a feminine gothic in the tradition of the Brontë sisters, a liberating feminism, a lesbian subtext, or additional proof of an incestuous motif supposedly central to Du Maurier’s works.
Moreover, short story collections such as The Breaking Point and Not After Midnight, biographies such as Gerald: A Portrait and The Infernal World of Branwell Brontë, and novels such as The Parasites, The Progress of Julius, The Flight of the Falcon, or Rule Britannia deserve contemporary critical rereadings, particularly in conjunction with the author’s central themes of the fragility of the subject and the omnipresence of conflict. Du Maurier’s stories, often supernatural or macabre, create a diffuse malaise by rewriting ancient myths or playing on raw emotions and ancestral fears and are devoid of any ‘romanticism’. Contemporary readers of Gerald were struck by the coarseness of a daughter’s biography of her father, while Branwell is still considered as a good introduction to the Brontës. As to the four novels cited above, their themes or the techniques used are strikingly original and modern. The plots centre respectively on a scattered central consciousness, an anti-Semitic cliché, an analytic concept borrowed from Jung and a national chauvinism that anticipated Brexit.
Commemorating the thirtieth anniversary of Daphne Du Maurier’s death, this international interdisciplinary colloquium – the first of its kind in France – will honour a writer with a fascinating biography and will shine as much light as possible on her original, multiform, and often enigmatic works. Du Maurier’s works have occasioned more than a hundred academic articles, yet without rescuing her reputation from a sort of middlebrow purgatory.
In the following areas, the themes of the fragility of the subject and the omnipresence of conflict will be privileged for this colloquium, but any original proposal and any fruitful melange of the suggestions below will be examined with interest:
*Daphne Du Maurier’s short stories: animality vs. humanity; the fantastic; the macabre; fears and ancestral myths; sexuality and hypocrisy, etc.
*Contemporary critical rereadings of Daphne Du Maurier’s novels: scattered central consciousness (The Parasites); conflict and autarchic temptation (Rule Britannia); the ego and multiple temporalities (The House on the Strand); literary anti-Semitism (The Progress of Julius), etc.
*Film adaptations of Daphne Du Maurier’s works: ‘Don’t Look Now’ and N. Roeg’s film; D. Du Maurier vs. Hitchcock; adapting, improving, altering (Rebecca, The Scapegoat, My Cousin Rachel, Jamaica Inn); foreign adaptations (Rebecca, la prima moglie, 2008); forgotten adaptations (Split Second, The Lifeforce Experiment), etc.
*Daphne du Maurier and didactics: the place of D. Du Maurier in college syllabuses; the stakes of studying D. Du Maurier's work today and the fields concerned (literature, gender, film studies); popular culture vs.canonicalculture: their respective limits and assets, etc.
*Daphne Du Maurier and the biographical genre: Gerald Du Maurier; Branwell Brontë; the Bacon brothers; the Du Mauriers seen by D. Du Maurier, etc.
*Daphne Du Maurier and psychoanalysis: the double, duality and duplicity; incest; D. Du Maurier and Jung; D. Du Maurier and her father; D. Du Maurier and bisexuality/homosexuality; D. du Maurier and gender; D. Du Maurier and J.M. Barrie, etc.
*Daphne Du Maurier and local history: D. Du Maurier and her French ancestors; Vanishing Cornwall; D. Du Maurier and Cornwall; D. du Maurier and psychogeography; the D. Du Maurier archives in Exeter (Devon); regionalism vs. universality of D. Du Maurier, etc.
Proposals for 20-minute presentations, in English or French, should be posted on the Sciencesconf site devoted to the colloquium: https://maurier-le-mans.sciencesconf.org/. (To create a Sciencesconf account, simply fill out the fields on the Sciencesconf "Create your account" page.)
They will respect the following format: (1) full name ; (2) institution and laboratory affiliation ; (3) provisional title of the talk ; (4) text of the proposal (300-350 words) ; (5) bio-bibliographic note (a single paragraph indicating research themes and a few major publications by the presenter [100-120 words]) ; (6) indicative bibliography (list of 7-8 main works to be referenced in the talk).
Researchers interested in this colloquium may contact Xavier Lachazette, at email@example.com.
6 January 2019 is the deadline for proposals. A reply will be sent at the end of January 2019.