“État des lieux”: Women in French and Francophone Noir Fiction
Apart from some chapters and articles (Desnains, Gorrara), few women authors of French crime novels are mentioned in essays or collections dealing with detective and noir fiction in France as a genre.
Even though since the 1990s many women authors of French crime novels like Barbara Abel (Belgium), Ingrid Astier, Brigitte Aubert, Virginie Brac, Dounia Charaf (Morocco), Chrystine Brouillet (Canada), Sylvie Granotier, Dominique Manotti, Elsa Marpeau, Dominique Sylvain, Fred Vargas, and Maud Tabachnick, to name only a few, have achieved recognition and are now established writers, their work is still understudied. As it is the case for French and Francophone male authors, the important number of translations of foreign authors reduces visibility for the domestic production. Adding to women writers’ lack of recognition, French specialists within the genre often quote Patricia Highsmith as the best female writer of noir fiction (Manchette, Pouy). As recent crime novels written by women authors like Virginie Despentes, Hannelore Cayre, and many others, demonstrate not only vitality but also the endless possibilities offered by the French noir fiction literary scene. With this in mind, the panel’s objective is to contribute to the visibility of the feminine noir fiction production and to undertake an “état des lieux” of the current feminine noir fiction production in France and Francophone countries.
Our re-evaluation of noir fiction works written by women will address particularly:
How do these authors address diverse feminine representations of identity? What social impact do these have?
What particular social and/or political issues do they focus on?
How do they negotiate inequality and power imbalances?
How do they embrace the local cultural space or help shape cultural imaginaries? Do they recur to transnational geographies?
What specific kinds of crime tend to be in their work? What assumptions do these crimes (guns, drugs, race, violence against women, class warfare, government corruption and repression, etc.) do they highlight (Henderson 2017)?
Is there a progressive reappropriation of a genre dominated by male writers?
How do they open a space not only for inclusion but also for new perspectives and epistemologies to the field?
We will particularly welcome reflections on identity, cultural studies and women’s take on popular culture. The papers chosen for the panel will be included in a book proposal with the title Women in French and Francophone Noir Fiction.
Contact Iziar De Miguel (she/her) with any questions you might have:
Desnain, Véronique. “Gender and Genre: Women in French Crime Writing” in Claire Gorrara (ed.) French Crime Fiction, Cardiff: Wales University Press, 2009. Print
Desnain, Véronique. La Femelle de l’espèce” : Women in contemporary French crime fiction. French Cultural Studies, 12, pp. 175-192.
Gorrara Claire (ed.). French Crime Fiction, Cardiff: Wales University Press, 2009.
Gorrara Claire. “French Crime Fiction: From genre mineur to patrimoine culturel”, French Studies, 2007, pp. 209-214.
Henderson, Deborah. “Cultural Studies Approaches to the Study of Crime in Literature.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Oxford UP, 2017, pp. 1-29.
Manchette, Jean-Patrick. Chroniques. Paris: Rivages, 1996.
Pouy, Jean-Bernard. Une brève histoire du Roman Noir, Paris : L’œil neuf, 2009.
Iziar De Miguel, PhD
The Graduate Center
City University of New York