Constructing ‘21st-Century Literature in French’.
Publication, translation, collection.
Organised by the Society for French Studies and the French Studies Library Group,
with the collaboration of the Institut français
Friday December 2nd 2011
at the Institut français, 17, Queensberry Place, London.
This is a seminar about the contemporary French literary scene and its impact in the UK.
It brings together publishers, translators, journalists, librarians and academics to discuss how books are produced and transmitted within and across cultures – notably across the Channel – and the state of play for French literature at home and abroad in the second decade of the 21st century.
The close textual study of literature, including contemporary literature, is an important part of research and teaching in Modern Languages. For this, we depend on the materialisation of the author’s inspiration: on the publishers who select, produce and market books; on the journalists who evaluate and make them known, helping to determine reception and readership; on the librarians who select, purchase, conserve and make them available. In this seminar, books will be discussed as material and cultural objects whose impact, evaluation and longevity depend on this complex set of processes.
If French literature is to fulfil its aim to become again a world literature, then transmission across cultures is a crucial dimension of the contemporary scene. Yet despite the vitality and variety evident in contemporary French literature, relatively few novels reach the largely monolingual reading public of France’s close neighbour across the Channel. Engaging the expertise of key players in the process of transcultural transmission, we ask how texts for translation are selected, translated, marketed, collected, and received. A case-study of one recent French critical and commercial success (Marie Ndiaye’s Trois femmes puissantes, soon to appear in translation) will crystallise many of these questions. Thus we hope to open up a new perspective in the study of contemporary French literature – one that takes full account of the book as commodity and as cultural vector.
Programme [panels will consist of short papers and open discussion]
From 10.00: coffee and welcome.
10.30 -12.30: Contemporary French writing: cultural trends.
– Marie-Hélène Martin [London-based arts correspondent for the Nouvel Observateur]:
The literary scene in contemporary France.
– Audrey Small [University of Sheffield]: Publishing trends in ‘francophone’ literature.
– Patrick Crowley [University College Cork]: Is there a centre that holds? Literary canons and the market place in contemporary France.
– Koukla MacLehose [UK literary scout]: The phenomenon of la rentrée.
1.30 – 3.30: Publishing and collecting French fiction in the UK
– Hélène Fiamma [Cultural attachée and head of the London Bureau du livre]: The role of the Bureau du livre.
– Jane Aitken [publisher -Gallic Books; authors include Muriel Barbery and Anna Gavalda]: Publishing French fiction in translation.
– French Studies Library Group panel: Collecting in UK libraries.
3.45 – 5.00: Case study and round table: Marie Ndiaye’s Trois femmes puissantes – from publication to Goncourt to popular success and translation (2012, Maclehose Press [Quercus]).
– Shirley Jordan (Queen Mary University of London) + Andrew Asibong (Birkbeck College).
– Christopher Maclehose [publisher – Maclehose Press].
– John Fletcher [translator].
5.00 Closing vin d’honneur.
Diana Holmes (University of Leeds); Teresa Vernon (British Library, FSLG)
Charles Forsdick (University of Liverpool); Michael Syrotinski (University of Aberdeen).