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FREN1116 - Fictions of Grief

Value: 0.5 course units
Professor Mairéad Hanrahan
Teaching structure:
one three-hour desk examination.

Module Description:

This module will examine a number of twentieth-century texts which represent grief of different sorts. It will explore two principal sets of questions. The first is that of tragedy itself: why are writers drawn to inventing grief? What pleasure is to be found in representing pain? Why (re)create a distressful and painful situation in fiction? Does writing serve to palliate the grief in which it originates or rather to prolong it? Is it an act of forgetting or of remembrance? Secondly, what are the implications of fictionalizing a painful experience? Is a fictional grief less true than a ‘real’ one or might fiction paradoxically be the only way to be true to an experience too painful to confront directly? How important is the imaginative displacement? Is there a stable difference between fictions and other, especially autobiographical, narratives of painful loss? Widely differing processes of grieving are at issue in these texts, some of them extremely challenging. By analysing the varied and complex forms grief takes there, the module will seek to understand what is at stake in mourning.

Preparatory Reading and Set Texts:

  • Jean Genet, Pompes funèbres (Gallimard, coll. ‘Imaginaire’, 1949)
  • Hélène Cixous, Le Jour où je n’étais pas là (Galilée, 2000)
  • Georges Perec, W ou le Souvenir d’enfance (Gallimard, coll. ‘Imaginaire’,1975)
  • Marcel Proust, Le Côté de Guermantes (volume 3 of A la recherche du temps perdu) (Folio).