Representing the nation : cinema, literature and the struggle for national identity in contemporary France
MetadataShow full item record
The 1980s and 1990s in France have been marked by anxiety about French national identity or francité. On a cultural level, this anxiety has been triggered by the presence and influence of three generations of North African immigration into France. On a political level, it has been triggered by the increasing dominance of the United States in cultural and economic spheres, as well as by the looming prospect of a United Europe. All of these realities have been read as a threat to French identity, and to France itself. While numerous studies of these realities exist, to date, no one has examined the impact of immigration, Americanization and United Europe on the French cultural and political unconscious. This dissertation is such an analysis. Using theories of nationality and national identity articulated by B. Anderson, E. Wallerstein, and Stuart Hall, the dissertation analyzes representations of francité in French literature and cinema. The first chapter examines the evolution of the representation of vi nation and nationality in nineteenth- and twentieth-century historiography and in twentieth-century political discourse. The second chapter explores the revalorization of orthodox models of Frenchness that are embodied in French heritage cinema and in the French memory novel. These two genres, it is argued, appropriate traditional model of national identity and are subtly linked to the rise of nationalist discourse in the social and political spheres. The third chapter explores the multiculturalist mode of representing the nation, which is embodied in the literary and cinematic production of the French of Maghrebi origin or the “Beurs.” This mode, too, is linked to socio-political discourse, particularly the rhetoric of le droit à la différence, which first emerged in the 1980s. What links these two opposing models of identity is the trope of memory, which is used in both as the defining characteristic of Frenchness. The dissertation ultimately concludes that literature and cinema are being used in France as a means of re-imagining and renegotiating national identity and of determining the course of the dominant political and national culture.