The Commitment to Scandal in French Post-War Fiction (1945-1950) through the Works of Marcel Aymé, Jean Genet and Roger Nimier

Anne-Celia Feutrie

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis studies a period of historical transition (1945-1950) and proposes to use
scandal as a critical tool to account for the ambiguity of the immediate post-war period
in literature. As set out in pragmatic sociology, scandal is understood to involve a test to
the stability of values through a public act of denunciation.
While this research project makes a new contribution to the study of fiction as a
powerful and reactive ‘vecteur de mémoire’ (Rousso 1987), its focus is on exploring the
notion of fiction as an ethical space where disputes (controversies, violence, affairs and,
importantly, scandals) are represented, organised, controlled and sometimes resolved
within the space of the novel.
This thesis reframes this question of the role of literature in a period of transition
by revisiting the historiographical claim that some aspects of Vichy and the Occupation
were rarely discussed in France before 1968. Instead, it suggests that the fictional
production in the immediate post-war years attests to a readiness and commitment to
narrate and organise dissent.
To explore these issues, the thesis focuses on three major, contrasting writers –
Marcel Aymé, Jean Genet and Roger Nimier – all of whom have in common to have
explicitly, deliberately and problematically represented the Occupation and the
Liberation in 1945-1950 novels.
Chapter I reveals and explores the convergence of a popular and critical interest
for scandal between 1945-1950 and the subsequent presence of scandal in
historiographical discourse ever since.
Chapter II identifies ‘scales of scandal’, namely the mechanism of narrative
scandal at lexical, stylistic and structural levels.
Chapter III shows how time and space constitute the a priori conditions of
scandal and how they become scandalised in the process.
Chapter IV systematically analyses the thematic uncertainty and ethical
undecidability brought about by scandal affecting notions of morality, authority and
identity. The thesis concludes with reflections on the novel as ethical space and the
critical potential of scandal in literary studies.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Davis, Colin, Supervisor
  • Cruickshank, Ruth, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Mar 2015
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015


  • French post-war fiction
  • Marcel Aymé
  • Jean Genet
  • Roger Nimier
  • pragmatics
  • pragmatic sociology
  • Scandal
  • Sade
  • Noir
  • morality
  • ethics

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