Ambivalent Americanism: U.S. Literary Modernism in France and Algeria after 1940 Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Du Graf, Lauren
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English and Comparative Literature, Comparative Literature Program
  • This dissertation reveals how French and Algerian writers and filmmakers, from the onset of World War II to the present, have mined American literary modernist texts for the language with which to confront a range of societal and political injustices – including racism, sexism, colonialism, and war – witnessed at home. Writers and filmmakers from the Hexagon to the Maghreb have repurposed American modernist writing, from the fiction of William Faulkner to the novels of Chester Himes, to address French and Algerian social and political concerns from the Nazi occupation to the 1990s Algerian civil war. This decades-long phenomenon, I argue, gained traction during the politicization of American literary modernism during and after the dark years of Nazi occupation and Vichy collaboration, when works by U.S. writers acquired cult status as banned objects in both France and Algeria. From underground resistance magazines produced under Nazi occupation to to post-Algerian independence cinema, I show how the work of American modernist writers has been discursively mobilized at critical moments of renegotiating French and Algerian cultural identity. The durability of U.S. literary modernism in the French-speaking literary and cinematic productions also reflects what I call an ambivalent Americanism; while French-language engagement with the texts of U.S. modernist writers reflects an admiration for American cultural innovation and empathy towards a series of mutually felt historical, cultural and political crises, this interest also reveals a posture of critique and at times condescension towards the dark side of the United States as rendered in literary expressions of violence, anti-black racism, mass incarceration, capitalism, and poverty.
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Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Warner, Rick
  • Melehy, Hassan
  • Ferris, William
  • Saliot, Anne-Gaelle
  • Brodey, Inger
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2016

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