In Unbecoming Language: Anti-Identitarian French Feminist Fictions
(The Ohio State University Press, 2018), Annabel Kim
tangles with the question of difference so central to French feminism, theory, and writing. In a series of literary and historical contextualizations and close readings of authors Nathalie Sarraute, Monique Wittig, and Anne Garréta, Kim tracks the work and thinking of women who wrote against difference across generations, from the 1930s to the present. Along the way, Unbecoming Language
is a study of politics and poetics, an interrogation of the impossibility and possibility of subjectivities in language and literature, and a challenge to stereotypical notions of what French feminism and theory might be.
Over the course of its four chapters, the book explores the work of each author while also considering these writers in relationship to one another. Rather than reading literary texts and authors through an external
body of French or other “theory,” Unbecoming Language
considers the theoretical work that literature does, work we can understand if we read and listen to the writing with sufficient and careful attention. And while these writers resist and shut down certain groundings of being and identity, there is a set of non-identitarian openings created in their work, and in Kim’s own study, openings that bring the corpus together. A different kind of radical politics becomes apparent through unbecoming, a revolutionary hopefulness generated by imaginary worlds without feminine/feminist difference, bodies, subjects, and identities. Unbecoming Lanuguage
is a smart and complicated book that will be of interest to readers of each one and all three of these authors, to anyone interested in French literary and feminist history, and to a wider field of those for whom difference remains an open and troubling theoretical and political question.
Roxanne Panchasi is an Associate Professor of History at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada who specializes in twentieth and twenty-first century France and its empire. She is the author of
Future Tense: The Culture of Anticipation in France Between the Wars(2009). Her current research focuses on the history of French nuclear weapons and testing since 1945. Her most recent article, '"No Hiroshima in Africa": The Algerian War and the Question of French Nuclear Tests in the Sahara' appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of History of the Present. She lives and reads in Vancouver, Canada. If you have a recent title to suggest for the podcast, please send her an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).