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Open Access Feminist Manifesto or Hardcore Porn? Virginie Despentes's Transgression

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This article begins with a short overview of the recent phenomenon of erotic writing by French women authors, showing that transgression is becoming one of the hallmarks of women writers' and filmmakers' work. The article then concentrates on Virginie Despentes's essay King Kong Théorie (2006) and her most recent novel, Apocalypse Bébé (2011). I argue that King Kong Théorie is a provocative, self-reflexive and narcissistic text but that it ultimately opens French feminist theory to an anti-essentialist, anti-elitist readership. The article then analyses Despentes's most recent novel Apocalypse Bébé, which includes a series of female characters that each subvert stereotypes of female representation and broaden the text to a plurivocal expression of female subjectivity. Taken together, I show that these two texts – one theoretical and autobiographical, the other fictional — probe cultural and sexual taboos, question the boundaries of feminism, subvert a male point of view of sex and sexuality, and explore female erotic experience with shocking candour. Despentes's work, I argue, is part of a new French feminism that builds on the first- and second-wave feminist movements by confronting the reality of women's lived experience with the limits of representation of female experience.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 31, 2012

More about this publication?
  • The Irish Journal of French Studies is an annual international refereed journal published by the Association des Études Françaises et Francophones d'Irlande. Articles in English, French or Irish are welcomed on any aspect of research in the area of French and Francophone culture, society, literature and thought. Articles published within the last two years are available free online to members and may be purchased by non-members. All other articles are available on an open access basis.

    Please note that the Print ISSN listed for the journal on this website applies to volumes 1 to 10, and part of volume 16. All other volumes are published, in their entirety, on-line only.

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