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Orphaned Fathers in Contemporary French Literature: Writing Child Loss from a Paternal Perspective

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In light of a growing number of trauma narratives about child death authored from a paternal perspective within the scope of contemporary French literature, this article explores the récits de deuil of four lesser-studied orphaned fathers: Alain Thiesse's Elle s'appelait Emma (2014), Philippe Delaroche's La Gloire d'Inès (2016), Michel Rostain's Le Fils (2011), and Bernard Chambaz's À tombeau ouvert (2016). This article considers the insight these texts provide into a father's experience of surviving his child and what this means for his altered identity, for his new role in life, and for the ways in which he turns to literature to voice grief. As we reflect on this changed paternal identity as articulated in these examples, we focus on each author's objective(s) in giving sorrow words as well as the choice of literary modalities of these works. A common thread running throughout these varied examples is the topos of voice: an angry scream and a cry for justice, a belated address, and imagined conversations which traverse the present and the afterlife. We discuss the discursive strategies in these grief narratives and three separate aspects of narrative construction with which they engage. First, we consider the father's cry and the strategies of citation in the témoignage Elle s'appelait Emma. Second, we survey the implications of life writing and the ethical imperative with which they coincide in a father's belated address to his deceased daughter in La Gloire d'Inès. Finally, we investigate how modes of fiction restructure and reconceptualize father-son transmission and filiation in Le Fils and À tombeau ouvert. For mothers and fathers alike, the récit de deuil confronts the paradoxical bind of mourning testimony. The crisis of meaning that losing a child sets in motion impels these fathers to make sense of the unthinkable in the process of writing.
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Keywords: ALAIN THIESSE; BERNARD CHAMBAZ; CHILD LOSS; FATHER PERSPECTIVE; MICHEL ROSTAIN; PHILIPPE DELAROCHE

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 9, 2019

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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