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Joy Sorman & Catherine Lacey in Conversation ONLINE EVENT Albertine Bookstore/French Embassy

Social Mobility in Twenty-First-Century France

Photo by Joel Filipe on Unsplash

Social climbers—the core characters of modern novels—have made a spectacular come-back in twenty-first-century France to become the digest of our political and literary moment. To apprehend this contemporary corpus of novels and narratives, Morgane Cadieu will survey the “conceptual characters” of class mobility in literature, sociology, and everyday fixed expressions (especially transfuge and transclasse) to subsequently introduce the neologism of the “parvenant” who, unlike a parvenu, has not arrived yet, is always arriving, or might as well return. Along the way, Cadieu will show that socially mobile writers and characters challenge interdisciplinary readings and the sociology of literature, thereby compelling us to reflect on the current state of literary criticism. Drawing examples from the works of Annie Ernaux, Marie NDiaye, Abdellah Taïa, Édouard Louis, J.D. Vance, and Tara Westover, but also Thomas Piketty and Alan Krueger, Cadieu will contrast the French and American literary and economic ways of representing social emancipation in order to explain the need for a poetics of class mobility. 


Morgane Cadieu is an Associate Professor of French at Yale University. She specializes in contemporary prose; space and randomness in theory and literature; narratives of social emancipation; materialist philosophies; and the aesthetics of trains. She is the author of Marcher au hasard: clinamen et création dans la prose du XXème siècle, and is now completing a book on social mobility in twenty-first-century France. She has co-edited the special issue “Beaches and Ports” for Comparative Literature and is co-directing a volume on Monique Wittig for Yale French Studies. Her most recent article uncovers the ecology of grass in the works of Patrick Modiano.

Co-sponsored by the Program in Contemporary European Politics and Society

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