Class, Confinement and Criminality in Contemporary Women’s Writing

Class, Confinement and Criminality in Contemporary Women’s Writing
5 August 2020, 10.00am - 11.15am

CCWW PGR online seminar series

All are invited to attend the Centre’s second, third and fourth PGR online seminars, as part of the inaugural series entitled 'Class, Confinement and Criminality'. This triad of themes is intentionally broad, opening out to consideration of women’s struggles at this critical moment in time, as well as tracing their evolution. The seminar series arises out of the need to create alternative spaces for academic discussion, engagement and motivation during these difficult times as we all continue to come to terms with COVID-19 and its impact.

The events outlined below tie together the themes of Class, Confinement and Criminality with two 15-minute papers followed by a Q&A. All events will be held in English.

Seminar 2

5 August 2020

Speaker 1
Françoise Campbell (IMLR Visiting Fellow): “Confinement and Téléréalisme in Chloé Delaume’s J’habite dans la television

Abstract: In response to the recent wave of lockdown diaries written by French writers since the Covid19 pandemic, author Chloé Delaume wrote the following tweet: “Personnellement, je grossis en écoutant Indochine. Du coup ça manque d’enjeux narratifs pour faire un bon journal de confinement.” Replete with irony, this comment, delivered through social media, nevertheless provides a rather uncanny portrait of the lack of structure and productivity that have come characterise our current situation. Themes of confinement and technological mediation can be read throughout Delaume’s oeuvre: from the textual and visual documentation of her Sims avatar in Corpus Simsi (2003) to the imagination of a “Canal National” broadcasting network in the post-apocalyptic world of les Sorcières de la république (2016). These themes find what are perhaps their most prescient examples in her 2006 novel J’habite dans la télévision, an autofictional experiment in which Delaume narrates 22 months of non-stop television viewing.  

In this presentation I will focus on the representation of confinement and what the author terms “téléréalisme” in J’habite dans la télévision, in order to explore what this text can tell us about contemporary experiences of confinement, mediation and mediatisation. Tracing the narrator’s trajectory across her initial project of analysing and resisting the media’s influence to episodes of inevitable passivity, I will explore the effects of isolation and mediation on subjectivity by drawing on theory from Paul Virilio and Gilles Deleuze. I will then conclude by considering how the experiences of “téléréalisme” seen in this novel dialogue with Delaume’s own autofictional project and the critical nature of social media across her work more broadly. 

Speaker 2
Ciara Gorman (Queen’s University Belfast): “Good Housekeeping: Confinement and Criminality in the Domestic Space”

Abstract: Women’s labour in the home and its frequent exploitation has long been the subject of sociological investigation, in texts as wide-ranging as Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique (1963) to contemporary investigations into the challenges of nannying and the domestic enslavement of migrants. This paper will examine the representation of contemporary ‘domestic service’ through the lens of confinement and criminality in two award-winning French novels: Leïla Slimani’s Chanson douce (Gallimard, 2016) and Karine Giebel’s Toutes blessent, la dernière tue (Pocket, 2019). Slimani’s novel charts the unravelling of a nanny for a middle-class family in Paris; Giebel mirrors this story darkly, evoking the violence and trauma of modern slavery in her narrative of a girl sold at age eight to a wealthy family in Paris to ‘keep house’ for them. This paper will begin by posing the question, ‘Who works in the home?’ in the two novels chosen, exploring the different levels of ‘service’ delivered in the domestic sphere by three different classes of character: mothers, nannies and modern slaves. From here, I will reflect on the representation of confinement as both a physical and mental state in these novels, one of cupboards and coercion, turning the home into a pressure-cooker of desperation. This paper will close on a discussion of the crimes committed by both protagonists of our novels, the lethal product of that pressure-cooker, and how the criminality of women pushed to the brink by the nature of their work – and its outright illegality, its abusive inhumanity in the case of Toutes blessent – reveals the fallacies in claims of independence and blamelessness in a world propped up by the exploitation of the women who work in our homes.

This free event will be held online, at 10:00 am BST. Please note that it is essential that you register in advance to join the event, by using the Book Now button below. 

Download guidance on participating in an online event (pdf)

Seminar programme

22 July 2020, 10:00-11:15 BST
Seminar 1
Jemima Jobling (Newcastle): "Navigating Space and Class in Annie Ernaux’s Mémoire de fille (2016) – an exploration of class-based anxiety as told through the text’s intimate bedroom spaces"
Jessica Rushton (Durham): "Destablising the Nineteenth-Century Maidservant Revolt Narrative: Leïla Slimani’s Chanson douce (2016) – an investigation into how Slimani’s nanny figure echoes a nineteenth-century discourse around the rebellious maidservant"

5 August 2020, 10:00-11:15 BST
Seminar 2
Françoise Campbell (IMLR Visiting Fellow): “Confinement and Téléréalisme in Chloé Delaume’s J’habite dans la television
Ciara Gorman (Queen’s University Belfast): “Good Housekeeping: Confinement and Criminality in the Domestic Space”

19 August 2020, 10:00-11:15 BST
Seminar 3
Beatrice Ivey (University of Sheffield): “Murder, Memory, and Writing Other Women’s Stories in Maïssa Bey’s Nulle Autre Voix (2018)”
Mireille Rebeiz, (Dickinson College, USA): "From darkness to spotlight: how magical realism brings women out of confinement and into the light in Hyam Yared’s L’Armoire des Ombres"

2 September 2020, 10:00-11:15 BST
Seminar 4
Sonja Stojanovic (University of Notre Dame, USA): “Exposed Body: La caissière in Contemporary France”
Nadia Terki (Durham University): “Gender and terrorism: the role of women within radical movements”


Jessica Rushton
020 7862 8738