Thresholds of Meaning examines contemporary French narrative and explores two related issues: the centrality within recent French fiction and autofiction of the themes of passage, ritual and liminality; and the thematic continuity which links this work with its literary ancestors of the 1960s and 1970s. Through the close analysis of novels and récits by Pierre Bergounioux, François Bon, Marie Darrieussecq, Hélène Lenoir, Laurent Mauvignier and Jean Rouaud, Duffy demonstrates the ways in which contemporary narrative, while capitalising on the formal lessons of the nouveau roman and drawing upon a shared repertoire of motifs and themes, engages with the complex processes by which meaning is produced in the referential world and, in particular, with the rituals and codes that social man brings into play in order to negotiate the various stages of the human life-cycle. By the application of concepts and models derived from ritual theory and from visual analysis, Thresholds of Meaning situates itself at the intersection of the developing field of literature and anthropology studies and research into word and image.
Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.
Thresholds of Meaning makes a valuable contribution to the study of the contemporary novel, but the non-specialist would also be interested by the Introduction, whose survey of the novel from the postwar period to the present shows that scholarly assumptions about today’s fiction are changing for the better.
French Studies, vol 66, no 1
... this thought-provoking analysis of contemporary French literature, which astutely balances theory and close reading, engages the reader in the discovery of an original thematic form of narrative, one delimited less by events than by “apparently unremarkable human behavior,” that is, the polyvalence and instability inherent in the creation of meaning and of selfhood negotiated through passage and states of liminality.