Journal of Romance studies

Women’s stories from le mouroir

Recent French depictions of the end-of-life stage in retirement homes

Journal of Romance studies (2017), 17, (3), 345–360.

Abstract

How can we capture and respond to stories from this ‘monde du zéro’ [‘world of zero’] (Tirelli), a predominantly female domain? Drawing on a range of recent texts in French, this study examines ways in which sociological, psychological, fictional, and autofictional works represent the end stages of lives spent in retirement homes or mouroirs. These institutions are generally seen as hostile environments which, rather than nurturing and supporting their résidants, instead promote physical and mental decline by placing more importance on routine and financial efficiency than on catering to individual needs. While fictional accounts (Baroche, Deghelt, Brisac) may have recourse to escape mechanisms of various kinds, texts with (auto)biographical content (Ernaux, Fleutiaux, Peigné) are less open-ended and upbeat. Daughters witnessing the negative impacts of ageing in such conditions, especially on female relatives, may struggle to maintain communication. Writing about the parent’s experiences, real and fictional overlapping, becomes a way finally to hear and respond to these otherwise lost voices.

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Anderson, Jean (2013) ‘No second chances? Grandmothering and storytelling in the work of Dominique Mainard’, in Experiment and Experience. Women’s Writing in France 2000–2010, ed. Gill Rye and Amaleena Damlé (Oxford: Peter Lang), 95–108. No second chances? Grandmothering and storytelling in the work of Dominique Mainard Experiment and Experience. Women’s Writing in France 2000–2010 95 108 Google Scholar

Anderson, Jean (2016) ‘“La dernière adresse”: Possessions, dispossession and the preservation of memory’, in Women’s Lives in Contemporary French and Francophone Literature, ed. Florence Ramond Jurney and Karen McPherson (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan), 95–104. “La dernière adresse”: Possessions, dispossession and the preservation of memory Women’s Lives in Contemporary French and Francophone Literature 95 104 Google Scholar

Badey-Rodriguez, Claudine (2003) La Vie en maison de retraite (Paris: Albin Michel). La Vie en maison de retraite Google Scholar

Baroche, Christiane (1993) Bonjour gens heureux (Paris: Julliard). Bonjour gens heureux Google Scholar

Beauvoir, Simone de (1970) La Vieillesse (Paris: Gallimard). La Vieillesse Google Scholar

Beauvoir, Simone de (1996) The Coming of Age, trans. Patrick O’Brian (New York: W.W. Norton). The Coming of Age Google Scholar

Brisac, Geneviève (2014) Dans les yeux des autres (Paris: Editions de l’olivier). Dans les yeux des autres Google Scholar

Coleman, Vernon (1993) Mrs Caldicot’s Cabbage War (n.p.: self-published). Mrs Caldicot’s Cabbage War Google Scholar

Deghelt, Frédérique (2009) La Grand-mère de Jade (Arles: Actes sud). La Grand-mère de Jade Google Scholar

Duponchelle, Annie, and Géraldine Elschner (2010) Pages de vie en maison de retraite. Témoignage et réflexion (Lyon: Chronique Sociale). Pages de vie en maison de retraite. Témoignage et réflexion Google Scholar

Erikson, Erik H. (1982) The Life Cycle Completed: A Review (New York: W.W. Norton). The Life Cycle Completed: A Review Google Scholar

Erikson, Erik H., and Joan M. Erikson (1997) The Life Cycle Completed: Extended Version (New York: W.W. Norton). The Life Cycle Completed: Extended Version Google Scholar

Ernaux, Annie (1987) Une femme (Paris: nrf Gallimard). Une femme Google Scholar

Ernaux, Annie (2003) A Woman’s Story, trans. Tanya Leslie (New York: Seven Stories Press). A Woman’s Story Google Scholar

Ernaux, Annie (1997) Je ne suis pas sortie de ma nuit (Paris: nrf Gallimard). Je ne suis pas sortie de ma nuit Google Scholar

Ernaux, Annie (1999) I Remain in Darkness, trans. Tanya Leslie (New York: Seven Stories Press). I Remain in Darkness Google Scholar

Fleutiaux, Pierrette (2001) Des phrases courtes, ma chérie (Arles: Actes sud). Des phrases courtes, ma chérie Google Scholar

Gautier, Pascale (2010) Les Vieilles (Paris: Gallimard). Les Vieilles Google Scholar

Gullette, Margaret Morganroth (1997) Declining to Decline: Cultural Combat and the Politics of the Midlife (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia). Declining to Decline: Cultural Combat and the Politics of the Midlife Google Scholar

Gullette, Margaret Morganroth (2011) Agewise: Fighting the New Ageism in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press). Agewise: Fighting the New Ageism in America Google Scholar

Gutting, Gary (2005) ‘Introduction. Michel Foucault: A user’s manual’, in The Cambridge Companion to Foucault, ed. Gary Gutting (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 1–28. Introduction. Michel Foucault: A user’s manual The Cambridge Companion to Foucault 1 28 Google Scholar

Hennezel, Edouard de, and Marie de Hennezel (2011) Qu’allons-nous faire de vous? Deux générations face à face (Paris: LGF/Carnets nord). Qu’allons-nous faire de vous? Deux générations face à face Google Scholar

Hennezel, Marie de (1997) La Mort intime: ceux qui vont mourir nous apprennent à vivre (Paris: Pocket). La Mort intime: ceux qui vont mourir nous apprennent à vivre Google Scholar

Hennezel, Marie de (2005) Mourir les yeux ouverts (Paris: Albin Michel). Mourir les yeux ouverts Google Scholar

Hennezel, Marie de (2012) Seize the Day. How the Dying Teach Us to Live, trans. Carol Brown Janeway (London: Macmillan). Seize the Day. How the Dying Teach Us to Live Google Scholar

INSEE (2013) La Vie en communauté: 1,6 million de personnes en France (INSEE Première). https://www.insee.fr/fr/statistiques/1280894 (accessed 3 December 2016). Google Scholar

Jurney, Florence Ramond, and Karen McPherson (2016) ‘Preface: Where the lines cross’, in Women’s Lives in Contemporary French and Francophone Literature, ed. Florence Ramond Jurney and Karen McPherson (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan), v–xviii. Preface: Where the lines cross Women’s Lives in Contemporary French and Francophone Literature Google Scholar

Katz, Stephen (2013) ‘Active and successful aging. Lifestyle as a gerontological idea’, Recherches sociologiques et anthropologiques 44. http://rsa.revues.org/910 (accessed 3 December 2016). Google Scholar

Lauby, Virginie (2011) Le Mouroir aux alouettes (Châlons-en-Champagne: Editions Ex Aequo). Le Mouroir aux alouettes Google Scholar

Maisondieu, Jean (2011) Le Crépuscule de la raison (Paris: Bayard jeunesse). Le Crépuscule de la raison Google Scholar

Nénin, François, and Sophie Lapart (2011) L’Or gris (Paris: Flammarion). L’Or gris Google Scholar

Nora, Pierre (1984) Lieux de mémoire (Paris: Gallimard). Lieux de mémoire Google Scholar

Nora, Pierre (1996) Realms of Memory: Rethinking the French Past, trans. Lawrence D. Kritzman (New York: Columbia University Press). Realms of Memory: Rethinking the French Past Google Scholar

Peigné, Geneviève, and Vanessa Van Durme (2014) Avant que j’oublie (Paris: Les Solitaires intempestifs). Avant que j’oublie Google Scholar

Peigné, Geneviève (2015) L’Interlocutrice (Paris: Le Nouvel Attila). L’Interlocutrice Google Scholar

Powell, Jason (2004) ‘Rethinking gerontology: Foucault, surveillance and the positioning of old age’, Sincronía 31. http://sincronia.cucsh.udg.mx/powell04.htm (accessed 28 November 2016). Google Scholar

Ravenne, Christie (2013) Gagatorium. Quatre ans dans un mouroir doré (Paris: Fayard). Gagatorium. Quatre ans dans un mouroir doré Google Scholar

Réjault, William (2006) La Chambre d’Albert Camus et autres nouvelles (Paris: Privé). La Chambre d’Albert Camus et autres nouvelles Google Scholar

Réjault, William (2011) Maman, est-ce que ta chambre te plaît? Survivre en maison de retraite (Paris: J’ai lu). Maman, est-ce que ta chambre te plaît? Survivre en maison de retraite Google Scholar

Sarrazin-Moyne, Catherine (2011) Tu verras, tu seras bien (Gap: Yves Michel). Tu verras, tu seras bien Google Scholar

Serreau, Geneviève (2005) ‘Arrangements’, in Eclats de vie (Paris: Editions des femmes), 15–24. Arrangements Eclats de vie 15 24 Google Scholar

Tirelli, Jean (2014) Journal d’une vieille dame en maison de retraite (Paris: L’Harmattan). Journal d’une vieille dame en maison de retraite Google Scholar

Waxman, Barbara Frey (1990) From the Hearth to the Open Road: A Feminist Study of Ageing in Contemporary Literature (New York and London: Greenwood). From the Hearth to the Open Road: A Feminist Study of Ageing in Contemporary Literature Google Scholar

Woodward, Kathleen (1991) Aging and its Discontents: Freud and Other Fictions (Bloomington: Indiana University Press). Aging and its Discontents: Freud and Other Fictions Google Scholar

Woodward, Kathleen (ed.) (1999) Figuring Age: Women, Bodies, Generations (Bloomington: Indiana University Press). Figuring Age: Women, Bodies, Generations Google Scholar

Woodward, Kathleen (2006) ‘Performing age, performing gender’, NSWA Journal 18: 162–189. Performing age, performing gender NSWA Journal 18 162 189 Google Scholar

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Anderson, Jean