Journal of Romance Studies

The poetics of tactility in Jean Genet’s: Notre-Dame-des-Fleurs

Journal of Romance Studies (2020), 20, (1), 119–137.


Touch and physical sensation play a major role in Jean Genet’s literary and essayistic corpus. In many of Genet’s works, touch fills a double role: it is both a stylistic element which provides characterization and depth, and a meta-textual element which discloses the process of production of the work itself. This double role comes to the fore in Genet’s debut novel Notre-Damedes-Fleurs (1966 [1943]) [Our Lady of the Flowers (2004c [1963])], as Genet’s writing constantly oscillates between the fictional narrative he sets up and the personal experience of writing. The article analyses the various forms of tactility in Genet’s novel, giving special attention to its function as the nexus between the textual and meta-textual levels of the work. Touch, both as an act and a sensation, appears as a creative moment, which forms a uniquely subtle and discreet symbolic language as an alternative to verbal communication. The article is structured around three themes: masturbation, recollection, and viscosity, all of which feature prominently in the novel and contribute to Genet’s sophisticated idea of creative tactility. In addition, the article draws on theoretical and critical literature on the subject of tactility in aesthetic and literary contexts.

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Author details

Rosenberg, Daniel