Australian Journal of French Studies

Deviant Care: Chanson douce and the Killer Nanny

Australian Journal of French Studies (2020), 57, (3), 381–395.

Abstract

This article examines the darker side of care as depicted in Leïla Slimani’s Chanson douce (2016), an important aspect of the carer-caree relationship that has been much less documented than the positive nature of care-giving. The article traces the nanny’s trajectory through different stages of care from early feelings of attachment and devotion to a point of crushing fear, unmanageable anxiety and overwhelming exhaustion, which then leads her onto a path of incremental abuse. Rather than focusing on the actual crime committed (infanticide), the article endeavours to understand the nanny’s personal circumstances and the way in which they inflect her care-giving and ultimately steer it towards a deviant turn. The overall aim of the article is to demonstrate that the reality of care is much more complex than one might realize (especially when it is caught up in the gruelling ideals of perfect motherhood) and more often than not co-exists alongside various forms of abuse, which in the case of Chanson douce, culminate in tragedy.

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Author details

RODGERS, JULIE