Lauréat 2019

20th & 21st Century French & Francophone Studies International Colloquium, Catastrophes, cataclysms, adaptation and survival / Catastrophes, cataclysmes, s’adapter et survivre, 14-16 March 2019 at the Skirvin Hilton, Oklahoma City, OK. Co-hosting institutions: University of Central Oklahoma, University of Oklahoma, and University of Tulsa

Le Prix Recherche au présent 2019 a été attribué à Valentin DUQUET (The University of Texas at Austin) pour sa contribution “Terror and Tremors: Earthquakes and Terrorism in Maïssa Bey’s Surtout ne te retourne pas

After the 2015 terror attacks in France, French historian Pascal Ory explained that although “terrorism” and “earthquakes” share a common etymology and seem to shock societies in similar ways, there are essentially opposite—the former is absolutely intentional, the latter is purely accidental. Yet, an Algerian novel from 2005 invites us to rethink further this dialectic: Maïssa Bey’s Surtout ne te retourne pas, in which earthquakes in Algiers can be read as metaphors of the terrors and aftershocks of the Black Decade. Bey paints an Algeria that has become fragmented, superstitious, with horrors of the past re-emerging through the cracks of the dismantled city space. Through her poetic prose, we see terror and tremors disrupting social relations comparably. After the initial trauma, ideologies and identities shift, se chevauchent, se dédoublent, like tectonic plates not simply clashing but also sliding on top of one another. In the end, I analyze the novel as a meta-textual earthquake itself: after exposing how crimes and disasters flipped Algeria upside down, Maïssa Bey flips her own world inside out by transgressing Foucault’s sacred spaces. With the private lives and agency of her female protagonists, she fights back against radical Islamism. Her artistic gesture is neither terror nor tremors, but rather a third ground of creative insurgency that breaks taboos and shakes institutions. I call that act “tremorism.”


Second classé 2019 : Jeffrey Martin Fuller (New York University) “Paris, Capital of the Debacle: Aragon, Jasienski, and Revolutionary Catastrophism”

Expressions of desire for catastrophe, imagined as a remedy for bourgeois inertia, are common among the interwar avant-garde. This catastrophism exerts a powerful influence upon its conceptions of political revolution, which is understood less as the seizure of state power than as the wholesale destruction of the institutions and symbols of capitalist modernity, of which the city in general, and Paris in particular, becomes a privileged example. In this paper, I explore the “revolutionary catastrophism” of the interwar avant-garde primarily by way of two texts in which the destruction of Paris is evoked: the Polish Futurist Bruno Jasienski’s 1928 novel Je brûle Paris (first published serially in the Communist daily l’Humanité), and Louis Aragon’s 1930 succès de scandale, “Front rouge.” Jasienski’s novel in particular contrasts interestingly with most current imaginings of the “post apocalyptic” precisely because of its utopianism. It has become something of a cliché to remark that today it is easier to envision the end of the world than a more modest end to capitalism; what these texts propose is that the two might not look so different.