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On Both Sides of the Tracks

Social Mobility in Contemporary French Literature

An analysis of social mobility in contemporary French literature that offers a new perspective on figures who move between social classes.

Social climbers have often been the core characters of novels. Their position between traditional tiers in society makes them a touchstone for any political and literary moment, including our own. Morgane Cadieu’s study looks at a certain kind of contemporary social climber in French literature whom she calls the parvenant. Taken from the French term parvenu, which refers to one who is newly arrived, a parvenant is a character who shuttles between social groups. A parvenant may reach the level of another social class, but devises literary ways to come back, constantly undoing any fixed ideas of social affiliation.

Focusing on recent French novels and autobiographies, On Both Sides of the Tracks speaks powerfully to issues of emancipation and class. Cadieu offers a fresh, critical look at tales of upward mobility in the work of Annie Ernaux, Kaoutar Harchi, Michel Houellebecq, Édouard Louis, and Marie NDiaye, shedding fascinating light on social mobility today as a formal, literary problem.

320 pages | 6 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2

Literature and Literary Criticism: Romance Languages

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