‘Curiouser and curiouser’: Childhood figures to live by, in writings in French by Lydia Flem and Philippe Forest

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Abstract / Description of output

The article analyses selected writings in French by Lydia Flem and Philippe Forest, with a focus on the intertextual presence of literary figures from well-known sources, identifications with figures from imaginary worlds, and their relationship to the writing project. The authors’ curiosity about the place of storytelling in understanding selves and lives extends to how literature connects with experiences that otherwise remain inaccessible, or elude conscious awareness. The formal and thematic functions of Lewis Carroll’s Alice and J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan are examined in Flem’s Comment je me suis séparée de ma fille et de mon quasi-fils and Forest’s L’Enfant éternel. It is argued that via the perspectives of the (parental) narrators in both texts, the literary figures mobilise the creative expression of experiences of change and loss. The [re]turn to literature is not because it saves, or consoles, these writers insist; they describe the compelling and paradoxically sustaining functions of reading and writing, as they precisely fail to offer up any certain resolution. Literature’s capacity to enliven curiosity about human experience means that writing is life; literary figures live with and in them. In a similar spirit to Deborah Levy’s description of ‘living autobiography’, it is argued that the authors here attest to the need and desire to write in an engaged way, characteristic of a writing practice that encompasses concrete and imaginary worlds, reality and fantasy. From explorations of transition and loss, Flem’s ‘bébé de papier’ and Forest’s ‘être de papier’ emerge.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbercqad041
Pages (from-to)491 - 512
JournalForum for Modern Language Studies
Issue number4
Early online date28 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Lydia Flem
  • Philippe Forest
  • children’s literature
  • Peter Pan
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • loss
  • curiosity
  • creativity


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