A Study of Working Women in Selected Postwar Texts by French Women Writers

Kellett, Janine (2000) A Study of Working Women in Selected Postwar Texts by French Women Writers. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis analyses the literary representations of working women by the following French women writers: Simone de Beauvoir, Simone Weil, Christiane Rochefort, Gisele Halimi, Marie Cardinal, Janine Bregeon, Claire Etcherelli, Annie Ernaux, Annie Leclerc, Dorothee Letessier, Michele Fitoussi and Emmanuele Bernheim. A twenty-two page introduction starts from the premise that le travail n'est pas une panacee'. The writings are contextualised in relationship to the social, political and economic developments during the postwar period. In chapter one, 'Politics, Language and Social Realism' there follows an analysis of the importance of the events May 1968 and an examination of the problematic politics of French feminist language. However, the main focus of the chapter is on the social realism of women's lived experience. In chapter two, 'L'Ecole des femmes', a critical investigation of the female curriculum and career prospects is carried out, while particular attention is paid to Beauvoir's critique of the education of girls during the period. Moreover, the inconsistencies between Beauvoir's memoirs and her fictions are highlighted. Further sections describe the education of French girls in the 1950s at the hands of Catholic teachers who instruct them that 'Maman c'est le plus beau metier'. Gender stereotyping at home and school is examined at length. The upbringing and socialisation of female children is then discussed under the headings 'Parental influence', 'Sex education and taboos' and 'Peer and social pressures'. Chapter three, 'Housework: the Death of Romance', focuses on the domestic labour debate and propounds the thesis that social class and sexual stratification constitute a double oppression for the 'second sex'. Indeed it is even suggested that housework turns women's cherished interiors, on which they lavish so much misplaced love and attention, into workhouses. The psychological effects of this are shown to be disastrous. Chapter four, 'O. S. toute sa vie, c'est pas une vie' proceeds from Weil's courageous social experiment, 'Journal d'usine', to the worm's eye view of the factory floor as perceived by the protagonists of Letessier and Etcherelli. The workers' oppression is exacerbated by the sexual harassment to which they are routinely subjected and the deleterious effects of the assembly line on their health. Two final sections on 'Women and trade unions' and 'Shop and office work' complete a pessimistic scenario which shows that the contribution made by female employees is seldom recognised at its true value. In chapter five, 'Professional women and maternal guilt', two major texts by Marie Cardinal, Le Passe empiete and Les Grands Desordres are selected in order to foreground the perennial difficulties women face in reconciling work and family. The conclusion however suggests that some of the most recent sociological and fictional texts mark a definitive progression in women's sexual and professional emancipation.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Adviser: Christine Jimack
Keywords: French literature, Women's studies
Date of Award: 2000
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2000-76278
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2019 16:11
Last Modified: 19 Nov 2019 16:11
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/76278

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