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Introducing the Parvenant: Social Mobility in Twenty-First-Century France

Morgane Cadieu, Yale University

October 6, 2021 · 4:30 pm6:00 pm EDT · Zoom

Department of French and Italian

Social climbers—the core characters of modern novels—have made a spectacular come-back in twenty-first-century France to become the digest of our political and literary moment. To apprehend this contemporary corpus of novels and narratives, Morgane Cadieu will survey the “conceptual characters” of class mobility in literature, sociology, and everyday fixed expressions (especially transfuge and transclasse) to subsequently introduce the neologism of the “parvenant” who, unlike a parvenu, has not arrived yet, is always arriving, or might as well return. Along the way, Cadieu will show that socially mobile writers and characters challenge interdisciplinary readings and the sociology of literature, thereby compelling us to reflect on the current state of literary criticism. Drawing examples from the works of Annie Ernaux, Marie NDiaye, Abdellah Taïa, Édouard Louis, J.D. Vance, and Tara Westover, but also Thomas Piketty and Alan Krueger, Cadieu will contrast the French and American literary and economic ways of representing social emancipation in order to explain the need for a poetics of class mobility.

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