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N° 25, 2022 - Modes of authorisation in contemporary narrative, edited by Jonas Hock, Estelle Mouton-Rovira and Kai Nonnenmacher

Proposal deadline: December 1, 2021

For nearly half a century now, narrative forms have developed by maintaining a delicate balance between distancing themselves from formalism, inscribing themselves within a long literary tradition, and maintaining a self-reflexive preoccupation. How has the authoritative nature of contemporary narratives been displaced or reconfigured in the literature of the first two decades of the 21st century? How do they assert their legitimacy today? We propose to study the modes of authorization internal to narratives: those elements within texts that contribute to constructing or expressing their authority, in statu nascendi, in relation to their present.

Modernity has replaced the normative poetic arts with what might be called a “poetics in progress”, which constitutes a form of self-justification through which literature produces its own norms. We seek to examine the renewal of modes of authorisation in narratives at the beginning of the 21st century in order to understand how narratives are inscribed in a cultural, social and political contexts while at the same time becoming a force of interpretation. Current changes in readership, such as the renewal of the "symbolic capital" of reading and the democratization of reading, the instability of truth and falsehood, or the reconfigurations of media in the digital era, all require literature to negotiate its place in these discursive ecosystems and to defend its heuristic power.

Contemporary narratives reinterpret their authority through their relationship to literary models, criticism, the human sciences, and various forms of knowledge. This issue of fixxion therefore aims to reflect on the implicit and explicit authorisation processes of narrative forms (novels, narratives, but also, more broadly, fiction). In order to outline this novelistic poetics of authorization, we propose two perspectives that are not mutually exclusive, perspectives through which narrative asserts its relevance to the present by establishing and legitimizing itself.

In the 21st century, the effects of authority sought or created by the relationship to the literary model have changed. Contemporary narrative is moving away from pastiche and postmodern games in favour of intertextual practices, taking advantage of this authority without being locked into the formal or thematic frameworks it proposes. Various attempts to politicise the intertextual gesture through rewriting, and generic hybridity, which can be read as different claims to authority, attest to this strategy.

While the heteronomy of literature today is generally asserted, the ways in which narrative justifies its literary nature are changing. Can fiction authorise its own discourse on major political and social issues (ecology, gender, feminism, the world of work, etc.)? Through what textual strategies does it do so? The enunciative strategies employed to produce an authoritative effect, the return to the conventions of realism, the interdisciplinary recourse to the human sciences, and the highlighting of individual experience as valuable testimony all merit our consideration.

Possible avenues of inquiry:

  • Is having recourse to the epic or to other generic models a specific way of renewing the legitimacy of the novel as a genre (Maylis de Kerangal, Céline Minard, Laurent Gaudé, Mathias Enard or Frédéric Werst...)? Rewriting as a political gesture, as a decentring of literary authority and of the legitimacy of generic models (Boualem Sansal, Kamel Daoud).

  • Is the use of self-reflexive forms always a strategy of authorisation, calling into question the authority of narrative (Éric Chevillard, Hervé Le Tellier, Tanguy Viel, Olivia Rosenthal...)?

  • What modes of discourse, what enunciative forms, attract the reader's attention? Do self-narratives, through their proximity to testimony, constitute forms of authorisation for contemporary literary discourse?

  • How does narrative confront and engage with major societal issues? Ecology (Emmanuelle Pagano, Pierre Ducrozet), gender (Emmanuelle Bayamack-Tam, Edouard Louis), feminism (Virginie Despentes, Chloé Delaume, Scholastique Mukasonga) or social conflicts (Arno Bertina, Sandra Lucbert) are all discursive territories that narrative explores, at times through utopian or dystopian visions.

These select aspects of the question are not be read as isolated strategies, but rather as multiple prisms through which to observe the relevance of the contemporary narrative and its capacity to be authoritative within a set of formal constraints, knowledge systems, and discourses.

In addition, the question of the external legitimation of the contemporary (from a more sociological or institutional perspective), may be considered alongside of an internal, literary approach. Contributions will preferably focus on several texts, drawn from a French and Francophone narrative corpus. Comparative perspectives are also welcome.

Article proposals of around 300 words, in French or in English, are due December 1, 2021, and should be sent to fixxion21[at] (an editor will register you as an author and send you the journal’s MSWord template).

If your proposal is accepted, completed articles (using the template and following the journal’s author guidelines) are to be submitted to fixxion21[at] by Juin 15, 2022, for evaluation by the editorial committee of the Critical Review of French Contemporary Fixxion.

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