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Michel Houellebecq

Seminar 1.

Please read Parts I and II of the novel (up to p. 121 of the Flammarion edition).

Seminar discussion topics:

• Role and functions of literature

• What significance do you attribute to Houellebecq’s particular use of J. K. Huysmans and late-19th-century literature?

• Sentence structure, mood and voice

• Register and rhythm

• What does the novel have to say about the nature of freedom?

• Boredom and inertia, weariness

• Vision (and presentation) of intimate relations.

• Portrait of multicultural France (Religion and demography)

• Image of higher education in France

• Interpenetration of politics and religion

• Role of media

• Islam and gender

• Narrative and symbolic role of food and drink

Seminar 2

Please prepare a commentary on the following passage: p. 151 'Marie-Françoise m'accueillit...' to p. 154 '...objectai-je confusément.'

Read to the end of the novel and prepare notes on the following discussion topics:

• La France profonde

• Idea and representation of 'civil war' in France

• Electoral politics and political strategy

• What is the effect of including real-life personalities in the narrative?

• What are the reasons for the Muslim Brotherhood's success? How credible do you find this suggested future?

• National identity and patriotism

• Christianity

• Secularism

• Social change in Islamic France

• Education

• Sexuality

• Recurrent figures de style

• Political economy

• Family

• Role of alcohol in the novel

• Civilisations: rise and fall, life and death

Secondary reading on Houellebecq

• Abecassis, J. L., ‘The Eclipse of Desire: L’Affaire Houellebecq’, Modern Language Notes, 115 (2000), 801-26.

• Best, Victoria and Martin Crowley, The New Pornographies: Explicit Sex in Recent French Fiction and Film, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007.

• Betty, Louis, 'Classical Secularisation Theory in Contemporary Literature - The Curious Case of Michel Houellebecq', Literature & Theology 27.1 (2013), pp. 98-115.

  • Betty, Louis, Without God: Michel Houellebecq and Materialist Horror, University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2016.

• Boileau, Gilles, 'Communion of the Flesh: Original Sin according to Michel Houellebecq', Australian Journal of French Studies 50.3 (2013), pp. 305-17.

• Bowd, Garin, ‘Michel Houellebecq and the Pursuit of Happiness’, Nottingham French Studies, 41, 1 (2002), 28-39.

• Burchweitz, Nurit, An Officer of Civilization: The Poetics of Michel Houellebecq, Bern: Peter Lang, 2015.

• Clément, Murielle Lucie and Sabine van Wesemael (eds.), Michel Houellebecq sous la loupe, Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2007.

• Clément, Murielle Lucie and Sabine van Wesemael (eds), Michel Houellebecq à la une, Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2011.

• Crowley, Martin, 'Low Resistance', in Sara Crangle and Peter Nicholls (eds), On Bathos: Literature, Art, Music, London: Continuum, 2010, pp. 148-64.

• Cruickshank, Ruth, Fin de millénaire French Fiction: The Aesthetics of Crisis, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

• Demonpion, Denis, Houellebecq non autorisé: Enquête sur un phénomène, Paris: Maren Sell Éditeurs, 2005.

• Dion, Robert and Élisabeth Haghebaert, ‘Le cas de Michel Houellebecq et la dynamique des genres littéraires’, French Studies, 55, 4 (2001), 509-24.

• Grass, Delphine, 'Domesticating Hierarchies, Eugenic Hygiene and Exclusion Zones: The Dogs and Clones of Houellebecq's La Possibilité d'une île', L'Esprit créateur 52, 2 (2012), 127-40.

• Jeffery, Ben, Anti-Matter: Michel Houellebecq and Depressive Realism, Winchester: Zero Books, 2011.

• Lloyd, Vincent, ‘Michel Houellebecq and the Theological Virtues’, Literature & Theology 23, 1 (2009), 84-98.

• Maris, Bernard, Houellebecq économiste, Paris: Flammarion, 2014.

• McCann, John, Michel Houellebecq: Author of our Times, Oxford: Peter Lang, 2010.

• Morrey, Douglas, ‘Stop the World, or What’s Queer about Michel Houellebecq?’, in James Day (ed.), Queer Sexualities in French and Francophone Literature and Film, Amsterdam: Rodopi (2007), 177-92.

• Morrey, Douglas, ‘Sex and the Single Male: Houellebecq, Feminism and Hegemonic Masculinity’, Yale French Studies, 116-117 (2009), 141-52.

• Morrey, Douglas, 'Houellebecq, Genetics and Evolutionary Psychology', in Nicholas Saul and Simon J. James (eds), The Evolution of Literature: Legacies of Darwin in European Cultures, Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2011, pp. 227-38.

• Morrey, Douglas, Michel Houellebecq: Humanity and its Aftermath, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2013.

• Noguez, Dominique, Houellebecq, en fait, Paris: Fayard, 2003.

• Patricola, Jean-François, Michel Houellebecq ou la provocation permanente, Paris: Éditions Écriture, 2005.

• Sweeney, Carole, Michel Houellebecq and the Literature of Despair, New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013.

• Van Wesemael, Sabine and Bruno Viard (eds), L’Unité de l’oeuvre de Michel Houellebecq, Paris: Classiques Garnier, 2013.