Variations of the Metaphysical Detective Story in the French and Francophone World
A CUNY Manifold Ebook
edited by Iziar de Miguel and Antoine Dechêne
The metaphysical detective story is a branch of crime fiction which has been investigated since Howard Haycraft first coined the term in 1942. Most notably, Patricia Merivale (1967), Michael Holquist (1971), and William V. Spanos have associated this phenomenon with the development of experimental postmodern fiction. To this day, one of the best attempts to define a metaphysical detective story remains the collective volume edited by Patricia Merivale and Susan E. Sweeney Detecting Texts: The Metaphysical Detective Story from Poe to Postmodernism (1999). The book emphasizes the proto-postmodern elements of parody, readerly identification, metafiction, self-reflexivity, and absence of closure characterizing the genre. Antoine Dechêne has followed in Merivale and Sweeney's footsteps publishing in 2016 the first volume in French dedicated to the subgenre Le Thriller métaphysique d'Edgar Allan Poe à nos jours (to which both critics contributed) and in 2018 the first monograph on the subject Detective Fiction and the Problem of Knowledge.
If these publications provide a wide range of (mainly literary) examples ranging from Poe to Paul Auster, they often seem to leave the francophone world out of the picture. In fact, the examples of francophone metaphysical detective stories seem circumscribed to French writers as well as to a certain period of time (roughly 30 years between the 1950s and the 1980s). In this respect, the usual suspects are Alain Robbe-Grillet's Les Gommes (1953), Georges Perec's La Disparition (1969) and Patrick Modiano's Rue des Boutiques Obscures (1978).
As Iziar De Miguel argues in her recent dissertation Enquêtes métaphysiques et identitaires dans la littérature et la fiction policière en France et en Afrique du Nord (2020), Kateb Yacine's Nedjma (1954), considered by Édouard Glissant one of the most important novels of the 20th century, provides another great example of opaque and fragmented narrative that can be viewed as a metaphysical quest. In Nedjma, four young Algerian men whose lives have been shattered by the crime of colonization seem not only to be investigating their filiation but also Algeria’s historical memory and identity.
Ranging from rereadings of classical francophone detective texts to Nedjma to contemporary forms of metaphysical noir, this ebook not only wishes to emancipate itself from the white-male-Parisian gaze, it also aims to reveal that the metaphysical potential of crime fiction has long been part of the francophone literary world. In doing so, this volume wishes to offer new perspectives on the genre, not limited to a certain time or place, and reveal the disruptive elements which have been permeating detective fiction to this day.
Topics may include (but are not limited to):
- Metaphysical detective stories written in French
- Detective narratives across boundaries
- Glocal detective fiction
- (Dark) humor and the absurd
- Labyrinthine and convoluted narratives, non-closure
- Madness, irrationality, and fear
- Disrupted and unsuitable detectives
- Trauma and resistance in francophone detective fiction
- (Post-)colonialism in francophone detective fiction
- "The Noir Atlantic"
- Time and place in francophone detective stories
- The rural metaphysical noir
- Transcultural narratives
- Hyper-reflexivity, metafiction, and/or intertextuality
- Transnational and nomadistic perspectives
- Self-questioning and/or defeated detectives
- Lies and unreliable remembrances
- Unofficial investigations/amateurs detectives
- Dystopian narratives
Proposals – Title and abstract of 250 words (in English), author’s affiliation and contact (email), personal information – will have to be sent by September 1, 2021 to email@example.com. Acceptance of the proposals will be notified by October 1, 2021.
Final papers of 6,000-7,000 words in English will be due no later than January 31, 2022, with publication anticipated in September 2022.
Contact emails of the editors:
Dr. Iziar de Miguel, City University of New York: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Antoine Dechêne, Haute Ecole de la Province de Liège: email@example.com
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