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"Comme une espèce de nécessité physique" with Jean Echenoz (Special issue of L’Esprit créateur)

Publié le par Université de Lausanne (Source : Sara Bédard-Goulet)

Special issue of L’Esprit créateur

Summer 2023

Guest editor: Sara Bédard-Goulet (University of Tartu),

This special issue of L’Esprit créateur aims to examine the “physical necessity” (Alizadeh 2017) that takes place in Jean Echenoz’s work, building on the significant scholarship on space related to this work and examining how bodies exist in this space, how space affects them and how they contribute to shape space as well.

Echenoz himself has described his novels as “geographic” (Harang 1999) and despite the fact that his work now includes more “historical” novels[1], places remain central and play a role as important as characters (Alizadeh 2017). While these places have been perceived as empty (Jérusalem 2005) and equated with an ontological dodge (Blanckeman 2008), they multiply travel opportunities, attested to the number of itineraries and travelers (Galloway 2005) that appear in Echenoz’s works. Even if Paris seems to be Echenoz’s and his characters’ favored space (Houppermans 2008), his narratives depict numerous distant real and fictional destinations. Places in these narratives oscillate between a hyperrealism based on factual details and implausible plots that colors them with inevitable romance (Jérusalem 2004). Unsurprisingly, Echenoz’s work presents a privileged connection with architecture (Hippolyte 2006) and maps (Delcour 2018; Ieven 2018), which, like the author’s writing, crystallize various relationships with space.

So far, these complex relationships with space have not been thoroughly examined from a bodily perspective. Yet, movements, positions, gestures are central to Echenoz’s narratives, where they appear as rhythms, itineraries, chases, praxis, and so on. From the pianists’ gestures in Au piano (2003) and Ravel (2006) to the immobility of le Flétan in Je m’en vais (1999), Echenozian characters present multiple ways of being and moving. With this special issue, we wish to contribute to the understanding of Echenoz’ work from a bodily viewpoint and offer a literary approach to the understanding of the body in the contemporary period. We expect this special issue to build on existing scholarship that considers the body and its motions in literature but also to develop further the theoretical frameworks that are relevant to examine bodies in literature in a figurative and literal sense.

An object of study in anthropology since the seminal work of Marcel Mauss (1936), body practices reflect ways of being, where forms expose the existence and stage the individual’s singularity. In parallel, an individual’s motions can shape the world around them and give rise to their own Umwelt (von Uexküll 2010) but also to landscapes (Desportes 2005). The study of corpography, “l’inscription du sens sur le corps autant que l’inscription du corps comme sens” (Paveau & Zoberman 2009: 9), insists on the necessity and importance to pay attention to the writing of the body and its movement. Similarly, the analysis of corporeity in literary narratives show that it provides an essential understanding of the works, since their kinesic information are connected to their central question (Bolens 2008). If a gesture can be considered “a movement of the body or of a tool attached to the body for which there is no satisfactory causal explanation” (Flusser 2014), its superfluousness is precisely what makes it interesting and relevant when it comes to a subject’s singularity, sometimes forming the symptoms extensively studied by psychoanalysis. Whatever it does, the body’s presence in the public and private spheres has raised stimulating scholarship from political (Foucault 1976) and, henceforth, gendered (Butler 1993) perspectives, which prolong Michel de Certeau’s (1990) insight on practices of everyday life as shaping a material relationship to the world and giving rise to the hijacking of normalized space.

Thus, this special issue will focus on bodies in space in Jean Echenoz’s work by combining literary knowledge on this work, especially concerning space and place, and theoretical developments on the body, its existence and movements in the humanities and social sciences. As such, it will provide an apprehension of contemporary literary representations of the body but also of the gestures involved in the production and reception of these representations, which lead, for example, to style (Macé 2016) and reading pacts (Fortier & Mercier 2011).

Send proposals in English or French (250-300 words) together with a short biography to Sara Bédard-Goulet ( by July 1, 2022.

The deadline for completed articles (no more than 6,000 words, including notes) is September 15, 2022.



Alizadeh, Mehdi. 2017. Entretien avec Jean Echenoz. En attendant Nadeau 45.

Blanckeman, Bruno. 2008. Les Récits indécidables. Jean Echenoz, Hervé Guibert, Pascal Quignard. Villeneuve-d’Ascq: Presses Universitaires du Septentrion.

Bolens, Guillemette. 2008. Le Style des gestes. Corporéité et kinésie dans le récit littéraire. Lausanne: BHMS.

Butler, Judith. 1993. Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex”. New York: Routledge.

de Certeau, Michel. 1990. L’Invention du quotidien. 1. Arts de faire. Paris: Gallimard.

Delcour, Manon. 2018. Cartes et taches dans l’œuvre de Jean Echenoz. Cartographier: Regards croisés sur les pratiques littéraires et philosophiques contemporaines. Isabelle Ost, ed. Bruxelles: Presses de l’Université Saint-Louis. 239-278.

Desportes, Marc. 2005. Paysages en mouvement: Perception de l’espace et transports (XVIIIᵉ-XXᵉ siècle). Paris: Gallimard.

Flusser, Vilém. 2014. Gestures. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Fortier, Frances & Andrée Mercier. 2011. Modalités du pacte romanesque contemporain. La Transmission narrative. Montréal: Nota Bene: 7-19.

Foucault, Michel. 1976. Histoire de la sexualité, vol. 1: La volonté de savoir. Paris: Gallimard.

Galloway, Monique. 2005. Planes, Trains, Automobiles… and Space Shuttles. Travel in the fiction of Jean Echenoz. eSharp 4.

Harang, Jean-Baptiste. 1999. La réalité en fait trop, il faut la calmer: Entretien avec Jean Echenoz. Libération.

Hippolyte, Pierre. 2006. L’Occupation des sols de Jean Echenoz ou l’occupation de l’espace architectural, iconique et littéraire. Architecture, littérature et espaces. Pierre Hippolyte, ed. Limoges: PULIM. 65-79.

Houppermans, Sjef. 2008. Pour une meilleure occupation des sols: Le Paris de Jean Echenoz. RELIEF 2(1), 40‐66.

Ieven, Émilie. 2018. De l’image pensive à l’écriture cartographique: pluralité des modes de représentation au sein de L’Occupation des sols de Jean Echenoz. Cartographier: Regards croisés sur les pratiques littéraires et philosophiques contemporaines. Isabelle Ost, ed. Bruxelles: Presses de l’Université Saint-Louis. 279-296.

Jérusalem, Christine. 2004. Stevenson/Echenoz: Le jeu des images réelles. Le Roman français au tournant du XXIème siècle. Marc Dambre, Aline Mura-Brunel & Bruno Blanckeman, eds. Paris: Presses Sorbonne Nouvelle. 331-339.

Jérusalem, Christine. 2005. Jean Echenoz : géographies du vide. Saint-Étienne: Publications de l’Université de Saint-Étienne.

Macé, Marielle. 2016. Styles. Critiques de nos formes de vie. Paris: Gallimard.

Mauss, Marcel. 1936. Les techniques du corps. Journal de psychologie 32(3-4).

Paveau, Marie-Anne & Pierre Zoberman, eds. 2009. Corpographèses. Corps écrits, corps inscrits. Paris: L’Harmattan.

Von Uexküll, Jakob. 2010. Milieu animal et milieu humain. Paris: Rivages.

[1] 14 (2012) and the three biofictions Ravel (2006), Courir (2008) and Des éclairs (2010).