Affaires de famille : the family in contemporary French by Welch, Edward; Barnet, Marie-Claire

By Welch, Edward; Barnet, Marie-Claire

'Famille, je vous ai (encore et toujours a l'esprit?), je vous aime un peu, beaucoup, ou je vous hais enormement?' What are households like in modern France? And what starts to emerge once we ponder them from the viewpoint of modern theoretical views: (faulty) solidarity, (fake) coherence, (carefully deliberate or subversive) deconstruction, loss (of love, self assurance or credibility), or, even (utter) chaos and (alarming) confusion? Which media revamp previous stereotypes, generate replacement reinterpretations, and indicate extra ambiguous solutions? What photographs, scenes or frames stand out in modern representations of the relatives? Uneasy contradictions and ambiguities emerge during this bilingual choice of ways and style experiences. The kin plot turns out to thicken as kinfolk ties seem to loosen. Has 'the kin' been misplaced from sight, or is it being reinvented in our collective imaginary? This publication proposes a brand new sequence of views and questions about an previous and 'familiar' subject, exploring the kingdom and standing of the kinfolk in modern literature, tradition, serious and psychoanalytic conception and sociology

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8 Allusions to home movies, photographic descriptions (or ‘imagetexts’ 9 ) and literal photographs all play a role in their writing. Béatrix Le Wita’s Ni vue ni connue, an ethnographic study of family as everyday practice in a French bourgeois milieu, emphasises as its title suggests the concealed nature of family maintenance work as well as the legendary ‘discretion’ of the bourgeoisie. 10 Her study records the manifestations and intricate rules of family maintenance mechanisms, from the arrangement of home space as family space, with its heirlooms, photographs and portraits to the production and circulation of albums, journals, chronicles, anecdotes and jokes.

Ainsi, qu’il importait moins au père d’avoir une fille qu’une compagne conforme à ses désirs de parvenu, Fanny le découvrait avec dégoût, tout en ne niant pas que, sous ce désintérêt pour le lien de sang, se dissimulait également, comme elle l’avait perçu, que le père ne parvenait à trouver naturel d’avoir pour enfant une fille aussi profondément différente, et infiniment supérieure selon sa mortifiante mesure des valeurs. (EF 252) Before her final horrific avatar as a shapeless, abject form that Tante Colette finds on her doorstep and deposits in an out-house, Fanny realises that her mistake, like that of K in The Castle, was not to have remained satisfied with her ‘statut incertain’ (EF 275).

Dans le tiroir de gauche Anne, dans le tiroir de droite Nore, et dans le tiroir du fond, celui à double fond mais bien étiqueté: son frère. Jeanne’s imaginary chest expresses her will to order and evokes the perpetuation of family through transmission, across the generations, of ancestral history embodied in property. It is an ironic image, however, Figuring out the Family 47 because unlike the heirloom with which one remains in everyday contact through storage, dusting, polishing and gazing it has no concrete reality.

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