The look and feel of metropolitan France has been a notable preoccupation of French literary and visual culture since the 1980s. Numerous writers, filmmakers and photographers have been drawn to articulate France's contrasting spatial qualities, from infrastructural installations such as roads, rail lines and ports, to peri-urban residential developments and isolated rural enclaves. In doing so, they explore how the country's acute sense of national identity has been both asserted and challenged in topographic terms.
This wide-ranging collection of essays explores how the contemporary concern with space in France has taken shape across a range of media, from recent cinema, documentary filmmaking and photographic projects through to television drama and contemporary fiction, and examines what it reveals about the state of the nation in a post-colonial and post-industrial age. The impact of global flows of capital, trade and migration can be mapped through attention to the specificities of place and topography. Investigation of liminal locations, from seaboard cities and abandoned industrial sites to refugee camps and peasant smallholdings, interrogates the assertion of a national territory (and, by extension, a national identity) through the figure of the hexagon, and highlights the fluidities, instabilities and lines of flight which render it increasingly unsettled.
Ari J. Blatt is an Associate Professor of French at the University of Virginia Edward Welch is Carnegie Professor of French at the University of Aberdeen
Introduction Ari J. Blatt and Edward Welch Chapter 1: Angels of History: Looking Back at Spatial Planning in the Mission photographique de la DATAR Edward Welch, University of Aberdeen Chapter 2: Disuse and Affect: Post-Industrial Landscapes of France's Labour Lost Derek Schilling, Johns Hopkins University Chapter 3: Depth of Field: Farmland and Farm Life in Contemporary French Documentary Alison J. Murray Levine, University of Virginia Chapter 4: Sylvain George's Minor Mode, or Cinema at the Margins of its Fragile Community Anna-Louise Milne, University of London Institute in Paris Chapter 5: Girlhood Luminosities and Topographical Politics: 17 Filles (Delphine and Muriel Coulin, 2011) and Bande de filles (Celine Sciamma, 2014) Fiona Handyside, University of Exeter Chapter 6: Les Revenants, Tignes, and the Return of Postwar Modernization Catherine E. Clark, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brian R. Jacobson, University of Toronto Chapter 7: French Edgeland Poetics: Topography and Ecology in Jean Rolin's Les Evenements Joshua Armstrong, University of Wisconsin - Madison Chapter 8: Picturing a Nation of Local Places in the Observatoire photographique du paysage and France(s) territoire liquide Ari J. Blatt, University of Virginia