Framing Women in the French New Wave: Cinema, Nineteenth-Century Literature and Aesthetics. November 22, 2011


Invited Lectures ; Anne-Gaëlle Saliot ; In this paper I explored the ways in which the nineteenth-century literature and aesthetics surface in one of the most famous avant-garde fields: French New Wave cinema. Surprisingly enough there has been relatively little critical attention devoted to this aspect of this cinematic movement. If its intertextual and hybrid dimension has been much analysed, the academic discourse often tends to concentrate on the relations between the Nouveau Roman and the Nouvelle Vague, with a heavy emphasis on Alain Resnais or on the intersections between Perec and Godard. And, yet nineteenth-century literature and painting are everywhere in the films of the New Wave: from the iconic evocation of Balzac in 'Les quatre cents coups', the cinematic adaptation of Balzac’s 'Le chef d’oeuvre inconnu' by Rivette or Truffaut’s portrait of Adèle Hugo in 'Adèle H', through the pervasive presence of Flaubert in Godard’s 'Les Histoire(s) du cinéma' or the insertions of paintings by Manet, Courbet, Delacroix in nearly all his films, to the more discreet allusions to Baudelaire, Carroll, Poe and James. References to this period are numerous and create an intricate configuration of meanings and memories. In this talk, I traced the use of the framed portrait of a woman as a motif across film genres. I examined how the films in which this motif appears are engaged in a subtle and at times clandestine re-activation of nineteenth-century literary and visual motifs, as well as being pervaded by the fantasy of the woman as ghost and receding image. This re-appropriation of representational strategies, familiar to us from literature and the visual arts, is indeed very often located at the site of the female body: women become idealized, fetishized, and not altogether paradoxically, dismembered.

Service Performed By


  • November 22, 2011

Location or Venue

  • Japan Women's University, Tokyo.