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Alienation and the search for self in the "nouveau roman" of France and of Quebec

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Title: Alienation and the search for self in the "nouveau roman" of France and of Quebec
Author: Harger, Virginia Ann
Degree Doctor of Philosophy - PhD
Program French
Copyright Date: 1973
Abstract: This thesis discusses the problem of the individual and his relationship to society as revealed in the works of six writers. All these authors utilize the form of the "nouveau roman" to express the thought patterns of the individual in a medium and style they consider relevant to the subject matter. The protagonist's problem is that of twentieth century Man. His alienation from himself and from others, his feelings of anguish, despair and confusion are those of Man in a society in which the individual is often at a loss to find any point of reference as to his own existence and where he reaches the point of questioning his own worth as a human being. Living in a situation where he is in close physical contact with thousands, the next problem facing the individual, but closely connected to his other problem is that of achieving some form of communication with another person. Aware of his own solitude and need for others as well as the reciprocal needs of other people, he is also aware of the opposites to these conditions and rejects others for their lack of awareness. His present state of being is the antithesis of a desired one and this desired state of being where he knows himself and others forms the basis for the quest of the "nouveau roman" protagonist. His quest is the subject of this thesis. Starting with readings of the background critical works and proceeding through studies of the texts themselves the original concept of Man as an important element of the "nouveau roman" was crystallized and narrowed down to a treatment of the problem of the individual and his relationship to society. After examination of relevant critical material of the particular works and discussion of the novels with five of the six authors involved theories and ideas formulated in the preparatory stage were able to be put into practice. Apart from these studies it is necessary in a thesis of this nature to relate the theme to a wider field of literature, philosophy and culture. This is achieved mainly in the introduction and first chapter. The reasons for doing this lie in the fact that these authors are all using their protagonists to express one side of their own particular philosophies on Man in general. The importance of the content rather than merely the form of the "nouveau roman" has been brought out and fully discussed in novels by six authors whose works can be considered as representative of the "nouveau roman" and of modern literature in two francophonic but differing cultures. Although both group reveal the same anguish and despair as to the present condition of Man, the resolution of their problems, though not actualized in either group, nevertheless points out the differences between the two cultures. The French "nouveau roman" presents an intellectualized version of the problem together with an idealized philosophy. The French Canadian novel on the other hand is very closely allied to the actual problems of French Canadian society. Despair and anguish are not philosophical questions but reality to these dispossessed people and any resolution for the latter group will have to be a total resolution of their society.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/32026
Series/Report no. UBC Retrospective Theses Digitization Project [http://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/retro_theses/]
Scholarly Level: Graduate

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