The Excremental Poetics of Daniel Pennac's Journal d'un corps

Abstract:

Winner of the Malcolm Bowie Prize for the best article in any area of French Studies by an early career researcher

The critical reception of Daniel Pennac’s novel of 2012, Journal d’un corps, has displayed a surprising blindness to the faecal nature of the text’s originary scene, omitting it in accounts of the work to attend instead to other corporeal phenomena and frame the work as a meditation on mortality. In this article, I examine the disavowed faeces of this originary scene. This faecal matter, rather than something to be sanitized, should be treated as the site of a clear articulation of an excremental poetics, which, in positing writing as excrement, takes up the question of literary representation, informed by the paradoxical relationship of faeces to the propre, in the sense both of cleanliness (propreté) and of property (propriété). Through attending to the significant scatological dimension of Journal d’un corps, I show how Pennac’s work acts as a call to democratize literature: the universal nature of faecality models the way literature can be transformed from a site of propriété and propreté into something impropre that belongs to all.

 

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Last updated on 03/18/2022