I Suffer, Therefore I Am
Engaging with Empathy in Contemporary French Women’s Writing

Kathryn Robson

Research Monographs in French Studies 56

Legenda

23 April 2019  •  152pp

ISBN: 978-1-781886-75-5 (hardback)  •  RRP £75, $99, €85

ISBN: 978-1-781886-76-2 (paperback, 2020)  •  RRP £9.99, $12.50, €12.50

ISBN: 978-1-781886-77-9 (JSTOR ebook)

Access online: Books@JSTOR

ContemporaryFrenchFictionLife-Writing


The increase in the visibility of autobiographies and fiction recounting suffering in this century has gone hand-in-hand with a notable emphasis on the possibilities and limits of empathy. Contemporary French women’s writing inscribes and interrogates the imperative to witness and respond to another subject’s pain and raises questions about the relation between empathy and reading. Engaging with a range of recent texts, including work by Marie Darrieussecq, Amélie Nothomb, Camille Laurens, Delphine de Vigan and Christine Angot, and representations of different kinds of suffering (including eating disorders, the death of a child, and sexual abuse), this book engages productively with notions of empathy in relation to gender and alterity as well as with the question of what is at stake in reading narratives of someone else’s pain.

Kathryn Robson is Senior Lecturer in French at Newcastle University.

Reviews:

  • ‘In this concise, fascinating book, Kathryn Robson explores text/reader relationships in a range of contemporary French women’s writing, including memoirs, fictional, and autofictional texts that relate to narratives of suffering--in particular, anorexia (chapter one), the death of a child (chapter two), and maternal filicide (chapter three), with chapter four focusing on autofictional narratives... Robson shows that it is all too easy to assume empathy, and that empathy can itselfdo damage to the other. Her study is important because it deals with why readers may feel uncomfortable towards narratives of suffering and, in interrogating empathy, offers some pointers towards newly negotiated ethical empathetic responses. We should read these narratives and try to approach others’ suffering, but we need to interrogate our responses to them and take responsibility for our readings. This is a wonderful, sensitive book, beautifully and thoughtfully written, and I whole-heartedly recommend it to anyone who wants to t’ — Gill Rye, H-France 20.34, January 2020
  • ‘A stimulating, innovative, and insightful discussion of empathy and the reading process in relation to narratives of suffering. Furthermore, as well as considering the limits of empathy, Robson also challenges the limits of the reader by compelling him/her to engage with and reflect on difficult narrative themes such as parental grief and filicide. This study will appeal to a wide range of readers and researchers from diverse areas such as French Studies, Women’s Writing, Affect Studies, Trauma Writing, and Feminist Theory.’ — Julie Rodgers, Modern Language Review 115.3, July 2020, 734-35 (full text online)

Contents:

i-vi
I Suffer, Therefore I Am: I Suffer, Therefore I Am
Kathryn Robson
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vii-viii
Table of Contents
Kathryn Robson
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ix-x
Acknowledgements
K. R.
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1-26
Introduction: Engaging With Empathy in Contemporary French Women’s Writing
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27-48
Chapter 1 the Subject of Anorexia: Reading Beyond the Performance of Suffering
Kathryn Robson
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49-72
Chapter 2 You Don’t Know How I Feel: Narrating the Death of A Child
Kathryn Robson
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73-98
Chapter 3 Beyond Compassion? Maternal Filicide and the Limits of Empathy
Kathryn Robson
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99-122
Chapter 4 Responsibility, Reading, and Dispossession in Autofiction
Kathryn Robson
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123-128
Afterword: Uncomfortable Empathy
Kathryn Robson
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129-138
Bibliography
Kathryn Robson
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139-142
Index
Kathryn Robson
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Bibliography entry:

Robson, Kathryn, I Suffer, Therefore I Am: Engaging with Empathy in Contemporary French Women’s Writing, Research Monographs in French Studies, 56 (Cambridge: Legenda, 2019)

First footnote reference: 35 Kathryn Robson, I Suffer, Therefore I Am: Engaging with Empathy in Contemporary French Women’s Writing, Research Monographs in French Studies, 56 (Cambridge: Legenda, 2019), p. 21.

Subsequent footnote reference: 37 Robson, p. 47.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

Bibliography entry:

Robson, Kathryn. 2019. I Suffer, Therefore I Am: Engaging with Empathy in Contemporary French Women’s Writing, Research Monographs in French Studies, 56 (Cambridge: Legenda)

Example citation: ‘A quotation occurring on page 21 of this work’ (Robson 2019: 21).

Example footnote reference: 35 Robson 2019: 21.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)


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