Love, Sex and Desire in French Literature and Cinema Instructor: Marie-Anne Visoi University of Toronto Love Sexuality Desire Transgression Self-discovery through the process of writing events of the plot, characters and emotions are presented through alternate perspectives “voluntary memory” plays an important part in the story: time and space are manipulated throughout the novel according to the changing, unstable aspect of memory the reader is gradually drawn into the story by the truthfulness of the mature writer who talks about “the hidden stretches” of her youth (Page 8) the writer attempts to defy the time by making an effort to revive a significant event from her adolescence in Indochina by remembering her past, Duras understands the significance of the “crossing of the river” “The photograph could only have been taken if someone could have known in advance how important it was to be in my life, that event, that crossing of the river.” (Page 10) the haunting image of the fifteen year old becomes the focus of narration the mature writer retells her own story, analyzes and reflects on the nature of her “memorized desire” and her sexuality in the form of an “interior monologue” Aristophanes’ myth in “Symposium” presents a view of “love” as intense desire and erotic pleasure felt at the restoration of the lost unity between the “reunited halves”. There are several passages in “The Lover” where Duras uses sensorial imagery in order to evoke the feelings of the two lovers. events from her past: the symbolic meeting on the ferry, her feelings of an “outsider” during the “initiation scene”, sexuality and “repressed” love (“the lover”, Helene Lagonelle) will be recreated in her story the exploration of the young woman’s desire for the Chinese Lover becomes a source of creativity for the adult writer “ The skin is sumptuously soft. The body.” “ And, weeping, he makes love. At first pain. And then the pain is possessed in its turn, changed, slowly drawn away, borne toward pleasure, clasped to it. The sea, formless, simply beyond compare.” (Page 38) “The lover from Cholon is so accustomed to the adolescence of the white girl, he’s lost. The pleasure he takes in her every evening has absorbed all his time, all his life.” (Page 99) the sexual act is described through the narrator’s straightforward, simple language and beautiful imagery the vivid descriptions pull the reader into the story due to the heightened emotional level created by the narrative voice: “And she, slow, patient, draws him to her and starts to undress him. With her eyes shut. Slowly.” (Page 38) “Whiffs of burnt sugar drift into the room, the smell of roasted peanuts, Chinese soups, roast meat, herbs, jasmine, dust, incense, charcoal fires, they carry fire about in baskets here, it’s sold in the street, the smell of the city is the smell of the villages upcountry, of the forest.” (Page 41) a fragmented story told alternately from a first and third person point-of-view (the young, white girl on the ferry and the mature writer) portrayal of characters is inconsistent as it relies on fragments of memories recalled by the adult writer elliptic, short, repetitive sentences characterize the language of the novel metaphorical, sensorial descriptions (Mekong, Cholon) Why is the crossing of the ferry a “rite of passage”? Where is the novel set? What is the importance of this type of setting for the plot? How is the “sexual initiation” described in this context? Are “race” and “culture” important? Explain. Read the following excerpt: “Dusk fell at the same time all the year round. It was very brief, almost like a blow. In the rainy season, for weeks on end, you couldn’t see the sky, it was full of an unvarying mist which even the light of the moon couldn’t pierce. In the dry season though, the sky was bare, completely free of cloud, naked. Even moonless nights were light. And the shadows were as clear-cut as ever on the ground, and on the water, roads and walls.” (p. 81) What kind of mood does this setting evoke? How is the lover described in the novel? Describe two major characters in “The Lover”. Use examples from the text to show how Marguerite Duras’s characterization techniques differ from those of a “traditional” novelist. Is there any similarity between Proust’s and Duras’s description of characters? Justify your opinion. Analyze your favourite passage. Discuss significant elements of style, structure and language such as: Repetition Sensorial detail Narration Explain how the above elements contribute to the understanding of the novel.