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New York City in French Literature, Lecture by Dr Stève Puig (St John’s University)

Thursday, November 9, 2017, 56:30 p.m.

Faber 568
441 East Fordham Road
Bronx, NY 10458

“New York City in french literature: a symbol of the “American dream” (or nightmare?)”

Very few cities have inspired as much great literature as the Big Apple. Most American readers will remember a few passages from Manhattan Transfer by Dos Passos in 1925 or, more recently, the Paul Auster New York Trilogy originally published sequentially as City of Glass (1985), Ghosts (1986) and The Locked Room (1986).

When it comes to French literature, two visionaries have paved the way for today’s authors: Louis-Ferdinand Céline and Paul Morand. The former described New York in Journey To The End Of The Night published in 1932 highlighted both positive and negative aspects of New York, a city that was “standing absolutely erect” obsessed with money but also a “majestic” place for a divine experience. For Paul Morand who wrote New York in 1929, the city is just as impressive as it is despicable.
These ambiguities persist in contemporary literature. In my talk, I would like to offer a brief survey of French novels published after September 11 and analyze a few passages which 1) can be seen as tributes to the original visions of both Céline and Morand and 2) highlight this ambiguous vision of New York as both a symbol of the American dream and a hellish place where the only God is money.

Dr. Puig is currently Assistant Professor of French Literature & Culture at St John’s University where he teaches civilization courses, French Caribbean literature, contemporary French literature and language classes. Prior to St John’s, he taught at the University of North Carolina, Hunter College and Medgar Evers College in New York.

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