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Fiction, Crime, and the Feminine - Head Work

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The form of art called fiction has always been the privileged framework providing the perfect alibi for facing, framing, and containing the Other’s desire and the strange libido attached to violence: in other words, there is an ambivalent dimension inherent in the scenarios and fantasies we enjoy by proxy. Are not the fairy tales of our childhood full of images of death and violence, whose fascinating presence is paradoxically meant to make us feel all the more safely tucked up in bed? After all, the wolf or the Little Red Riding Hood, the monstrous killer or the unfortunate victim are but fictitious characters, mere shifting positions: they are “not me”—therefore, thanks to the willing suspension of disbelief process, any reading “I” may shift into their speech or thoughts on the fictional screen, a stage both for projection of and protection from such forbidden enjoyments.

Crime fiction has also for a long time been the genre for such containment. Ever since Victorian “craniology,” criminal violence has remained as resistant as ever to scientific measurement—even to the more recent techniques of investigation of the brain. Where women are concerned they were first and mostly fascinating victims but they also nowadays feature in the role of the criminals, adding to the first fascination the mystery of a woman’s desire beyond the pale of societal expectations. Indeed, more and more pieces of crime fiction nowadays refuse to grant the simple pleasures of old: what if, for example, the text refuses to comply to the “whodunnit” convention? What about those stories that instead of closure, will diffuse a mist, a sense of unrest by their emphasis on the inexplicable lure of violence? In other words, gone are the days of the satisfaction granted by traditional closure and return to a solidly structured society, made safe again by the disposal of the scene of violence.

But writing as such is also to be taken into consideration, and what forcefully determines the writing is not only the historical trauma (whose active presence in the fiction cannot be denied), but especially some unresolved traumatic event or exclusion that makes one write and, through the writing, quest bliss, but that also makes one renounce the attachment to the inevitably lost bliss.

Author Biography

Josiane Paccaud-Huguet and Rédouane Abouddahab teach English Literature at Lumière University in Lyon, France. They have authored and edited numerous books and essays on English and American literature.
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