Julia Jacob (Johns Hopkins University)
This panel explores different urban spaces depicted in popular French and Francophone cultural production, such as crime and science fiction artworks. What are the connotations of urban spaces and how are they represented in these narratives? What does it mean for crime to be located in a particular space? What do construals of futuristic cityscapes say about our understanding of present-day cities? How do these descriptions compare to earlier representations of urban spaces, such as those that appear in realist novels, historical fiction, theater or poetry?
There has seen a remarkable increase in the critical analysis of the role space plays in constructing the narrative of popular fiction. From classical locked-room mysteries to cyber-noir dystopic visions of super-modern cities, urban spaces have played a prominent role in shaping the fictional universe in crime and science fiction cultural material. Whether they represent a crime scene (Eugène Sue, Mystères de Paris), a shelter (Jules Verne, L’île mystérieuse) or a temporary passage (François Schuiten, Les Murailles de Samaris), these cities are more than simple scenery; they are signifiers of national and ethnic identities. Other forms of crime and science fiction narratives, such as video games, often rely on maps which show a clear division of population and tend to be modified by the player’s actions. They incarnate spaces of violence and chaos from which characters either desire to flee or in which they indulge in its destructive forces. From dark, gloomy, and foggy streets, to clean and transparent high towers, cities fascinate as much as they repel. They can appear as the pinnacle of human society or they can signify, in the most frightening way, a return to savage roots (Mathieu Kassovitz, Babylon A.D.). This session welcomes papers that explore representations and transformations of urban spaces in French and Francophone works.
What are the connotations of urban spaces, and how are they represented in crime fiction and science fiction narratives? What does it mean for crime to be located in a particular space? What do construals of futuristic cityscapes say about our understanding of present-day cities? To answer these questions, the panel invites proposals on representations of urban spaces in French and Francophone crime fiction and science fiction films, novels, comic books, and video games. Papers in English or French are welcome.