Staff in the Department of French
Mrs Caroline Tucker
My thesis involves a study of French women's diaries and memoirs from Occupation to Liberation 1940-1944 during the Second World War. Whereas the focus of women's autobiographical writing has been traditionally the personal, private domain, I argue that the 'situations extrêmes' of war engender a new focus of exteriority, where the writer of diary and memoir takes on a role as both agent and commentator in circumstances of life that are totally changed by the defeat of France, collapse of government and occupation by the fascist Nazi regime. Through close analysis, I examine how different women articulate their response to the new 'choices and constraints' that everyday life entailed. The narratives provide insight into how women negotiated their existence and sometimes death within the framework of Pétain's ultra right-wing agenda of 'National Revolution' with its slogan of Travail, Famille, Patrie. For a number of writers, the occupation became a period of empowerment through difficulty even in the face of extreme adversity; their narratives describe new roles as resistant, prisoner, deportee, slave labourer and collaborator. All the narratives that I examine are played out against the background of the increasing shortages of the basic necessities of life: food, heating, clothing and materials of every variety. The daily struggle to survive features to a greater or lesser extent in each of the narratives, described sometimes with irony and humour. My methodology involves four key areas: autobiographical writing and testimony, historiography, gender roles and patriotism.
- Culture and Difference