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Durham University

School of Modern Languages & Cultures

Events in Modern Languages & Cultures

Bodies, Texts, Nations Research Group: ‘The Empire to Come: Houellebecq, Soumission'

14th March 2019, 16:00 to 18:00, ER146, Elvet Riverside I, Prof. Michèle Lowrie (University of Chicago) and Prof. Barbara Vinken (University of Munich)

The next Bodies, Texts, Nations Research Group talk will take place on Thursday 14th March (16.00-18.00, ER146): Prof. Michèle Lowrie (Andrew W. Mellon Professor, Classics and the College, University of Chicago) and Prof. Barbara Vinken (Professor of Comparative Literature and Romance Philology, Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich) will present a paper on ‘The Empire to Come: Houellebecq, Soumission’, which constitutes part of their joint book project entitled Civil War and the Collapse of the Social Bond.

The Empire to Come: Houellebecq, Soumission

In the satiric vision of Soumission’s dystopian nightmare, France will succumb in the 2022 election to a Muslim Brotherhood takeover. All political foes unite to keep Marine Le Pen from assuming the presidency. François, the novel’s everyman français antihero, personifies the corruption of France’s premier Enlightenment institution, the university, which itself stands for the failure of values in the French Republic. Through his unreliable narrator, who is blind to the palimpsests of history, Houellebecq tells the classic story over again: France, herself not whole, reenacts once more the Fall of the Roman Republic. The Empire to come, as in ancient Rome, will put an end to civil war not by ushering in a new Golden Age, New Republic, or City of God, but rather at the price of a decadent Oriental tyranny. Not so much a symbol of the body politic as the embodiment of France’s depraved soul political, François reveals through his conversion to Islam not that France has fallen into degradation, but was always perverse to begin with.

This event is part of the MLAC's new OWRI-funded research group, 'Bodies, Texts, Nations'. For more details, please see

Students are welcome.