I have always been a specialist in 20th and 21st century French literature, and taken occasional holidays in the 19th. My research has pretty consistently focused on the relationship between identity and narrative: how we tell stories to be who we are, and what happens when those stories break down or become extremely difficult to formulate. I particularly enjoy psychoanalytic literary criticism, so this often informs my approach. But I have always wanted my academic work to be readable and accessible – I got into all this because I was fascinated by stories and the effect they have on us, so it matters to me that anyone could read my analyses and follow them.
An Introduction to Twentieth-Century French Literature
Duckworth (now Bloomsbury), 2003
By Victoria Best
This is the introduction to the most fun and accessible of the academic books I have written. It is an easy introductory guide to the twentieth century in French literature aimed at students starting university courses. I suppose it’s also my idea of why literature is important, why it’s written, why we should give it the time and attention of studying it.
The New Pornograpies: Explicit Sex In Recent French Fiction And Film
Manchester University Press, 2007
By Victoria Best & Martin Crowley
This chapter comes from the book I co-wrote with my colleague, Martin, and looks at the upsurge in books written about children in abusive situations, or by authors who were abused themselves. There’s also been an interest in breaking taboos and pushing back boundaries in contemporary French literature over issues like paedophilia. Please be warned that this chapter contains material that you might find offensive or distressing (I know I did when writing about it).
Sebastien Japrisot: The Art of Crime edited by Martin Hurcombe and Simon Kemp
Sebastien Japrisot is the author of a series of really excellent crime novels. Because they are so cleverly structured, they appeal to academic analysis as well. Crime fiction has in fact been a boon area for research in the past fifteen to twenty years, and I can confirm that the research was a lot of fun for this one. I am actually writing about the early novels Japrisot wrote under his real name of Jean-Baptiste Rossi and how they prefigure his later, famous crime books.
Sylvie Germain, The Song of False Lovers
This is the introduction I wrote to what must have been Sylvie Germain’s twelfth or thirteenth novel. Well known in France, she is rarely recognised in the UK, although Dedalus brought out a series of translations of her novels. She is a magical realist and I really love her writing.
Twentieth-Century French Poetry; A Critical Anthology edited by Hughes Azerad and Peter Collier
Cambridge University Press, 2010
My contribution to a collection of essays each of which studies one 20th century French poem in depth. Yves Bonnefoy is one of my all-time favourite poets, and I particularly like his prose poems.
Between the harem and the battlefield: Domestic Space in the Work of Assia Djebar