Journal Article

The Child as Artist in Amélie Nothomb's <i>Robert des noms propres</i>

Anna Kemp

in French Studies

Published on behalf of Society for French Studies

Volume 66, issue 1, pages 54-67
Published in print January 2012 | ISSN: 0016-1128
Published online January 2012 | e-ISSN: 1468-2931 | DOI:
The Child as Artist in Amélie Nothomb's Robert des noms propres

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  • European History
  • European Languages
  • Literary Studies (European)


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This article will argue that, unlike many female-authored narratives, Amélie Nothomb's Robert des noms propres does not figure childhood as a time of freedom arising from a blissful unawareness of the body, but instead constructs childhood as an aesthetic ideal that transcends the body altogether. Far from being a space of natural liberty before the onslaught of culture, the Nothombian childhood is a disembodied space entirely colonized by the artifical and aesthetic. Indeed, the freedom of the Nothombian child is first and foremost the freedom of the artist; an artist, moreover, who produces herself as her own master-work. As such, the transition from childhood to adulthood does not so much bring an embodied self into conflict with society, as bring art into conflict with life. This article will argue that Nothomb's staging of a clash between art and life raises questions both for critical approaches that look to women's writing for the expression of a female self, and postmodern feminist approaches that celebrate a ‘textualization’ of this self.

Journal Article.  7317 words. 

Subjects: European History ; European Languages ; Literary Studies (European)

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