"Nuptials for a lone woman": The feminine, the sacred, and desire in the work of Albert Camus
Abstract (Summary)Two paradoxical elements in Camus's work, both kept at a distance by the author, are the feminine and the sacred. The feminine is paradoxical in its patterns of speech and silence, and of partial or aspectual absence and presence. Whereas feminine speech and presence are abundant in Camus's theatre, absence, silence and fragmentation of the feminine characterize his narrative works, with the exception of the short story, "La femme adultere." The sense of the sacred, which permeates Camus's work, represents a philosophical paradox. Indeed, how to reconcile Camus's agnosticism and his philosophy of the absurd, which denies transcendance, with this sense of the sacred? How to explain the experience of "La femme adultere"? For it is in this text, after having intersected in the plays, that the paradoxes of the sacred and the feminine climactically come together and approach the metaphysical. A first critical approach sets the sacred in the context of Camus's time. Juxtaposing the early Camusian essays with certain writings of contemporary authors relative to religion and the sacred, it considers the sacred from philosophical, historical and sociological as well as religious perspectives. A second approach, psychoanalytic and feminist, explores Camus's narrative works and his drama. Referring mainly to the writings of Kristeva and taking up her notion of the "myth of the feminine" as the "last refuge of the sacred", it examines the absences and silences of the mother in the narrative works before concerning itself with the speech and presence of the female companion in the plays. This difference between the two genres is analyzed. Finally, the last part of the thesis, which focuses on "La femme adultere", examines the modalities of desire. It is this context of desire, linked to the Camusian concept of the absurd, that opens the feminine to the sacred. This double paradox is examined along with the possible meaning of the unexpected alliance of the feminine and the sacred in a corpus of work mostly perceived as masculine and agnostic.
School Location:USA - Massachusetts
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Date of Publication:01/01/1996