Date

2016

Department or Program

French

Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor

Venita Datta

Abstract

During World War II, France’s rapid and unexpected defeat was followed by the German occupation of the northern half of the country. The Occupation (1940-44) was marked not only by the daily stress of living alongside the German enemy, but also by a civil war within the French population. Existing critical works on Irène Némirovsky, a Russian-Jewish author writing in France during the Occupation, focus on fitting Némirovsky’s wartime writing into a certain political and ideological framework; however, these attempts to label Némirovsky’s political stance are far too reductive. In my thesis, I have taken the opposite approach, seeking to bring to light the complexity of Némirovsky’s ambivalent representation of Germans, as well as of French elites and women. Rather than producing unequivocal propaganda works, Némirovsky portrays these external and internal enemies to French national solidarity in order to consider timeless ethical questions regarding individual responsibility and collective identity.

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