Encyclopedia of Contemporary French Culture

By Alex Hughes; Keith Reader | Go to book overview
Save to active project


In an age when France has consolidated its position as the leading European destination for Englishspeaking holiday-makers, tourists and second-home-owners, retained its prestige as the international capital of gastronomy, wine production, chic and sex appeal, and bred film directors to rival Hollywood and singer-songwriters without equal on the world stage, it has also become an object of profound suspicion for many non-French commentators on the intellectual life. French ideas are produced in a faddish and fashion-conscious climate, we are often told, prominent philosophers and social theorists are treated with absurd veneration and their obscure, portentous, jargon-infested diction threatens to run riot through the human sciences, undermining otherwise secure British and North American bastions of clarity, good sense and methodological rectitude. It could of course be that the prevailing enthusiasm for France as a source of pleasure is closely linked to this distrust of French ideas: while volupté and jouissance belong quite properly in the restaurant, the bedroom or the cinema, they have no place in the library or the lecture theatre. Could it be that French intellectuals enjoy themselves too much and too openly in the eyes of their Anglophone detractors, and that their writings are therefore easily seen by such critics as an attempt to seduce and corrupt our impressionable young? In order to begin answering questions of this kind we clearly need a new kind of reference work-one which talks about wine and psychoanalysis, movie-makers and maîtres-à-penser, Piaf and Piaget.

The entire field of contemporary French culture is alive with myths and counter-myths about France and Frenchness. While some of these are produced at home and then exported, others originate abroad-in British tabloid newspapers, say, or on North American campuses-and are then imported into France. So much that is fascinating about contemporary France is transmitted by gossip, hearsay and the insider talk of various professional groups that it has until now been difficult for the would-be demythologizer to lay down a firm factual foundation for his or her enquiry. Things are even more problematic for the newcomer. Basic documents are often surprisingly difficult to find, and divisions between 'high' and 'popular' culture, or between the hexagon and the wider world of francophonie, have often meant that students and general readers have had to visit far-flung sections of their local reference library in order to begin assembling a comprehensive picture of France today. What Keith Reader, Alex Hughes and their team of contributors have produced in this splendid new Encyclopedia is a huge multi-dimensional snapshot of a culture that has reinvented itself with dizzying rapidity in the last half-century and shows no sign of slowing down. The range of their book is astonishing. With a single movement, the reader is able to travel from the world of screen goddesses (Aimée, Bardot, Deneuve) to the world of jet-setting intellectual demiurges (Baudrillard, Bourdieu, Derrida), from Elle to Eluard, from nuclear power to pornography, from agriculture to athletics, from the structure of Pierre Reverdy's verse to the labyrinthine and recursive structures of the new European legislation. All those who study modern French and Francophone cultures will be in debt to Hughes and Reader. Dangerous and delectable France has been mapped as never before between the covers of this cornucopian volume.

Malcolm Bowie


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Encyclopedia of Contemporary French Culture


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 619

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?