On the 19th of May, a group of Year 12 Languages students were lucky to attend an online seminar led by Mr Felix Slade from Oxford University. He introduced us to the European literary scene of the late 20th century, and the idea of a ‘counter-culture’ that emerged in this period. The literature from this time was characterised by an increased focus on dark, disturbing topics, and often rebelled against traditional styles of writing. We particularly focused on female authors and the idea of ecriture féminine, a philosophy put forward in 1975 by Cixous that resulted in a wave of experimental narratives. We compared extracts of these novels to extracts from the British, modernist writer Virginia Woolf, and discussed questions such as ‘is content more important than form?’, ‘should literature have a responsibility?’, and ‘how far is an autobiography truly non-fiction?’ As a French A-level student it was exciting to learn about a different side of French literature, beyond the well known names of Victor Hugo or Alexandre Dumas.
Next, Felix introduced us to the style of hyper-realism - an exaggerated and mocking way of writing about reality - which was popular with many Italian authors in the 1990s. It was created as a reaction to the increasing Americanisation of Italian culture and growing disillusionment with politicians. We analysed stories from Aldo Nove’s 'Superwoobinda', a book made up of bizarre short-stories, written in a cold and detached voice. The stories are always cut off before they end, reflecting the changing of the television channels, and the increasingly short attention span of consumers. When I first read the stories I found them odd, and difficult to understand, but after discussion in the seminar, I could see the power of the style, and how it harshly undermines the popular media culture of the time. Thank you, Felix!
By Elly Sturmy