Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Modern Foreign Languages

Major Professor

Mary McAlpin

Committee Members

Douja Mamelouk, Anne-Hélène Miller, Margaret Andersen


This dissertation examines the figure of double alterity represented by foreign women living in metropolitan France, from the 18th to the 20th century. I argue that although these varied figures offer different trajectories, possess diverse origins, and have been described or described themselves through a variety of literary genres and non-literary genres; they share a common experience revealing unicity. My objectives are, first, to establish the outlines of this shared experience through the analysis of general trends and micro-events; and second, to explore what this analysis has to teach us about French society, past and present. The texts used are from Françoise de Graffigny, Claire de Duras, Marie-Antoinette, Flora Tristan, Marie Bashkirtseff, Leïla Sebbar, Djura, Fatima Gallaire and Maryse Condé. Part one consists of three chapters, in which I examine three separate axes of identity: the foreigner, the female foreigner, and the female writer. In part two, I explore the common experience of foreign women in France through the various stages of departing from the home country, arriving, staying, and finally leaving or staying in France, with a focus on deterritorialization, reterritorialization, adaptation, integration, discrimination and mobility. In my conclusion, I argue that the female foreigner is a theatrical figure, oscillating between a Brechtian and Aristotelian paradigm, and that both the French gaze and the post and neocolonial context contribute to create an erosion of her identity and lead to either a reinvention or reinforcement of her self. In addition, her writing encompasses two traits: a recollection of deception as well as feminist concerns. I argue that France possesses resilient postcolonial and nationalist mentalities, leading to a dynamic of trauma, failure and deception and I want to raise awareness on an atypical literary figure, one whose trajectory informs us about how French society has dealt with diversity and tells us that it has yet to find efficient ways to enable the vivre-ensemble. Ultimately, my dissertation sheds lights on the importance of what Derrida called the « unconditional hospitality » and our roles, as human, individual, and citizen to be accepting of any form of alterity.

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