Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




De Viveiros, Geneviève

2nd Supervisor

Gannier, Odile


Université de Nice Sophia Antipolis

Joint Supervisor


The character of convict is omnipresent in French literature of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The representation of the world of hard labor in metropolitan and colonial prisons is at the crossroads of the broader representation of crime in the nineteenth century, according to a concomitant historical development with colonial expansion. The miscellaneous news, these little newsletters launched continually on the city, change the way of perceiving crime. Obeying a specific structure, this type of news will reshape the literary representation of crime. This is where the character of the convict comes in. Indeed, enjoying a special status (dead/alive/revenant), it offers novelists "conditions of possibility" unseen until then in the world of letters. Jean Valjean, Monte-Cristo and Chéri-Bibi, to name only the well known, have become models in what we can call the "novel of the convicts", literary (sub)-genre which develops in France from 1830 onwards. Thus, Valjean will give the archetype of the "innocent convict", the miraculous convert and the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. Monte-Cristo will be the Avenger par excellence, whose course will be the model of the genre - revenge being an inevitable topos of popular literature of the nineteenth century and until today. As for Chéri-Bibi, at the beginning of the twentieth century, embodies a turning point in the history of gender; it would be to the novel of the convict what Don Quixote was for the chivalric romance: a sum and a surpassing. The study we propose, oriented on the "genesis and structure" of the prison novel, is a reverse journey in history of this literary genre that does not say its name.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
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