The feminine affective universe in Vernon Subutex of Virginie Despentes
Ever since the publication of her first novel Baise-moi (1993), gender identities have constituted a leitmotivin Virginie Despentes’ work. Vernon Subutex, her latest novel published as a trilogy from 2015 to 2017, pursues this exploration. The three volumes portray intermittently twenty-six characters and, in addition to their social experiences, Despentes exposes us to their interiority as, in her fiction, the social can never be divorced from the personal. At first glance, the novel seems to reinforce the gender-based division of the univers affectifs. The novel actually reveals how the gendered dichotomy assigning reason and the public sphere to men and binding women to emotions and the private sphere still shapes identities. Women in particular seem mostly preoccupied with personal relationships, just as they are reduced to their gender, if not sex: love and their (self-)objectification prevail. Despentes does not explicitly denounce the persistence of gender-based ideals or of the gendering of the univers affectifs. On the contrary, the faithful rendition of the female characters’ interiority raises the readers’ awareness as to this phenomenon. The critique occurs, therefore, on the metadiscursive level.
This link is to the article published as Schaal, Michèle A., The feminine affective universe in Vernon Subutex of Virginie Despentes. Contemporary French and Francophone Studies. May 2019, 22(4); 475-483. doi: 10.1080/17409292.2018.1545733. Posted with permission.