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Durham e-Theses
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Jean genet and his novels

Haines, S. F. E. (1974) Jean genet and his novels. Masters thesis, Durham University.



The known facts of Genet's early life are few. He has an illegitimate child, brought up on public charity. A thief and a homosexual, he spent much of his life between the ages of ten and thirty in reformatories and prisons. Genet’s early novels consist almost entirely of the author’s personal preoccupations. Notre-Dame des Fleurs and Miracle de la Rose express despair and dreams of fantasy existences, thus providing an outlet for Genet's frustrations and aggression. Together with Journal du Voleur, these two novels appear to be autobiography. Rather than relating facts however, their aim is to reinterpret Genet’s past life and to endow it with the deliberate motive of attaining perfection in solitude, evil and "saintete"; they thus attempt to create a credible Legend for their author. This retrospective reappraisal is consciously written to coincide with the image forced upon Genet by the society which had rejected him as a child. Pompes Funebres and Querelle de Brest, as well as Genet’s subsequent plays, are concerned less with Genet's own personality; they attempt to implicate the entire "civilised" world in an ethic, which theoretically shatters long-perpetuated assumptions concerning relationships between individuals and groups within society. Genet’s attack upon society's values is made effective by his use of language. His stylised technique, with its symbolism and lyricism, reassures and impresses; by contrast the ideas expressed aim to violate social taboos and to provoke a shock reaction in the reader. For Genet writing provided first an escape, both imaginary and real, from prison, life; it is his consequent reacceptance by society which allows the possibility of his "revenge". Genet, the self- confessed embodiment of Evil, sets out, by writing pornography, to destroy the Virtuous society which he loathes. Morally he both succeeds and fails in this task because of the flaw in society's ethic, whereby artistic creativity is rewarded, without reference to the philosophy expressed.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:1974
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:14 Mar 2014 16:28

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