The Pursuit of Happiness in the French Novel of the 20th-21st Centuries

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Happiness, as much a poetic as a philosophical, sociological, and psychological concept, has been, through the ages, at the heart of the needs each individual seeks to fulfil. But today, in a world dominated by technology, driven by productivity and dictated by efficiency, what about Happiness? Does it feature in works of fiction in any significant way? May it not have adopted different guises? Is that “duty of happiness” that Pascal Bruckner was talking about present in the French novel of the 20th-21th centuries? And if it is, has its force strengthened or weakened? This article will discuss the French Novels (of the 20th-21th centuries) that are devoted to or associated with Happiness in a direct or indirect manner. It will contextualize and analyze the transformation of Happiness, within the context of the historical and social events that influenced that period: the Holocaust, consumerism, postmodernism, structural social changes, the various as yet unarticulated new modes of life they created, and so on. To that end, this article will explore the discursive philosophical concept of happiness and its influence on the formation of the French novel. In so doing it will focus on the explicit discourse behind the motifs, the choices made in the process of writing, and the attitudes taken, considering the theme of happiness. Doing so, a significant discussion will be included regarding the paths of happiness, its agents, and the nature of the motifs and metaphors linked to the theme of happiness. The author will also address the dialectical role of the happiness theme in the constitution of an emerging literary discourse reflected in the French novel. By exploring the manifestation of the dogmas, ideas of the intellectual leaders of the 20th century (e.g., Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone De Beauvoir, Albert Camus) as well as the ones of the 21th century (e.g., Pascal Bruckner, Andre Comte-Sponville, Gilles Lipovetsky) new insights concerning the hybrid nature of the supposedly “authentic happiness” will be revealed. The author intend to inspect the theme of Happiness around four dialectical axes as a relevant ethical basis for delimiting the various fields of research: (1) Love, passion, and conjugality; (2) Ageing; (3) “The experience of everydayness”; and (4) “The era of emptiness”. Focusing on the narratives, the article takes into account their specificity in the four distinct fields, all connected to existential and ethical issues. Finally, this article will attempt to analyse the assumed role of literature as a conduit of cultural awareness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-293
JournalJournalism and Mass Communication
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2015


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