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French Writer Édouard Louis Is Visiting Professor at Freie Universität Berlin

Samuel Fischer Visiting Professorship at the Peter Szondi Institute of Comparative Literature during the 2018 Summer Semester / Public inaugural lecture on June 18th

№ 133/2018 from Jun 05, 2018

The French writer Édouard Louis is the 39th Samuel Fischer Visiting Professor at the Peter Szondi Institute of Comparative Literature at Freie Universität Berlin during the 2018 summer semester. He is teaching a course on the “History of literature, history of violence.” Édouard Louis is the author of two novels and several essays, as well as the editor of two volumes on the philosopher Michel Foucault and the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. In addition to his literary work, he is known in particular for his political commitment. Since 2016 Édouard Louis has been a Fellow at Dartmouth College (USA). His debut novel En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule (Seuil 2014; Engl. trans.: The End of Eddy, Harvill Secker, 2017) was nominated for the prestigious Prix Goncourt du premier roman the year it was published, and it was awarded the Prix Pierre Guénin contre l’homophobie, an award presented in recognition of commitments against homophobia and for equal rights. The inaugural lecture will take place on June 18 at 6 p.m. The topic is What literature can do? On shame, arts, and politics. The lecture is public, and admission is free.

As the 39th Samuel Fischer Visiting Professor, Édouard Louis will teach a seminar that explores how authors such as Marguerite Duras, Michel Foucault, Toni Morrison, Swetlana Alexijewitsch, and others define the concept of violence and how they deal with it in their fiction. The class will investigate to what extent different forms of violence shape the world and influence perception. The issue of whether literature creates a specific kind of violence will also be addressed. The seminar takes place on Tuesdays from 2 to 4 p.m. in English.

Édouard Louis was born in 1992 in Hallencourt, a French village in Picardy. He changed his birth name, Eddy Bellegueule, when his first novel was published. He studied philosophy and sociology at École Normale Supérieure, École des Hautes Études et Science Sociales, and at the University of Picardy. Édouard Louis’s political articles and essays appear regularly in The Guardian and the New York Times. Édouard Louis is the editor of two social science books Pierre Bourdieu. L'insoumission en héritage (PUF 2013) and Foucault contre lui-même (PUF 2014). He lives in Paris, where he works full-time as a writer.

Édouard Louis’s literary work deals with social and structural violence. Louis considers his autobiographical novels En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule and Histoire de la violence (Seuil 2016, History of Violence), in his own words, as “part of the same political project.” Both novels have already been translated into more than twenty languages. In En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule Louis portrays the suffering of a homosexual child named Eddy Bellegueule, who is confronted daily with violence in the form of racism, sexism, and discrimination and who finally flees his hometown. The novel is regarded as a milieu portrait of the right-wing and the now renamed “Front National” party, which gets a majority vote in Louis’s birthplace Hallencourt, where the novel takes place. The critics particularly appreciated the autofictional character of the novel and the social critical perspective based on theories of Pierre Bourdieu. The writer and sociologist Didier Eribon describes the debut novel as a “literary shock” and its author as “one of the most notable writers of his generation.” The novel also caused a stir in the political realm in France: It was considered highly relevant to political discourse and won the Prix Pierre Guénin contre l’homophobie. En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule has already been staged in several theaters; an adaptation will soon be performed at the Berliner Schaubühne.

Louis’s second novel is also related to social-philosophical theories: The novel Histoire de la violence refers in its title to the writings of Michel Foucault, whose work focuses on institutional configurations of power and violence. In the novel Louis describes the events surrounding a rape he suffered. His concern with this novel was “to make a literary place out of violence.” In May 2018 another novel, Qui a tué mon père (Who Killed My Father?) was published by Édition du Seuil. In addition, an exchange with the philosopher and sociologist Geoffroy de Lagasnerie entitle Conversation avec Geoffroy de Lagasnerie will be published by Presses Universitaires de France.

As part of his political commitment, in 2015 Louis, along with the philosopher and sociologist Geoffroy de Lagasnerie, published a “Manifesto for an Intellectual Political Counteroffensive,” in which they demand that intellectuals get involved in working against right-wing political parties. In 2016 Louis and de Lagasnerie wrote an open letter to Manuel Valls, who at that time was the Prime Minister of France, in which they stated their opinion that French policy makers were inactive in the face of perceived terrorist threats.

Further Information

Contact and Interview Requests

Prof. Dr. Claudia Olk, Peter-Szondi Institute of Comparative Literature, Freie Universität Berlin, Tel.: +49 30 838-56418, Email: claudia.olk@fu-berlin.de

Time and Location of the Inaugural Lecture

Monday, June 18, 2018, 6 p.m.

Freie Universität Berlin, Peter Szondi Institute, Room L 113 Seminar Center, Otto-von-Simson-Straße 26, 14195 Berlin-Dahlem; subway station: Freie Universität/Thielplatz (U3)

Time and Location of the Seminar

Tuesdays, 2 to 4 p.m. in Room KL 29/237, Rost- und Silberlaube, Habelschwerdter Allee 45, 14195 Berlin; subway station: Freie Universität/Thielplatz (U3)