Experience and Exteriors: Cergy-Pontoise’s Suburban Space in Annie Ernaux’s Memoirs, Exteriors and Things Seen
Keywords:Annie Ernaux; Cergy-Pontoise; spatial theory; place; humanistic geography.
This paper analyzes the relationship between Annie Ernaux’s autobiographical writing and the external suburban space of Cergy-Pontoise in two memoirs: Exteriors (1993/2021) and Things Seen (2000/2010). The paper argues that in Exteriors and Things Seen, Ernaux’s individual experience intertwines with the exterior space of the town. The critical exploration of the texts through the prisms of humanistic geography, spatial theory, and feminist spatial theory highlights how the author’s spatial and biographical engagement with the new town operates in a twofold way. On the one hand, it works as a tool contributing to the casting of the identity of place. On the other, it results in an exchange configuring the external suburban dimension as a powerful source of the author’s internal processes of self-investigation, meaning-making, and memory recollection. By shedding light on the points of intersection between life and place, experience and exteriors, the paper ultimately suggests that the place identity of Cergy-Pontoise is crafted by and through Ernaux’s texts and that, concurrently, the suburban space of the new town informs Ernaux’s experience, individuality, and memory. The paper concludes by reflecting on the spatial notion of exteriority as a stylistic device informing Ernaux’s narrative.
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