Defne Koyluoglu

Motherhood at the Crossroads: A Deconstruction of Gender, Class, and Race in Leïla Slimani’s Chanson Douce
Interdisciplinary: Literature, Sociology
Volume 7 | Issue III | September 2023
Phillips Exeter Academy ’24
New Hampshire, USA
While my academic interests span from astronomy to art history, my background as a modern dancer, especially in the sophistication and essence of the Martha Graham technique, introduced me to captivating conversations on historical gender roles. After reading Le Pays des Autres in my junior fall French class, I was inspired to read more work by Leïla Slimani, a Moroccan author, mother, and the personal representative of Emmanuel Macron to the Francophone world. Within Slimani’s novels, I found space for conversations about gender, race, and class. Her provocative approach opened a door in my mind to create a research paper. The paper explores how themes of femininity, race, and motherhood are weaved into Slimani’s 2016 novel, Chanson Douce, resulting in an engaging story that seeks to deconstruct the intricacies of human connections and societal norms. My research examines both Slimani’s novel and various interviews with her, as well as the work of French theorists, such as Hélène Cixous, Simone de Beauvoir, and Michel Foucault. The process of writing this paper for The Schola not only taught me how to base my argument on academic theory but also how to analyze the social function of literature. In the future, I plan to continue my study of French literature and language, as well as gender studies through a historical lens.
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