First Advisor

Annabelle Dolidon

Date of Publication

Spring 7-22-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in French


World Languages and Literatures




Marguerite Duras. Douleur. English, World War (1939-1945) -- Jewish resistance -- France, Psychic trauma in literature, Memory in literature



Physical Description

1 online resource (iv, 95 pages)


Published in 1985, Marguerite Duras' La Douleur is a collection of six autobiographical and semi-autobiographical short stories written during and just after the German Occupation. Echoing the French national sentiment of the 1970s and 1980s, these stories examine Duras' own capacity for good and evil, for forgetting, repressing, and remembering. The first of these narratives, the eponymous "La douleur," is the only story in the collection to take the form of a diary, and it is this narrative, along with a posthumously published earlier draft of the same text, that will be the focus of this thesis. In both versions, Duras recounts her last tortuous months of waiting for her husband, Robert Antelme, to return from a German concentration camp after he was arrested and deported for his participation in the French Resistance. Though Duras claims in her 1985 preface to "La douleur" that she has no memory of having written this diary and that it has "nothing to do with literature," when it is compared to the original version it becomes clear that substantial changes in style and tone were made to the 1985 version before publication. Though many of Duras' peers disregarded this rewritten version of "La douleur" as a shameful distortion of the truth, it is my contention that historical accuracy was never Duras' primary goal. Instead, what manifests in these two versions of the same story is Duras' path toward understanding and closure in the wake of a traumatic event. Using a combination of psychoanalytic and post-structuralist theory, I will show that Truth and History are essentially incompatible when narrating trauma. Instead what is central to these two texts is their emotional accuracy: the manner in which the feelings and impressions associated with a traumatic event are accurately portrayed.


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