First Advisor

Claudine Guégan Fisher

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in French


World Languages and Literatures




Raymond Queneau (1903-1976) -- Criticism and interpretation



Physical Description

1 online resource (103 p.)


The writings of Raymond Queneau span a period of more than forty years and reflect the multiplicity of his approaches: essays, songs, poems, scenarios for the cinema, translations (from English to French), journal, and novels.

My study focuses mainly on five novels: Le Chiendent (The Bark Tree), Les Fleurs bleues (Between Blue and Blue), Le Dimanche de la vie (The Sunday of Life), Pierrot mon ami (Pierrot) and Zazie dans le métro (Zazie in the Metro), the one that made him known to a wide reading audience. Queneau contributed to the very rich philosophical and literary scene in France sandwiched between twentieth century surrealism and existentialism, drawing much of his inspiration from the popular characters of the everyday Parisian life.

My thesis mainly focuses on Queneau's dichotomy between "what is" and "what appears to be". Because of Queneau's extreme versatility, I do not attempt to analyze every aspect of his writing but limit it to examining his concept of appearance and reality, an approach which cuts across various aspects of his writing.

The first chapter outlines the interplay between the sciences, literature and the concept of humor interpreted in the light of a notion of a participatory rather than a passive reading.

The second chapter, entitled "Le Défi du Langage" (The Challenge of Language), elaborates upon Queneau's "fantasy" world with a concentration on the linguistic elements and play-on-words.

The third chapter, entitled "La Valeur Structurelle" (The Structural Value), deals with the way in which Queneau structures his novels and the different forms taken by his fiction: examination of the symbolic aspect of numbers and forms; echos and symmetry; dream and reality; repetitions and play on the "I/ eye".

The fourth chapter, entitled "L'Etre et le Paraître" (Being and Appearing), answers the main question of appearance and reality while dealing with the philosophy of "being or not being" as well as the resulting corollary of realizing anguish and death. Queneau's characters answer to these eternal questions through a growing awareness and consciousness which drive them to espousing anonymity or popular wisdom. In so doing, Queneau's humor enlarges upon the parody of philosophers such as Parmenides, Plato, Descartes, Camus or Sartre.

In the conclusion, entitled "Au-delà de l'humour" (Beyond Humor), Queneau's laughter which is omnipresent, expresses the underlying condition through his observation of particular individuals in their very individualities. In the final analysis, Queneau's humanism shines forth with great empathy, comprehension, and humility.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).


If you are the rightful copyright holder of this dissertation or thesis and wish to have it removed from the Open Access Collection, please submit a request to and include clear identification of the work, preferably with URL

This thesis is in French.

Persistent Identifier