The Transcultural Self: Mapping a French Identity in Contemporary Australian Women’s Travel Memoirs

Juliana de Nooy


Abstract

Rare during the twentieth century, at least twenty-nine book-length memoirs of Australians in France have been published since 2000. Unlike their British and American counterparts, these are overwhelmingly written by women, staying as often as not in Paris as in rural France. The relocation inevitably provides the opportunity for reinvention of the self in relation to new surroundings.

Striking is the desire among many of these writers to claim a French identity, as evidenced in titles such as: Almost French, How to Be French, My French Life. The paper seeks to understand what enables Frenchness to appear as readily accessible to this group of Australian women and what this version of Frenchness entails. It investigates what constitutes cultural belonging in these memoirs, and the ‘technologies of the self’ by means of which this new identity is crafted, assumed and circulated as a template for others to follow. Curiously, neither a high level of French language proficiency nor long-term residence are considered essential attributes. More often, the authors focus on the availability of alternative forms of female subjectivity, and the invention of a transcultural self is articulated in terms of cultural paradigms of femininity and gender relations.

Keywords

French identity; Australian; cultural identity; travel writing; autobiography; intercultural narrative

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