Jean Giono and the Creation of Mythic Literary Spaces

Authors: Robert Briwa*, Angelo State University
Topics: Cultural Geography
Keywords: literary spaces, mythic geographies, regional identity, Provence
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 8
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Myths imbue regions with taken-for-granted meanings that alleviate fear and guide everyday behavior. Responding to recent calls within geography to re-examine myth, I use methods and theoretical perspectives from literary geographies to interrogate selected works by French author Jean Giono (1895-1970). Doing so positions him as an writer who constructs mythic literary spaces. Giono develops two interrelated myths. First, Giono develops a place-myth of Provence. This place-myth extends late nineteenth- and twentieth-century Provençal literary traditions, notably the literary Félibrige movement, which consolidated a shared Provençal cultural, literary, and regional identity. Giono deepens and expands on regional themes promoted by the Félibrige, including an awareness of Mediterranean rural lifeways; a distinct Provençal linguistic identity; and connections to a deep Greco-Roman heritage. Furthermore, Giono’s work geographically extends the scope of these themes through his focus on the interior hill country and mountain landscapes of Provence. Yet Giono also uses his works to promote a second set of moral myths that guide everyday behavior within, and in relation to, Provençal landscapes. These moral myths--including goals of rectifying socio-environmental and existential crises; restoring dignity to the excluded; and protecting vulnerable landscapes and lifeways--are communicated through his works and contribute to a mythic form of expansionary literary geography, where the mythic meanings of Giono's Provence spillover into the extratextual world.

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