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By David Caron

The deluge of metaphors brought on in 1981 in France by way of the 1st public stories of what could turn into the AIDS epidemic unfold with a long way better pace and potency than the virus itself. to appreciate why it took France goodbye to react to the AIDS situation, AIDS in French Culture analyzes the intersections of 3 discourses—the literary, the clinical, and the political—and strains the beginning of French attitudes approximately AIDS again to nineteenth-century anxieties approximately nationhood, masculinity, and sexuality.

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Additional info for AIDS in French Culture: Social Ills, Literary Cures

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While Zola’s science remains largely dubious, his claims to cure social ills through the art of the novel do deserve attention for, among other things, the role of narratives in the production of a national identity. The point of this chapter, then, is not to determine whether Zola’s novels are scientifically valid, but rather to examine La débâcle in its performative aspect. 2 For Zola the disease metaphor, and specifically the metaphor of degeneration, or dégénérescence, is a generative one. Dégénérescence, a metaphorical construct supposed to signify (the fear of) the annihilation of the great bourgeois narrative, becomes in fact the source of the author’s narrative.

1 More specifically, can the theses propounded in Le roman expérimental give us any particular insight in our reading of La débâcle, Zola’s novelization of the French defeat by Prussia in the war of 1870? While Zola’s science remains largely dubious, his claims to cure social ills through the art of the novel do deserve attention for, among other things, the role of narratives in the production of a national identity. The point of this chapter, then, is not to determine whether Zola’s novels are scientifically valid, but rather to examine La débâcle in its performative aspect.

Using the terminology presented in my general introduction, we can conclude that the theories medicalizing homosexuality in terms of degeneracy exemplify a totalizing conception of medicine, and not a localizationist one—as opposed to, say, biological anti-Semitism. Whereas the Jew was constructed essentially as a foreign body, a virus, the homosexual degenerate was seen as a product of a dysfunctioning body politic, of an internal imbalance. Moreover, considering the inherent tendency in the discourse of dégénérescence to reverse causes and effects, homosexuality was said to result from an overall degradation of society but also to cause that degradation.

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