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05 June 2024

King's professor interviews Nobel prize-winner

Professor Siobhán McIlvanney from King’s Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures and Professor Shirley Jordan from Newcastle University interviewed Annie Ernaux, winner of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Literature.

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Professor McIlvanney, Annie Ernaux and Professor Jordan. Image: Siobhán McIlvanney.

In the article for French Studies, Professors McIlvanney and Jordan used the overarching theme of place to understand the influences on Ernaux’s writing and life. They discussed Ernaux’s reaction to being the first French woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature and her responses to contemporary events and movements.

I previously interviewed Ernaux at her home 32 years ago, so it was wonderful to return there: she is a very generous host. We had just heard her speak at a conference on ageing, so were particularly interested in her own thoughts on ageing and current attitudes to older people. She has always used her personal experiences as a means of examining – and often challenging – broader social inequities.

Professor Siobhán McIlvanney, Professor of French and Francophone Women’s Writing

Ernaux’s writing aims to give literary representation to typically underrepresented topics – whether women’s sexual passion or parental illness and death – and voices, such as those of women and the working class. She focuses on the effects of social, linguistic and sexual hierarchies on her narrators. Ernaux views her writing as a means of destabilising these categories, which she also explores through her fluid approach to genres.

In this story

Siobhán McIlvanney

Professor of French and Francophone Women's Writing