Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


French Studies

Document Type



Jean-Paul Sartre's autobiography Les Mots (1964) is shown to be a departure from the Sartrean oeuvre because it represents an abandonment of littérature engagée. In Les Mots Sartre not only abandons littérature engagée, but also embraces a view of literature which he formerly opposed--l'art pour l'art. Sartre defines his views of literature--littérature engagée--in Qu'est-ce que la littérature? (1948) Robbe-Grillet defines l'art pour l'art in Pour un nouveau roman (1963). In Les Mots Sartre embraces Robbe-Grillet's l'art pour l'art and abandons his own littérature engagée. Since these two views of literature are theoretically opposed, it is interesting to find that Sartre makes this one-hundred-and-eighty-degree turn. Sartre's shifted view of literature, as represented in Les Mots, is further supported by a comparison of it to the autobiographies of a selection of Nouveaux Romanciers: Alain Robbe-Grillet's Le Miroir qui revient (1984), Nathalie Sarraute's L'Enfance (1983), and Marguerite Duras's L'Amant (1984). The autobiographies of the Nouveaux Romanciers are used as illustrations of Robbe-Grillet's notion of l'art pour l'art. Although Sarraute and Duras do not claim allegiance to Robbe-Grillet's view of literature, nor to the name "Nouveau Romancier," their autobiographies are similar enough to Robbe-Grillet's that they seem to be part of his school of thought. The relationship between Sartre and Robbe-Grillet adds to the irony of Sartre's shifted view of literature. Sartre rejects practitioners of l'art pour l'art in Qu'est-ce que la literature? and Robbe-Grillet specifically rejects Sartre and his littérature engagée in Pour un nouveau roman.



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Committee Chair

Kevin Bongiorni