Ralph Sarkonak


Relevant Degree Programs


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Mar 2019)
Ecriture é/veillée : le traumatisme et la deuxième guerre mondiale dans le roman français contemporain (2013)

The primary goal of this study is to analyse the representation of the traumatic instant in four contemporary novels: Claude Simon’s L’Acacia (1989), Elie Wiesel’s L’Oublié (1989), Nancy Huston’s Lignes de faille (2006) and Hadrien Laroche’s La Restitution (2009). The traumatic instant is an experience that provokes an incomplete deconstruction of our ontological understanding, generating traces of the past that dwell as a haunting in the present and are projected into the future. The instant fragments previous knowledge (firm beliefs and notions related to our engagement with the world) and instills a sense of loss and anguish so profound that the event becomes a seismic experience that resonates through time and space, becoming therefore transgenerational. My title ‘writing in the wake’ (l’écriture é/veillée) highlights that these writers are writing in the wake of the Second World War. It also refers to the notion of a wake (veillée) or, in the context of this study, the time spent commemorating the dead through textual representation. Recurrent of states of wakefulness and somnolence point towards the fact that the need to awaken to experience is constantly thwarted by the desire to protect oneself from unimaginable suffering. The importance of keeping vigil (veiller) over a past trauma is also of utmost importance. As World War II continues to maintain a stronghold on literary minds, the ways in which we engage with the traumatic continue to underscore the importance of an empathetic and historically responsible relationship to the past. In these texts, this is accomplished through narrative structures that highlight the intermingling of past, present and future. I demonstrate that is it necessary for the reader to take part in a ternary engagement with the text—aesthetic, historical and empathetic—in order to understand more fully what needs to be decrypted in absences and lacunae. I term this ternary understanding ‘comemory’. The co-presence of survivor and inheritor experiences in the text functions as an invitation to the reader; the text becomes host to the present of readers, their experiences coexist with those on the page in a shared comemorial space.

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Le Roman ? images: Description et fragmentation chez Claude Simon, Renaud Camus et Pascal Quignard (2013)

No abstract available.

Master's Student Supervision (2010-2017)
Play and crime in L'Immoraliste and Les Caves du Vatican by André Gide (2011)

For this Master’s thesis, the initial problematic asks how André Gide reconciles the concepts of ethics and authenticity in two of his early twentieth century works: L’Immoraliste (1902) and Les Caves du Vatican (1914). In a letter dated the 6th of June 1911, Gide wrote to his friend Jean Schlumberger “Si quelque jour je peux raconter ce passage quasi insensible du jeu au crime, ce sera mon plus beau livre.” Play and crime are recurring themes in Gide’s works and serve a role that on a thematic and structural plane are both ethical and aesthetic. In addition to this ethico-aesthetic interaction, the idea of a passage quasi insensible constitutes an important aspect of my argument. This passage between game and crime represents an act of ethical transgression implicit in the aesthetic construction of the work of art. Returning to my initial problematic, Michel (L’Immoraliste) and Lafcadio (Les Caves du Vatican) attempt to cultivate a play-mood representative of the endeavor to cultivate one’s être authentique in the face of the dominating social ethic. In short, Lafcadio and Michel believe themselves capable of affirming their true selves simply by transgressing this socio-ethic. This desire to transgress the collective ethic results in a state of impasse experienced by the protagonists at the end of each text. There is a discursive structure implicit in the two texts: the ethical space regulated by what Michel Foucault terms the “juridico-discursive” model of power and the ludic space governed by the desire to affirm one’s authentic self. These two spheres overlap to create a third space – that of transgression or crime. It is precisely this trangressive passage from the play sphere towards that of collective ethics that constitutes this passage quasi insensible that Gide mentions in his correspondence and what in this thesis is termed a poetics of transgression.

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Reading Nathalie Sarraute through the lens of Jean Baudrillard : challenging consumers and clichés (2011)

Jean Baudrillard chimed the bell announcing the postmodern death of the subject and the commodification of culture and language at the same time as Nathalie Sarraute was addressing these issues while experimenting with the formal qualities of the Nouveau Roman. The aim of this thesis is to demonstrate how two works of Nathalie Sarraute, namely the novel Tu ne t’aimes pas (1989) and the play C’est beau (1975), textualize resistance to the consumer society that they are staging as framed by Baudrillard’s seminal text La Société de consommation (1970). The first chapter, dealing with Tu ne t’aimes pas, examines the nature of consumers and by juxtaposing “Consumables” and “Inconsumables” illustrates how Sarraute reanimates the individual through multiplicity. The second chapter, focusing on C’est beau, explores clichés as well as the social tendency to linguistic conformism and simplification which in turn are challenged through abstraction and “thick description”.I prove that, through an aesthetic of undecidability, Sarraute succeeds in reviving the individual and restoring language from piles of platitudes in a way that the critical dialogues carried on in her writing extend to the present day and into the future.

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Le r?le des orphelines dans la litt?rature : Le Premier Jardin d'Anne H?bert et Le Manteau noir de Chantal Chawaf. (2010)

No abstract available.


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