Degenerative Realism: Novel and Nation in Twenty- First-Century France

Columbia University Press, June 2020
By Christy Wampole, associate professor of French and Italian

book cover
Image courtesy of the publisher

A new strain of realism has emerged in France. The novels that embody it represent diverse fears — immigration and demographic change, radical Islam, feminism, new technologies, globalization, American capitalism and the European Union — but these books, often bestsellers, share crucial affinities. In their dystopian visions, the collapse of France, Europe and Western civilization is portrayed as all but certain. Wampole maps how degenerative realist novels explore a world contaminated by conspiracy theories, mysticism and misinformation, responding to the internet age’s confusion between fact and fiction.