Dr Leslie Barnes
Areas of expertise
- Literature In French 200511
- Postcolonial Studies 200211
- Comparative Literature Studies 200524
- Cinema Studies 190201
- South East Asian Literature (Excl. Indonesian) 200519
- Migration 160303
20th- and 21st-century French and Francophone literature and film (esp. Southeast Asia), immigrant writers and minority discourse, fiction and ethnographic representation, contemporary metafiction in French, gender and labor in literature and film, memory studies
I took up my current position as Lecturer in French Studies at the Australian National University in July 2012. For the previous two years, I was a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of French and Italian at Tulane University in New Orleans, USA. I received my PhD in French and Francophone Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles in 2010, where I worked with Professors Françoise Lionnet and Dominic Thomas. During my PhD, I spent two years in Paris, funded by a Bourse Chateaubriand and a fellowship from the UCLA Asia Institute. In addition to French, I speak Vietnamese and have begun learning Khmer.
My research and teaching are sustained by an abiding interest in the possibilities and limitations of narrative, both fictional and nonfictional, in relation to persistently colonial forms of understanding and power relations. The central claim of my book, Vietnam and the Colonial Condition of French Literature (University of Nebraska Press, 2014) is that the development of modern French literature cannot be fully understood without accounting for the influence of colonialism on aesthetic shifts in the hexagon. Based on the notion that neither cultural identity nor cultural production can be given as pure or homogenous, and seeking to develop a new discourse on the French literary “canon” that makes its cultural heterogeneity explicit, the book examines an aspect of modern French literature that has been consistently overlooked in literary histories, namely the relationship between the colonies – their cultures, languages, and people – and formal shifts in French literary production. The readings of the authors offered in the book show that the formal innovations linked to the existentialist novel, the experimental novel, and the contemporary immigrant narrative all had France’s colonial relationship to Vietnam as one of their essential historical conditions. Moreover, by reading André Malraux and Marguerite Duras, two canonical French authors, alongside Linda Lê, an immigrant author who refuses to be pigeonholed as such, the book raises questions about the processes of categorization and exclusion that inform canon-formation and that reinforce the hierarchical relation established when we juxtapose French and francophone literatures.
My next project will be a comparative analysis of twentieth-century and contemporary literary and cinematic narratives that engage with the sex industries of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. These aesthetic representations, which include works of fiction, life narratives, documentaries, and feature films, construct accounts of the events and experiences suffered by the subjects involved in these industries. They present hybrid aesthetic forms and envision new ways to tell local, often marginalized, histories. Perhaps more importantly, they open up a space for international debate on prostitution, trafficking, and human rights. This project will investigate the place of such stories within the broader social context of narratives on the Southeast Asian sex industry, examining their dissemination, reception, and interpretation. In pursuing these general aims, the project will be guided by the following questions:
- How do the stories told in relation to the Southeast Asian sex industries frame the broader questions of gender, labour, and human rights in intimate, localized terms?
- How might a turn to fiction and creative non-fiction enable us to rethink our search for the “truth” about the sex industry as well as our assumption that this industry presents a monolithic system? To what extent might this shift in focus inform policy approaches to combatting prostitution, trafficking, and other modes of emotional and sexual exploitation?
- How have the sex industries in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand been shaped by the particularities of their colonial histories? And in what ways do the narrative representations respond to the specifics of these histories?
I am keen to supervise PhD, Masters, and Honours projects in French and francophone and comparative literature, film, and cultural studies. Within Francophone studies, I have specific interests in exilic and (im)migrant literatures, minority discourses, and fiction and ethnographic representation. Much of the literature and film I work with engages questions of authenticity, trauma, and narrative.
Past supervision topics:
"Charlotte Delbo et la poétique de l'horreur: Du silence à la parole"
-Trauma and memory, literature of the Holocaust in French
"'Le travail est une superbe aliénation': L'aliénation corporelle et le capitalisme dans La Réclustion solitaire de Tahar Ben Jelloun"
-Labour and sexuality, North African immigrant communities in France, hospitality
"Romance nerveuse, ou l'impuissance féminine"
-Gender, trauma, contemporary French metafiction and autofiction