Log In Start studying!

Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

Nouveau Roman

Nouveau Roman

Nouveau Roman was a French avant-garde movement that challenged traditional literary elements like linear plots and character development. As a loosely aligned group of individuals, these novelists largely reacted against Realism. The general idea was that each novelist and each novel created their own form, rather than following any existing convention.

Nouveau Roman Definition

Movements can be difficult to define but this one is trickier than most. The Nouveau Roman movement was more of a collection of individuals who actively highlighted their differences than a formalised movement.1 It is thought to have occurred roughly between the 1950s and the 1980s, almost exclusively in France. Most of the authors happened to be published by the same publishing house, Les Éditions de Minuit. This included the Irish author Samuel Beckett's French works.

Sometimes said to be a link between Modernism and Postmodernism, Nouveau Roman authors generally ignored or subverted traditional literary elements like character development, linear plots, themes, and messages. Instead, they took a progressively unconventional approach to the novel.

After reading the rest of the article about the Nouveau Roman movement, come back and think about why Samuel Beckett was included in the authors published by Les Éditions de Minuit. He is not officially considered an author of the movement.

Modernism was a movement that is usually associated with the era after World War I up to about the mid-20th century. In literature, it was typified by characteristics like stream-of-consciousness narratives, self consciousness, individuality, and the absurd. Key authors include Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and Joseph Conrad.

Postmodernism is largely a reaction against Modernism. Still developing, it is characterised by features like intertextuality, non-linear plots, irony and the idea that no work of art is original. Well known authors include Toni Morrison, Ian McEwan and Arundhathi Roy.

Nouveau Roman: movement and characteristics

The phrase Nouveau Roman is thought to have been coined in a critical article by Émile Henriot in the French newspaper Le Monde on May 22, 1957. The movement is also referred to in English as The New Novel or even the Anti-novel. Henriot's article followed almost a decade of essays by Allan Robbe-Grillet, developing his ideas on the novel, as well as various authors publishing works through Les Éditions de Minuit. Still, after all of this, the closest thing to a manifesto that the Nouveau Romans ever had was Robbe-Grillet’s 1963 Un Nouveau Roman (A New Novel) or perhaps Sarraute’s L’Ère du soupçon (1956). It seemed that manifestos were not very Nouveau Roman.

The New Novel, is not a theory, it is an exploration. - Alan Robbe-Grillet2

This makes Nouveau Roman even more challenging than most other movements to define in terms of duration or characteristics. By the late 1960s, defining who and what were Nouveau Roman had become even more complex, with some pretty major divergences, most notably between Robbe-Grillet and Michel Butor.

This context aside, to understand how these authors impacted the literary and film worlds during their time and afterward, it is worth placing a few parameters on the movement. Nouveau Roman is thought to have mostly run over three broadly defined eras.

Nouveau Roman: 1950s – 1960s

Allan Robbe-Grillet’s time as an unofficial editor at Les Éditions de Minuit kick started the first era of the Nouveau Roman. The other less dominant Nouveau Roman style publishing house of the time was Gallimard. Butor’s move to this house in 1960, created the first rift and major divergence in the movement.

Characteristics

  • A common stance at this stage was a preference for the discontinuity of traditional novels and a revolution against 'Balzacian realism'.2
  • Generally, traditional literary elements like character development and linear plots were specifically disregarded or subverted.
  • A neutral representation of the senses was promoted over an emotional approach.
  • Characters were often depicted as anonymous or as a point of view only, removing any narrative omniscience.
  • Self-reflective and metafictional.
  • Incoherent, non linear narrative perspectives.
  • 'l’écriture blanche' or a simplicity and flatness of style.
  • Officially, the novels were both apolitical and ahistorical.

Balzacian realism is a reference to Honoré de Balzac, an author who is closely aligned with the Realism movement. The Nouveau Roman reacted against the causality, linear plots, and complex characterisation that they saw as key traits of many 19th century novels, typified by Balzac.

They motivated for progress in the approach to creating novels by the inclusion of more characteristics depicted by authors like Marcel Proust, James Joyce or Gustave Flaubert. Another influence was William Faulkner.

Nouveau Roman: examples

Alain Robbe-Grillet’s La Jalousie (Jealousy) (1957), Nathalie Sarraute’s Martereau (1954), Michel Butor’s La Modification (1957) and Claude Simon’s L’Herbe (1958).

Works that exist as English translations have English titles supplied.

Nouveau Nouveau Roman: 1960s – 1970s

During this phase, Robbe-Grillet moved on to directing and writing in the La Nouvelle Vague (New Wave) movement. Author and critic Jean Ricardou mainly drove the changes to the original Nouveau Roman approach, although Robbe-Grillet stayed involved to a lesser degree. Ricardou attempted to unite the group under a more cohesive theoretical programme but this was met with resistance by some of the 'nouveax romanistes', particularly Nathalie Sarraute after the 1971 Cerisy conference. In addition, Butor was a no-show at every conference or just sent other people to read his works.

This era is often referred to Nouveau Nouveau Roman.

Nouveax romanistes is a term used to describe the authors related to the Nouveau Roman movement.

Nouveau Nouveau Roman characteristics

  • Textual productivity in place of representation, expression, or the referential. The writer as just a producer of language.
  • Works that were sometimes implicitly political.
  • The extensive use of word-play and exploration of language.
  • A belief that the concept of an author is a Romantic-era creation and that the idea of originality is outdated.
  • Autonomous, self-referential texts.

The idea that no work of literature is unique or original is a defining attitude of Postmodernism, another movement that is difficult to define. This idea really dates back to about 1917 when Marcel Duchamp put a urinal signed by a fictional R. Mutt into a gallery, and labelled it art. A readymade, titled 'Fountain'.

Expanded upon by cultural theorist Benjamin Walter in his 1936 essay 'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,'3 this attitude was further developed by many Postmodern theorists, artists, authors and designers from Andy Warhol to Zadie Smith and Virgil Abloh.

Nouveau Nouveau Roman: literature examples

Alan Robbe Grillet's Dans le labyrinthe (1959) and Claud Simon's Les Corps Conducteurs (1971).

Nouveau Nouveau Roman: theory examples

Jean Ricardou's 'Problèmes du Nouveau Roman' (1967) and 'Pour une théorie du Nouveau Roman' (1971).

Nouveau Roman autobiography: 1970s - 1980s

In 1975, Robbe-Grillet moved back to writing novels, and shortly afterward he denounced Ricardou and his theoretical approach. Some of the Nouveau Roman authors viewed the theory as having solidified into an ideology that restricted their progress. This began what could be viewed as the era of the Nouveau Roman autobiography. Robbe-Grillet grouped his works of this era under the title, Romanesques to separate them from being read or categorised as straightforward autobiographies.

Nouveau Roman Autobiography: characteristics

  • Intertextuality.
  • The explicitly fictional was mixed up with autobiographical fragments, and 'theoretical' reflections on the fiction.
  • Discontinuity and fragmentation of plot and narrative.
  • The reader was actively engaged in the process of constructing the narrative.

Intertextuality as a term has been broadened to include all types of interrelated media. Originally it was a linguistics term used specifically for literary texts.

To get a handle on intertextuality, consider the many references to music, series or tik toks that you might make in daily conversation. Literary intertextuality is a pretty similar concept, except that it is usually kept to more literary references. Fundamentally, literary intertextuality is when a text refers, directly or indirectly, to other texts or to its cultural environment.

Nouveau Roman Autobiography: examples

Robbe Grillet’s Le Miroir qui revient (1984), Nathalie Sarraute's Enfance (1983), Claude Simon's Les Georgiques (1980), Marguerite Duras's L'Amant (1984).

Nouveau Roman literature: author examples

As you can see, the Nouveau Roman movement is not a straightforward one with easily demarcated characteristics and duration. Again, in order to begin to understand the works and their relevance, there are a few key authors that are generally regarded as defining the approach.

Nathalie Sarraute

Nathalie Sarraute wrote perhaps the first Nouveau Roman novel, Tropismes (Tropes) (1939). Like Butor did from 1960, she diverged from the main theoretical stance after 1971. Her works are still considered seminal examples of the style. She often looked at the time, effort and expense that some characters invested to put on a convincing appearance of cultural sophistication. Another feature of her work are the subtle inferences to the submerged currents of unspoken emotion that underlie all human engagement.

Allan Robbe-Grillet

Robbe-Grillet is usually regarded as the most eminent Nouveau Roman author. His works of literature and film often deal with controversial content that is challenging for many readers due to both their sometimes problematic subject matter and unconventional delivery. He worked extensively with the Nouvelle Vague (New Wave), directing movies like Trans-Europe-Express (1966) and L'Homme qui ment' ('The Man Who Lies') (1968).

Marguerite Duras

Marguerite Duras is perhaps the most independently well-known of the Nouveau Roman authors. Duras tended to indirectly explore the latent emotions hidden beneath the surface of our day-to-day interactions.

Similar to Sarraute and Butor, her work deviates from the purest formalism of Robbe-Grillet’s original Nouveau Roman style. Like Robbe-Grillet, her characters are often nameless. She also worked in La Nouvelle Vague (New Wave) cinema, writing the screenplay for the movement defining classic, Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959).

Nouveau Roman, a plaque to nouveau roman author Marguerite Duras, StudySmarterFig. 1 - Nouveau Roman author, Marguerite Duras.

Claude Simon

Claude Simon is the most awarded Nouveau Roman writer, having won the Nobel Prize in 1985, l’Express for La Route des Flandres (1960) and the Médicis prize for Histoire (1967). He always referred to himself as a 'grape farmer' rather than a writer. Still, he wrote over 20 novels. His works tend to address events and how they evolved, always seeming to defeat or deflect human purposes.

Nouveau Roman - Key takeaways

  • The Nouveau Roman movement occurred mostly in France between the 1950s and the 1980s.

  • Most of the authors were published by Les Éditions de Minuit. These authors included Alan Robbe-Grillet, Claude Simon, Marguerite Duras, Nathalie Sarraute, and Michel Butor.

  • The movement was not a movement, but rather a loosely aligned group of individual writers who opposed 19th century Realism, and also the Romantic movement's approach to the novel.

  • Nouveau Roman can be said to have many different aspects but generally took a unique approach to plot and character.

  • Nouveau Roman is considered to have three eras, each with its own specific characteristics.

1. Adam Watt, The Cambridge History of the French Novel, Cambridge University Press, (2021).

2 Allan Robbe-Grillet, Un Nouveau Roman, Les Éditions de Minuit, (1963).

3 'Postmodernism', The Art Story.org, (2022).

Frequently Asked Questions about Nouveau Roman

Nouveau Roman or New Novel was a French avant-garde movement that reacted against established literary elements like linear plots and character development. 


As a loosely aligned group of individuals, they were not really a movement but were almost all published by Les Éditions de Minuit.


Examples of the Nouveau Roman novel include Alain Robbe-Grillet’s La Jalousie (Jealousy) (1957), Claude Simon’s L’Herbe (1958), Nathalie Sarraute’s Martereau (1954) and Michel Butor’s La Modification (1957).

Jean-Paul Sartre coined the term 'antinovel' in 1948. It later came to be associated with the Nouveau Roman movement.

This is the French term for the movement also referred to as the New Novel. It is considered to have occurred in France between the 1950s and 1980s and included authors like Alain Robbe-Grillet, Claude Simon and Nathalie Sarraute.

Alain Robbe-Grillet’s La Jalousie (Jealousy) (1957) is his most well-known work. It is considered a seminal Nouveau Roman novel.

Final Nouveau Roman Quiz

Question

What are the English phrases for Nouveau Roman?

Show answer

Answer

The New Novel or the Antinovel.

Show question

Question

Who was Nouveau Roman's main theorist during the 1960s to 1970s.

Show answer

Answer

Jean Ricardou.

Show question

Question

Which author was the unofficial editor at Les Éditions de Minuit?

Show answer

Answer

Allan Robbe-Grillet.

Show question

Question

Which author left Les Éditions de Minuit in the 1960s and developed more along his own lines?

Show answer

Answer

Michel Butor.

Show question

Question

Which is Allan Robbe-Grillet's most famous and often read novel?

Show answer

Answer

La Jalousie (Jealousy ) - (1957)

Show question

Question

What are the two main Realist characteristics that the Nouveau Roman's subverted?

Show answer

Answer

Linear plot.

Show question

Question

What is the name of Nathalie Sarraute's novel that is considered to be the first Nouveau Roman?

Show answer

Answer

Tropismes (1939)

Show question

Question

What charactersistics did Nathalie Sarraute and Marguerite Duras have in common?

Show answer

Answer

They both explored indirect representations of the latent emotions hidden beneath the surface of human interactions.

Show question

Question

Which Nouveau Roman author won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1985?

Show answer

Answer

Claude Simon.

Show question

Question

What were Claude Simon's award winning novels?

Show answer

Answer

Claude Simon won the  l’Express for La Route des Flandres (1960) and the Médicis prize for Histoire (1967).

Show question

60%

of the users don't pass the Nouveau Roman quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.