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Degenerative Realism

Novel and Nation in Twenty-First-Century France

Series: Literature Now
Examining key novels by Michel Houellebecq, Frédéric Beigbeder, Aurélien Bellanger, Yann Moix, and other French writers, Christy Wampole identifies and critiques an emergent tendency toward “degenerative realism.”

Author Information

Christy Wampole is associate professor of French at Princeton University. She is the author of Rootedness: The Ramifications of a Metaphor (2016) and The Other Serious: Essays for the New American Generation (2015).


Alexandre Gefen, CNRS-Université Paris Sorbonne:
In the wake of the cultural and economic crises that hit France through the era of post-truth and social media, contemporary French literature invented a new form of realism, which Wampole calls “degenerative realism.” A challenging, stimulating book on a controversial literary trend.

Philippe Met, University of Pennsylvania:
One of the smartest books I’ve had the pleasure to read in recent years. Compelling, stimulating, far-reaching, and indispensable. Degenerative Realism is a rich, illuminating concept, plugged into the French national psyche while capturing the zeitgeist of our globalized economy, and full of potentialities for related fields. A must-read in a world caught between alternative facts and dire predictions.

Lee Konstantinou, University of Maryland:
This book is timely in its intervention, and it offers a bracing portrait of the new degenerative realists. Wampole makes a persuasive case for the coherence and significance of this reactionary literary tendency.

Joseph Litvak, author of The Un-Americans: Jews, the Blacklist, and Stoolpigeon Culture:
Not just a brilliant study of reactionary hysteria in contemporary French fiction, Christy Wampole’s book has powerful insights into the world at large—a world that her writers see as slipping out of their control but that is shaped by their desperate need to assert rhetorical authority over it. An indispensable guide to our current toxic landscape.

Audience: Professional and scholarly;