Professor of French Cheryl Morgan recently published “Voices Carry: Jeanne Marni’s Urban Comic” in a special issue of Romanic Review (112:2 September 2021, pp. 235-260). The issue, titled “The Fergusonian Field,” presents essays in memory of Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson (1940-2018), a professor of sociology and French at Columbia University and one of Morgan’s doctoral thesis advisors.
Ferguson’s interdisciplinary work on the French literary field, 19th-century urban culture, the sociology of French cuisine, and the cultural history of roses has resonated widely with scholars from numerous disciplines.
Morgan’s article examines the urban fiction of Jeanne Marni’s 1898 Fiacres, a collection of 25 stories that first appeared in the daily newspaper Le Temps. The stories are presented in the form of dialogues transcribed by an invisible spectator from within the horse drawn carriages for hire, the fiacres, the fin de siècle taxi cabs.
Training her eye on and lending her ear to Belle Époque Paris, Marni registers the conversations of Parisians as they move about the city. In these feminocentric, and by turns humorous or ironic texts, Morgan says Marni hones an “urban comic” that merges two 19th-century figures: the “invisible” flâneuse and the “inaudible” rieuse, or funny woman.
Morgan focuses on the intersection of the representation of urban experience and the humorous in Fiacres, situating Marni’s sound bites within a genealogy of women writers and the city that looks back to Delphine Gay de Girardin’s witty chronicles of July Monarchy Paris, the “Courrier de Paris” (1836–1848), and ahead to Annie Ernaux’s ironic journal of urban selfhood in transit, Journal du dehors (1993).
Romanic Review is a journal of the Columbia University Department of French and is published by Duke University Press.