Réfléxivité dans la chanson française

par

Kim Harrison

 

Description

Thèse de doctorat au Royaume-Uni à l'Université de Leeds, dans le département de Français. Travail réalisé en anglais, et commencé en octobre 2001 (toujours en cours au printemps 2003). Le titre prévu de ce travail est "Reflexivity in the French Chanson", soit en français "Réflexivité dans la chanson française" ou comment la chanson française parle de la chanson (création de la chanson, le milieu de la chanson, les stars de la chanson, etc.). Quel regard la chanson française porte sur elle-même ? Une partie de la seconde partie de cette thèse sera consacrée au chanteur Renaud.

Parallèlement, Kim Harrison réalise différentes interventions sur la chanson, dans des colloques, en abordant Renaud et ses chansons.

Projet de thèse (par l'auteur)

The research will focus on those singer-songwriters deemed to be 'reflexive', that is, those who self- consciously acknowledge and investigate the medium in which they work. The 'poetic' French chanson has an honourable history as a popular art-form in which lyrics are deemed to be of primary importance. However, as a result of rapid changes in music making and distribution since the Second World War, and the rise of the entertainment industries, chanson artists have come to question the genre, as well as their own cultural status as 'popular' artists. The thesis will investigate the nature, origins and outcomes of this questioning.

The corpus of primary sources will include, on the one hand, interviews and articles concerning singer- songwriters in the specialist and generalist press, their other published materials, and my own programme of interviews. But crucially, the songs themselves will also be closely analysed. There is currently little theoretical or methodological work available on conducting such analysis, but I shall take as a starting point the work undertaken in English by Frith and in French by Calvet, both of whom stress the need to examine song not simply as written text but holistically: as genre, music, spectacle, and as the product of a specific industrial and cultural context.

In this way, my intended approach comes closer to cultural studies than to exclusively 'literary' analysis. Chanson is a relatively new and still marginal area of research for French studies. One ambition of this approach, therefore, is to help bring chanson into the mainstream of cultural studies.

The first part will investigate the development of 'reflexivity' in theoretical and historical terms, its relationship to other modernist art forms (such as new wave cinema) and the extent to which certain artists should be seen as post-modern. Chanson will thus be situated within contemporary cultural debate and discourse. A wide variety of songs and artists will be investigated here. The second part will then concentrate on three major case studies: provisionally, Gainsbourg, Renaud and MC Solaar.

Interventions au cours de colloques

- "Burn Conférence" en Écosse en octobre 2002 :  "La parodie et la réflexivité dans les chansons de Renaud

- " New Directions in popular culture " au département de Français de l'Université de Leeds le mercredi 2 avril 2003 : "Image, Authenticity and the Chanson Artist in the Works of Renaud". (résumé par Kim Harrison ci-dessous)

Résumé 1 : 

Renaud portrays his struggle against commercial pressures and his dislike of the mass media through both his songs and other material such as interviews. This anti-commercial stance coupled with the way in which he situates himself in a certain chanson tradition leads one to see him as an authentic artist. This paper then will look at Renaud’s relationship with the music industry examining how his almost arrogant defiance of the industry and the mass media generally, changes over his career as he as to come to terms with commercial success. It will equally explore the complex notions of authenticity and legitimacy and what they really mean in terms of chanson as a genre and Renaud’s œuvre in particular.

Résumé 2 : 

The singer-songwriter Renaud, whose œuvre stretches from the mid-1970s to 2003, shows a constant awareness of the genre in which he is working and its place in popular cultural history. This paper will concentrate on Renaud's struggle to come to terms with his own place and status as a chanson artist, and with the place of the chanson artist generally in a commercialised and globalised music industry. This struggle can be seen in three main areas of his work, which this paper will focus on. First, his exploration of image and his use of self-parody. Secondly, his intertextual referencing (lyrical, visual and musical), and finally, his self-conscious reflection on the role of a singer-songwriter as seen when Renaud draws attention to the song's creation and construction and his role as creator or 'author'. In this sense his songs are reflexive; they are as much about the art of song writing, and the job of the songwriter, as they are about the plot or narrative.

This reflexivity, intertextual referencing and self-parody all serve to problematise the status of the chanson artist in contemporary society, and Renaud's own place in chanson history.

- "French popular music conference" à l'université de  Manchester les 19 and 20 June 2003 : " 'Société tu m'auras pas!': The status of the chanson artist in the works of Renaud ". (projet d'intervention par Kim Harrison ci-dessous)

The singer-songwriter Renaud, whose œuvre stretches from the mid-1970s to 2003, shows a constant awareness of the genre in which he is working and its place in popular cultural history. This paper will concentrate on Renaud's struggle to come to terms with his own place and status as a chanson artist, and with the place of the chanson artist generally in a commercialised and globalised music industry. This struggle can be seen in three main areas of his work.

First, in the way in which he explores the notion of image. Throughout his career Renaud plays with and projects his own image in different ways through his songs, album covers and official photographs. He continually plays with fantasy and reality, persona and personality in such a way as to both knowingly demystify the entire 'Renaud' star persona and, on a broader level, to problematise the whole status and position of the chanson artist in capitalist society.

Secondly, Renaud uses intertextual references (lyrical, visual and musical), both to other singers and artists and to his own songs and characters, in order, I would argue, to turn his work into a single, unified fictional universe; an œuvre rather than a random collection of songs. In this way, he draws attention to the fact that he is a songwriter and an artist who has an artistic past, in contrast to performers and stars of 'variétés', who work in an eternal present. Thirdly, self-conscious reflection on the role of a singer-songwriter can be seen when Renaud draws attention to the song's creation and construction and his role as creator or 'author'. In this sense his songs are reflexive; they are as much about the art of song writing, and the job of the songwriter, as they are about the plot or narrative.

This reflexivity, intertextual referencing and self-parody all serve to problematise the status of the chanson artist in contemporary society, and Renaud's own place in chanson history.

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(mise à jour page : 24 mars 2004)