Laurence Riu-Comut

5A Literary Transcodifications/5
Session 5 – July 3, 11:00 – 13:00

Recycling Film Genres: Transcodification of the Film Noir in the Contemporary French and Anglo-American Novel

This communication examines the literary fortunes of the film noir, with the study of the transposition of its codes in contemporary French and Anglo-American novels. As we know, the present-day novel is influenced by cinema, which through its fictional devices provides new structural patterns. Certain film genres, such as the film noir, have had considerable impact on writers. The popularity of these action-based films has attracted novelists who, after the relative decline of narrative fiction in the 1960s and 1970s, have rediscovered the pleasure of narration, while playing with their codes of story-telling.    

I shall firstly propose a conceptualization that considers a particular case of trans-codification. The intermedial transposition of cinematic into literary codes is complicated by the generic markers of the film noir. The genre noir is characterized by its hybridity (Levet, 2010): the “to-and-fro” between literary and filmic genres – the process of “genrification” of the “noir” began with the novel, with the “Série noire” collection (Borde and Chaumetin, 1988).  I will highlight the semantico-syntaxic criteria that helps us to identify the presence of a movie genre in the novel: patterns, places and characters, film techniques in relation to narrative structures (Cieutat, 1993, Ciment, 1992).  

Secondly, I will study the effects this trans-codification produces in the contemporary novel. The noir genre provides a supply of character roles and action scenes (e.g. casino raids, car chases, trailing suspects), which renews the contemporary novel, according to Kibédi-Varga and his notion of renarrativisation (1990). However, the usual devices are redeployed, in a critical, playful or parodic way, which subverts in return the conventions of traditional narrative. The study of three novels, London Fields by Martin Amis (1989), L’Absolue Perfection du Crime by Tanguy Viel (2001) and Noir by Robert Coover (2010), will display the repercussions in the contemporary novel of this recycling of the noir genre. 


Professeur agrégé in Modern Literature, Laurence RIU-COMUT is a PhD student in Comparative Literature, at the University of Pau, France. She belongs to the ALTER research group (Arts/Langages, Transitions and Relations) and teaches at the University of Pau. Her research focus is the intermedial relation between film and novel, with a special emphasis on the influence of film noir and western on contemporary French and Anglo-American novel (Martin Amis, Paul Auster, Robert Coover, Jean Echenoz, Tanguy Viel). Recent publications: « Le roman au prisme du western : Ghost Town de Robert Coover », in Elisa Bricco et Nancy Murzilli (eds.), Pratiques artistiques intermédialesPublif@rum, n°29, 2018; « Du western au roman : réécriture et variations intersémiotiques dans Pas le bon, pas le truand de Patrick Chatelier », in Laura Brignoli (ed.), InterArtes. Diegesi migranti, Milan, Éditions Mimesis, 2019, p. 217-228.