Parisian poiesis
: architecture and the aesthetics of contemporary French poetry

  • Lauren Quigley

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Since its recognition as 'capital of modernity' as conceived by Walter Benjamin, the city of Paris has undergone significant social and architectural changes. These changes have inspired the creation of various works in French nineteenth and twentieth-century poetry on Paris, from Baudelaire to Aragon, Fallet, and Jouet. Despite this, there is no academic study of contemporary French poetry’s critical examination of the city’s urban renewal. This thesis seeks to address this gap by exploring the relationship between urban and poetic form in contemporary Paris in understudied texts by Jacques Réda, Jacques Roubaud, and Michel Houellebecq. It examines how the city's writers engage with Paris and its urban renewal and how this, in turn, informs their work. The study observes the effects that this specific spatial experience has on the poet through close readings of poetic form in each text, the application of urban and spatial theory, and an examination of the built environment through concepts such as memory, mobility, frailty, and struggle. It seeks to address the above through answering the following questions: firstly, how is the making of poetry linked to the experience of the city? Secondly, how is the built environment reflected in poetic form? Thirdly, what is the role of public transport in this literary process? The examination of these texts reveals that poetic form gives meaning to the built environment inhabited by the poets, as well as addressing critical lacunae in the works of three prominent writers in contemporary French poetry. The thesis also prompts further study into the potential of poetry to offer critiques of urban renewal as the city continues to evolve and rethink its limits via the Grand Paris plan.

Date of AwardJul 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsNorthern Ireland Department for the Economy
SupervisorClaire Moran (Supervisor), Gary Archibald Boyd (Supervisor) & Dominique Jeannerod (Supervisor)


  • Poetry
  • contemporary poetry
  • contemporary French Poetry
  • urbanism
  • literary urbanism
  • urban humanities
  • French literature
  • Michel Houellebecq
  • Jacques Roubaud
  • Jacques Réda
  • OuLiPo
  • French poetry
  • architecture

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