L'Effet-sincérité : L'Autobiographie littéraire vue à travers la critique journalistique : L'Exemple de La Force des choses de Simone de Beauvoir

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


In light of autobiographical theory, this study deals with the critics' reception of Simone de Beauvoir's La Force des choses when the book was first published in 1963 in France. The three main parts examine the critical comments on the genre, the final controversial words expressing the author's disappointment, and the evaluation of her style. For the latter, Morten Nøjgaard's theory of literary evaluation has been used. The critics regard the book as a mixture of two genres, autobiography and memoirs, even if they don't discuss this explicitly. However, the philosophic narrative method of Beauvoir puts her in the centre of her story. This method of seeing the world through her own life may partly explain why Beauvoir has been accused of exaggerated narcissism. The majority of the critics seem to recognize themselves and the world they live in through the text. In this way, the description of public events is put in the foreground and not the private affairs of the author. However, almost half of the critics search for explanations of her disappointment in her private life, mainly in the Sartrean existentialist philosophy. There are two key qualities appearing in this study. First of all, there is « l'effet-sincérité » - the impression of sincerity created by Beauvoir in her text. Secondly, there is the quality of emotional textual engagement. This is highly valued by the critics and influences not only their judgement of the book as a whole but also their evaluation of its style. The majority of the critics in the French press are positive to La Force des choses, both to the book in general and to its style. Two ways of evaluating its style can be seen: an emotional evaluation and an intellectual one. According to the specialists, the reader must believe in the autobiographer's sincerity in order to establish a literary communication and not only read the text as a historical document where more importance is given to individual facts than to a global textual truth. This is confirmed by this study. Beauvoir's sincerity is highly praised by the critics. They attribute her sincerity to certain personal qualities and to details in the narrative content. What can be added after the analysis is the importance of the language and of the construction of the text for creating the sincerity effect. Thus, we can put forward the hypothesis that, in addition to any autobiographical contract ("pacte autobiographique") and content, language and text construction are important for the creation of the impression of sincerity. In a broader perspective, this study is a contribution to the discussion of the nature of literature and its criteria by emphasizing the importance of the author's work on language and text construction in a documentary text.


  • Vivi-Anne Lennartsson
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Languages and Literature


  • La Force des choses (Force of Circumstance), Simone de Beauvoir, literary criticism, theory of autobiography, theory of literary evaluation, sincerity effect, textual engagement, emotional textual quality, style evaluation, autobiographical style, Simone de Beauvoir's style, Les Mandarins (The Mandarins), Georges Gusdorf, Björn Larsson, Philippe Lejeune, Morten Nøjgaard., Fransk litteratur, French literature, autobiography, Reception, General and comparative literature, literature criticism, literary theory, Allmän och jämförande litteratur, litteraturkritik, litteraturteori
Original languageFrench
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date2001 Nov 23
Print ISBNs91-973886-2-9
Publication statusPublished - 2001
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2001-11-23 Time: 10:15 Place: Carolinasalen, Kungshuset External reviewer(s) Name: Svane, Brynja Title: Prof. Affiliation: Uppsala University ---