April 17, 2001
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v2.1 Reference

Enfants Terribles

Youth and Femininity in the Mass Media in France, 1945-1968

As the postwar mass media in France imagined her, the teenage girl was no longer a demure and daughterly jeune fille. Instead, she was an enfant terrible, a "bad girl"—implying that she was unapologetically and unsentimentally no longer a virgin. Focusing on the role of gender in representations of youth in post-World War II France, Susan Weiner traces how, after 1945, young men and women came to symbolize different aspects of social order and disorder in a country traumatized by the Nazi Occupation and Cold War paranoia, seduced by consumerism and Americanization, and engaged in an undeclared war in Algeria. While overtly political discourses about "youth" generally referred to middle-class young men, Weiner argues that it was in media representations of "bad girls" that anxieties over the loss of a morally and socially coherent national identity found their expression.

Enfants Terribles looks at French culture from the Liberation to 1968 through images of the teenage girl which appeared in a broad range of texts and institutions: magazines such as Elle and Mademoiselle, newspapers, novels, popular essays, popular music, surveys, and film. Weiner highlights the new importance of youth as a social category of identity in the context of the postwar explosion of the mass media and explores the ways in which girls both defined and disrupted this category.

About the Author

Susan Weiner is an associate professor of French at Yale University.


In the exhilarating Enfants Terribles, Susan Weiner... utilizes French theory—especially psychoanalytic and feminist—to analyze the historical phenomenon of the emergence of a new teenage girl in France after the Second World War.

- Susan B. Whitney - Journal of Social History

A thorough and engaging study. Through examining film, advertising, magazines, music and women's writing, Weiner attempts to elicit the process by which the French media created and imposed an image of female youth in the two decades preceding the 'revolution' of 1968, and to suggest that the cumulative effect of this process means that '68 cannot be taken as the first moment in which youth emerged as a public force in postwar France... The strength of Enfants Terribles lies in its impressively comprehensive cultural research, and the perspective this provides on contemporary feminism.

- Lisa Hilton - Times Literary Supplement

In this provocative book, Weiner weaves together media, politics, and culture in postwar France through the analysis of the emergence of youth—especially young women—as social actors and objects.

- Choice

This is a fascinating and indispensable work of gender and cultural analysis... As an historian, I particularly appreciate her attentiveness to the historical specificity, as well as continuities, of her subject.

- Whitney Walton - H-France, H-Net Book Reviews

A compelling academic assessment of female social development in this dynamic era.

- Alicia Austin - France Today

Susan Weiner's exciting work on France in the period following the Second World War explores the emergence, between 1945 and 1968, of a new definition of what it meant to be young and female in France.

- Rebecca Pulju - SubStance

In a wide-ranging study Weiner discusses the disruptive feminine 'other' that 'emerges alongside complicity with patriarchy' in magazines, popular fiction, politics, film, technological advances and in contemporary social surveys.

- Stephanie Spencer - Paedagogica Historica


Enfants Terribles contributes significantly to the study of the years between the Occupation and May 1968, proposing intelligent new insights into the role of gender within youth culture, into the logic and sequence of popular styles and preoccupations, and into the impact of historical forces on youth and culture. It will be a welcome addition to any library that already includes such titles as Tony Judt's Past Imperfect, Kristin Ross's Fast Cars, Clean Bodies, and Herbert Lottman's The Left Bank..

- Lynn Higgins, author of New Novel, New Wave, New Politics: Fiction and the Representation of History in Postwar France
Johns Hopkins University Press
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9780801865398 : enfants-terribles-weiner
264 Pages
$50.00 USD

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