In The Documentary Imagination in Twentieth-Century French Literature, Alison James reconsiders the history of French literature through the lens of the document. This critical and literary history of the document begins in naturalism, moving through André Gide’s journalistic and travel writing and surrealist and early ethnographic experiments. It concludes with postwar self-writing and testimonial fiction from World War II and the Rwandan genocide. Broadly construed, the “document” can evoke any textual, visual, or material object that is understood as evidence or index of the real, whether intentionally mobilized as a part of an archival record or retrospectively understood as a trace of the past. Theoretically, anything can be a “document,” a concept that has become popular in information science, as James notes. Functionally, James privileges certain forms, such as photography, fait divers, and other quasi-journalistic forms (notably Gide’s account of being a juror in the Souvenirs de la...

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