Movies on fictional British super agent James Bond have had no trouble captivating the French public. Now however, in an attempt to show people that 007 was first a literary character and an important one at that, academics from the French National Library, the universities of Nanterre and Versailles, and the European Centre for Audiovisual Writing are getting together for a three-day conference where the topic is solely the spy and his creator Ian Fleming.
Organisers of the conference insist that Ian Fleming’s novels have not received the same kind of “scientific attention” that they merit, and that with the three-day session they will be trying to show how much of an influence he had on British identity, capitalism, geo-politics, gastronomy and sexuality.
“Despite a few studies, largely Anglo-Saxon, James Bond literature does not seem to have received the scientific attention that it merits,” Times Online quoted the Centre for Cultural History of Contemporary Societies at Versailles University, as stating.
Vincent Chenille, a researcher at the centre, insists that 007 is a “cultural phenomenon”, and makes for an interesting study.
“Bond is a cultural phenomenon and it is well worthwhile asking ourselves how this character has managed to cross so many political time zones and remain with us to this day,” he said.
He added that Ian Fleming’s novels should be given “more respect” than what the French public give them, and added that the conference will help “rectify” this.
“His novels are seen here as the sort of thing you buy in a station while waiting for a train. But they should be treated with more respect than that. Most French people discovered James Bond at the cinema and don’t necessarily realise that he was a literary hero first. We want to rectify that,” he said.
Luc Shankland, of Nancy University, eastern France, speaking about 007’s “key role” in post-colonial Britain, says that the spy’s image as a magnet for women was especially needed during this time, for he helped “compensate for national frustration at the loss of colonial territories with the conquest of the feminine sex’s space”.
The academics also compare Fleming’s work to that of Emile Zola and nineteenth-century French novelist and playwright Honoré de Balzac.
The conference is set to take place later this month.