Date of Completion


Embargo Period


Major Advisor

Roger Celestin

Associate Advisor

Anne Berthelot

Associate Advisor

Eliane Dalmolin

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


This dissertation proposes that there are specific and observable reasons why certain novels have attained the status of, and been commonly called, “cult novels” or “cult fiction”. It also proposes to delineate the development of this process through three major French novels of the twentieth century: André Gide’s L’Immoraliste (1902), Françoise Sagan’s Bonjour Tristesse (1954), and Michel Houellebecq’s Extension du Domaine de la Lutte (1994) as paradigmatic novels of the genre.

Since cult fiction covers a wide range of literary “registers”, from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird, a realist novel seemingly aimed at “young readers”, to such emblems of “high” or “experimental literature” as James Joyce’s Ulysses, for instance, arriving at a contained, direct definition is no simple task. Nevertheless, there are some basic attributes that can help us to arrive at a working definition. Often, but not always, cult fiction originates outside the production of the literary establishment. It is a type of fiction that inspires quasi-religious fervor from its readers – the cultists –, a fervor that is not of the ephemeral or trivial type, but one that grows exponentially over a long period of time, thus an essential component of a particular work of fiction’s “cult” status. The dissertation will therefore be a combination of close textual analysis, as well as a more cultural studies approach that will examine the works in question in their respective historical and cultural contexts.