On Contagious Disease, Economy, and Ecology in Marie Redonnet’s Splendid Hôtel

Brigitte Stepanov


Marie Redonnet’s 1986 Splendid Hôtel tells the story of a crumbling inn and its nameless, obsessive innkeeper. The latter’s efforts at maintaining the hotel are futile, however: all of her attempts are undone as she struggles to handle reckless guests, manage intrusive vermin and destructive weather, and, overall, keep the building habitable and hospitable. The following article analyzes this understudied novel by focusing on the notions of economy and ecology with respect to both space—namely the decrepit eponymous hotel—and body, most notably the narrator’s. Both “economy” and “ecology” are concepts derived from the Greek oikos, or “house,” and both are paradoxically distinct and blurred in the book. I argue that disease relates economy and ecology in Redonnet’s text, indeed makes them interdependent, and through these derivations of oikos, I examine Splendid Hôtel’s reflections on contagion, its aftereffects, and our powerlessness when faced with it. My reading, in which the threshold between the inside and outside of the guest house becomes a metaphor for the interdependency between the inside and outside of the body, opens onto more general considerations of the liminal spatiality of economy and ecology. The lenses used here are Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s notion of becoming as well as Cheryll Glotfelty’s work on literature and environment studies and the wider theoretical frame of ecocriticism. Ultimately, the lines of thought structuring this article include what it means to become our environment, what (fear of) contagion does to body and mind, what a non-genealogical, “ecological” filiation might look like, and what insight Splendid Hôtel can offer on our current era’s condition. Redonnet’s novel and its close reading are exceptionally timely in our contemporary moment of, at minimum, dual pandemics. As I posit in this article, this literary text can function as theory to help us understand and act upon the crises that surround us.


contagion; economy; ecology; literary analysis; ecocriticism

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.6667/interface.17.2022.161


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