106 Basic Intensive French(8 credits) This course is designed for students who wish to acquire a strong grasp of the French language and culture in the shortest time possible. Students with little or no previous experience of French will complete the equivalent of three semesters of college‑level French. The semester course meets ten hours a week (with an extra hour of tutorial with the French assistant), using a variety of pedagogical methods, and will be followed by a four‑week stay at the Institut de Touraine (Tours, France). There the students will continue daily intensive study of the French language and culture while living with French families (successful completion of the course in France carries 4 additional credits). Students must consult with Profs. Odile Chilton or Eric Trudel before on-line registration. Click here for more information.
201 Intermediate French IFor students with three to four years of high school French or who have acquired a solid knowledge of elementary grammar. In this course, designed as an introduction to contemporary French civilization and culture, students will be able to reinforce their skills in grammar, composition and spoken proficiency, through the use of short texts, newspaper and magazine articles, as well as video. Students will meet in small groups with the French tutor for one extra hour per week.
202 Intermediate French IIFor students with three to four years of high school French or who have acquired a solid knowledge of elementary grammar. In this course, designed as an introduction to contemporary French civilization and culture, students will be able to reinforce their skills in grammar, composition and spoken proficiency, through the use of short texts, newspaper and magazine articles, as well as video. Students will meet in small groups, with the French tutor for one extra hour per week.
203 Intermediate French IIIIn this continuation of the study of French civilization and culture, students will be able to reinforce their skills in grammar, composition and spoken proficiency, through the use of short texts, newspaper and magazine articles, as well as video. Students will meet the French tutor for one extra hour during the week for workshops.
215 French TranslationIntended to help students fine-tune their command of French and develop a good sense for the most appropriate ways of communicating ideas and facts in French, this course emphasizes translation both as an exercise as well as a craft in its own right. The course will also address grammatical, lexical and stylistic issues. Translation will be practiced from English into French, and vice versa, with a variety of texts drawn from different genres (literary and journalistic). Toward the end of the semester, students will be encouraged to embark on independent projects.
220 French through FilmIn this intermediate course we will explore major themes of French culture and civilization through the study of individual films ranging from the silent era to the present and covering a wide variety of genres. We will examine the interaction between the French and their cinema in terms of historical circumstances, aesthetic ambitions, and self-representation. Conducted in French.
240 Survey of French Literature I and IISurvey II. Serving as an overview of modern French literature, this class will focus on short texts (poems, plays, essays, letters, short stories) that reflect the fragile relationship between selfhood and authenticity. From Rousseau’s ambitious program of autobiography to Sartre’s belief that we are inveterate embellishers when it comes to telling our own story, French literature has staged with relish the classic tension between art, artifice, and authenticity. This has not only inaugurated an intensely individual and unstable relationship to the notion of truth, but has implicated the reader in this destabilizing process. This class will explore how the quest for authenticity has led to radical reevaluations of literary style. Readings from Rousseau, Stendhal, Flaubert, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Proust, Gide, Sartre, Duras, Sarraute, Ernaux. Taught in French. Prerequisites: two years of college French (successful completion of the Intermediate) or permission by instructor.
270 Advanced Composition and ConversationThis course is primarily intended to help students fine-tune their command of spoken and written French. It focuses on a wide and diverse selection of writings (short works of fiction, poems, philosophical essays, political analysis, newspaper editorials or magazine articles, etc.) loosely organized around a single theme. The readings provide a rich ground for cultural investigation, intellectual exchange, in-class debates, in-depth examination of stylistics and, of course, vocabulary acquisition. Students are encouraged to write on a regular basis and expected to participate fully to class discussion and debates. A general review of grammar is also conducted throughout the course.
Art or Virtue? Rousseau's Legacy in French Literature
Rousseau’s brutal condemnation of the arts in his Discours sur les sciences et les arts sets the stage for a debate that will rage from the Enlightenment to Sartre’s Qu’est-ce que la littérature? What does literature want? To please or to instruct? From his biased endorsement of Molière’s Misanthrope to his mordant critique of Montaigne and Voltaire, Rousseau pinpoints the arts as the culprit of our moral demise. Continuing Plato’s legacy, he identifies “entertainment” as the single most dangerous obstacle to virtue. Taking Rousseau as its point of departure, this seminar will examine a wide spectrum of works that have pitted art against social or ethical responsibility. Works include Montaigne, Molière, Rousseau, Sade, Hugo, Baudelaire, Zola, and Sartre. Taught in French.
Autobiography and Discontents
This course will deal with questions such as “What does it mean to write one’s life?” and “How does one write the self?” and, in doing so, will examine the ongoing debates about the status of autobiography – and its recent developments – in 20th and 21st Century French literature and literary criticism. We will begin with a consideration of the problem of confession, and appraise the renewal of forms and genres – such as “autofiction” – by which “the language of an adventure” is entrusted to “the adventure of language” (Serge Doubrovsky). The argument that autobiography in fact names a mode of reading will also be considered when we address the question of memory and writing. Readings include works by Christine Angot, Roland Barthes, François Bon, André Breton, Marguerite Duras, Annie Ernaux, André Gide, HervéGuibert, Michel Leiris, Georges Perec, Georges Perros, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Nathalie Sarraute. Additional readings by literary critics such as Georges Gusdorf, Phillipe Lejeune, Paul de Man, Serge Doubrovsky, and Régine Robin, among others. Taught in French.
Autrement dit: Paroles de Femme
Cross-listed: Gender & Sexuality Studies
This course introduces students to the diversity of French women’s voices in literature and cinema in the 20th century. Readings of contemporary women writers will include works by Colette, Simone de Beauvoir, Maryse Condé, Marguerite Duras, Annie Ernaux, Anne Hébert, Catherine Millet, Amélie Nothomb and Nathalie Sarraute. Movies by Chantal Ackerman, Catherine Breillat, Claire Denis, Marguerite Duras and Agnès Varda will be shown and discussed. Taught in French. Four years of French required.
BaudelaireCharles Baudelaire’s The Parisian Prowler (Le Spleen de Paris), a collection of prose poems published in 1869, constitutes a dramatic turning point in France’s literary history. Heavily indebted to Edgar Allen Poe’s art theories, Baudelaire’s vignettes of urban despair document what Sartre saw as the beginning of existentialism in France. Baudelaire’s fallen heroes are garbage collectors turned city archivists, prostitutes communing with the ideal, and smokers who convert cigarettes into symbols of art for art’s sake. In their existential boredom these antiheroes have discovered a paradoxical wisdom of failure: to do nothing or to engage in gratuitous acts of good and evil is the lot of the Parisian Prowler. As Baudelaire questions the relationship between art and its public, he inaugurates the modernist notion that unless it is prepared to shock the reader into a new vision of the world, art is not worth producing. Additional readings by Dostoyevsky, Kierkegaard, and Sartre.
Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Mallarmé
A poetic revolution was brought to the theory and practices of 19th century French poetry by three of its most illustrious figures: Baudelaire, Rimbaud, and Mallarmé. As Victor Hugo’s age of lyric romanticism came to an end, these poets took full measure of a modern subjectivity in crisis by making it a crisis of form, with increasing disenchantment, irony, self-reflexivity, and obscurity. Their challenge to figurative language ultimately brought poetry dangerously close to silence, madness or death. We will, through a succession of close readings, assess the range of this poetic revolution, one that constantly questioned the limits of literature and the very possibility of meaning. Taught in French. Primary texts in French, secondary sources in English. Readings include Les Fleurs du Mal and Le Spleen de Paris (Baudelaire), Illuminations and Une Saison en enfer (Rimbaud), Poesies (Mallarmé).
Chroniqueurs et Historiens de France
A study of texts dealing with events that changed the political, social and cultural history of France, by authors whose writing combined the best in expository and creative literature. We analyze the rhetorical and stylistic devices they used and practice applying these in short papers and oral presentations. The course is conducted in French; reasonable fluency in the language is expected. Among the readings: Gregory of Tours' History of the Franks; Villehardouin's Account of the Conquest of Constantinople, Commyne's Report on the 100 Years War; The Minutes of Joan d'Arc's Trial, Mignet's Fall of the Bastille, The 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Men and Citizens, Michelet's Praise of Revolutionary Volunteers of 1792, DeToqueville's Appraisal of the 1848 Revolution, Lissagaray's History of the 1871 Paris Commune, Sarcey's Account of the Establishment of the Third Republic, Siegfried's Portrait of France between the two World Wars, Vercor's Observations on the Life and Feelings of the French during the 1940-1945 German Occupation; and deGaulle's farewell speech.
Conspiracies & Secret Societies in 19th and 20th Century French Literature
Cultural historians often cite the French Revolution as the event that led to the first modern conspiracy theory, Augustin de Barruel’s anti-Illuminati and anti-Masonic Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire du jacobinisme. In the ensuing two centuries, the figure of the secret society has reappeared in various guises in works by French writers, serving as both a shadowy source of paranoia and an alluring call to comradeship. Through close readings of major works, we will examine how the representation of secret groups and plots functions as a way of explaining history, defining literary practice and style, and imagining a politics of literature. Texts to include works by Rousseau, Balzac, Stendhal, Baudelaire, Michelet, Proust, Gide, Malraux, Breton, Bataille, Céline, and Rivette. Taught in French.
Contemporary French Thought
This course introduces the major schools of twentieth-century French thought through a selection of texts that have had particular significance for philosophy, psychoanalysis, linguistics, literary theory, and sociology. Close readings from Saussure, Barthes, Breton, Lacan, Merleau-Ponty, Derrida, Deleuze, Lyotard, Bourdieu. Students less proficient in French may work on shorter texts excerpted from larger works such as Derrida’s Grammatologie, Deleuze’s Anti-Oedipe, or Lacan’s Écrits. Advanced students may concentrate more extensively on authors of their choice. Conducted in French. Possibility for an extra hour of discussion in English.
Doctors and Writers: Perceptions of Hysteria in 19th French Literary and Medical Writings
Literature 3203/French 319
This course will examine ways in which literary and medical texts represented hysteria in the second half of nineteenth-century France. The class will read closely from medical documents - Pinel, Janet, Charcot, Esquirol - and from literary texts - Balzac's Mémoires de deux jeunes maries, Louise Colet's Correspondence with Flaubert, Flaubert's Madame Bovary, and Zola's Le Docteur Pascal. The friction between literary and medical representations of hysteria brings to the fore fundamental questions about nineteenth-century Realism. How can the dream of mimetic omniscience, of objectivity (i.e., Flaubert) be reconciled with the fluid, vaporous, and ever changing face of the so-called hysteric subject? Could it not be argued that the very nature of literature, with its silences and its dealings with the unsayable, cautions against any single definition of a condition? Concurrent with these literary tensions, the texts of the first aliénistes are also fraught with "unscientific" ambiguities. It would seem that their desire to control their patients with secure medical labels often went astray, leading them into narratives they could no longer control. This course will explore the unintentional slips within these texts, slips that demonstrate the remarkable and unexpected degree in which the medical and literary are bridged. Taught in English with special research projects for French speakers.
Essays, Meditations, Reveries: Artlessness and Authenticity in French Literature
Montaigne’s Essais are credited with revolutionizing ways of thinking about the self. Since his loosely connected, allegedly logic-free Essais, French writers have likened authenticity to a lack of formal structure. Descartes introduced the meditation, Rousseau favored the rêverie, Stendhal launched the loosely composed, factually suspect autobiography, and Bergson questioned the very possibility of a unified self that could replay itself through writing. Sweeping away classical notions of composition and unity, these writers hid their artfulness behind the formless and the unpremeditated. This not only inaugurated an intensely individual and unstable relationship to the notion of truth, but also implicated the reader in this destabilizing process. This course explores how the Augustinian notion of authenticity led to a radical reevaluation of style, mimesis, and self-presentation in French literature. Readings by Montaigne, Descartes, Madame de Sévigné, Rousseau, Stendhal, Duras, and Sarraute. Conducted in French.
French 20th C. Fiction
This course offers an introduction to major novels of 20th Century France. From Proust’s and Gide’s self-reflective narrations, through Celine’s violence, Sartre’s Existentialism, Camus' Absurde, all the way to the formal experiments of the New Novel and Oulipo, the evolution of the French Novel reflects the fate of a disintegrating genre, where mimesis is rejected. Through close readings and scrutiny of the socio-historical context, we will pay special attention to the figure of the solitary anti-hero, emphasize the ambiguity of political commitment, while incorporating relevant aesthetic theories. Texts includes works of Gide, Bataille, Céline, Sartre, Camus, des Forêts, Duras, Robbe-Grillet, Perec, and Toussaint. Secondary readings in English. Taught in French.
French Modernity, Memory, and the Poetics of History
To what extend can literature "give voice" – to quote Michelet – "to the silences of History"? And how does memory shape history and literature? These are the questions this course will investigate in the context of 19th and 20th-century France. "Modernity" implies an embrace of the new, and a violent (if at time painful) rupture with tradition. Must literature bear witness to a past that is increasingly perceived as a catastrophe? Our goal will be to define a "poetics" of history, one that is tied to a new experience of time, in which the past weighs, as Marx famously put it, "like a nightmare on the brain of the living." Readings (and screenings) include Michelet, Baudelaire, Chateaubriand, Flaubert, Hugo, Barthes, Duras, Gracq, Perec, Marker, Modiano, Resnais, Salvayre, Simon and Volodine. Taught in French.
Genealogy of French Morals
Cross-listed: Human RightsIf we act morally, the French moralists believed, it is because we know we are being watched. If we believe in fidelity, it is because we are afraid of being betrayed. If we weep at our friend's funeral, it is because we are afraid nobody will weep at our own. Like the onion, we are all skin, all mask, and no core. What we call our identity is the face we present to others; perpetually on stage, we modulate our behavior according to fear, ambition, and hypocrisy. This cynical portrayal of humanity, at the core of the seventeenth century tradition of moralistes, began a trend of thinking that would permeate much of French literature and philosophy, a tradition that would view with suspicion the altruistic roots of our moral behavior. Readings will be excerpted from short selections of major French literary texts. Pascal (Pensées), La Fontaine (Fables), Molière (Misanthrope), Laclos (Liaisons dangereuses), Rousseau (Vicaire savoyard), Balzac (Père Goriot), Proust (Un Amour de Swann), Gide (L'Immoraliste), Céline (Mort à crédit), de Beauvoir (Mémoires d'une jeune fille bien rangée), and Sarraute (L'Usage de la parole). The class is aimed for students who have taken classes such as French Film or Intermediate French and wish to improve their writing and oral skills while being introduced to French literary studies. Taught in French.
Genius or Insanity: Representations of Madness in French Literature
An examination of how some of the most influential works of French literature have perceived an intimate connection between insanity and artistic drive. Drawing on nineteenth-century medical texts (Pinel, Esquirol, Lombroso, Krafft-Ebing) and twentieth-century historical and psychoanalytical thinkers (Freud, Jaspers, Foucault, Deleuze), the course explores how extreme manifestations of human emotion (jealousy, misanthropy, narcissism, melancholy, paranoia, schizophrenia) have alternatively been explained as genius or insanity. Conducted in French. Primary texts in French, secondary in English. Readings include Racine’s Phèdre, Molière’s Le Misanthrope, Diderot’s Paradoxe sur le comédien, Rousseau’s Rêveries du promeneur solitaire, Nerval’s Aurélia, Flaubert’s Correspondance (selections), Duras’s Moderato cantabile, Kristeva’s Black Sun, and Huysmans’s A rebours. Open to qualified First Year students.
Introduction to French Thought: From Montaigne to Deleuze
Selecting from short seminal literary, historical, and philosophical texts, this class will trace some of the major intellectual conflicts that have shaped la pense franaise from Montaigne to Deleuze. Authors will often be paired to encourage students to think dialectically. Among the topics studied: humanism/anti-humanism (Montaigne and Rabelais), the mind/body question (Descartes and Racine), enlightenment/anti-enlightenment (Voltaire and Rousseau), the French Revolution (Siys and Olympe de Gouge), Napoleon (Stendhal and Le Mmorial de St Hlne), Romanticism (George Sand and Madame de Stal), modernity and its enemies (Baudelaire and Haussman), literature and science (Balzac and Zola), fin-de-sicle music (Debussy and Maeterlinck), , the creative process (Bergson and Proust), Feminism/anti-feminism (Cixous and Irigaray), semiotics (Saussure and Barthes), deconstruction and la nouvelle histoire (Derrida and Furet), and post-structuralism (Deleuze and Guattari). Taught in French.
La Femme Fatale in French Literature
This course offers an in-depth study of how women, whose thoughts, actions, attitudes and behavior were viewed as threatening to the prevailing social order and moral code, are portrayed at various historical periods in plays, poetry, novels and short stories. Analysis of these works bears on all critical approaches–traditional, formalistic, sociological, psychological, archetypal and feminist. Texts include: Merimée, Carmen; Prévost, Manon Lescaut; Balzac, Cousine Bette; Zola, Nana; Hervieu, Théroigne de Méricourt; Baudelaire, Les Épaves; Mauriac, Thérèse Desqueroux. All readings in French; the course is conducted in French.
Literature of Private Life
Cross-listed: Human Rights, Gender & Sexuality Studies
The representation of private life in the nineteenth-century French novel coincided with the advent of Realism. Realism not only described the institutions that shaped private life (i.e., marriage, education, religion), but dwelled also on the discrete dramas occurring backstage--the solitude of the spinster (Flaubert's A Simple Heart), the plight of the child (Vallès' The Child, Renard's Poil de Carotte), the ambiguities of married life (selections from Balzac), the despair of domesticity (Maupassant's A Woman's Life), and the nature of neuroses (Zola, Nana). Using novels, stories, and short selections from journals (Adèle Hugo's, Journal), autobiographies (Sand's Story of my Life), and correspondences, this course will examine the emergence of writings previously considered too private, too personal to be viewed as literature. Students will also uncover the techniques that help dramatize these highly subjective conflicts (interior monologue, free indirect discourse, early examples of flow of consciousness). Issues of gender, sexuality, and the role of women in defining domesticity will be central. In order to situate these texts within a tradition that rethinks the self, there will be additional readings by Locke, Descartes, Kant, and Shaftesbury. Students will also read excerpts from the recent anthology History of Private Life, an invaluable research tool to examine the connection between literature, philosophy, social history, and anthropology. Taught in French.
Medieval RomanceA study of the medieval romance, the narrative poem that served as the precursor of the novel, which nevertheless relied upon notions of characterization, plot development, space, and time radically different from those of the modern novel. The development of courtly love in the stories of Tristan and Iseult and of Lancelot and Guinevere is examined, and the Christianization of these Arthurian motifs in the quest for the Holy Grail. Reading the romance of Aeneas, students consider how classical material is transformed in a medieval context. Finally, what happens when the hero of the narrative is not a man but a fox, or when the object of this hero’s desire is not a woman but a rose? In conjunction with these texts, selections from other medieval genres are read, such as the lyric, the fabliau, and the lai, whose influence can be felt within the romance.
Poetic Objects: Poetry and Painting in 20th Century France
Throughout the 20th century, poetry and the visual arts enjoyed what one might call a profoundly intimate and complex connection. Painters, sculptors and poets evolved in the same circles, working side by side in various avant-garde movements. The sheer number of critical and theoretical texts on these art forms, of poems and manifestoes expressing common aesthetical ideas and concerns, is simply astounding. One needs only to evoke Apollinaire's works on cubism, Aragon's texts on collage, Éluard's poems dedicated to Ernst and Chirico, or Ponge's fascination with the “Atelier contemporain”. In examining a selection of writings (both poems and writing on arts), we will see that the vision carried by poets in their works about painters and their art is certainly the reflection of an on-going dialogue, as well as, in some cases, a conscious emulation of the pictorial realm, when faced with meaning in crisis. What does the evolution of poetic form throughout the century owes to its ‘neighbors’ (Paulhan), and most especially to painting? If writing can think about the other arts, to what extent can they, in return, help us read poetry? Our investigation will be informed by supplementary readings from Lessing, Kant, Baudelaire, Hegel, Jean-Luc Nancy, Jacques Derrida and Jacques Rancière. Close readings will focus on works by Apollinaire, Aragon, Artaud, Beckett, Bonnefoy, Breton, Char, du Bouchet, Dupin, Éluard, Jaccottet, Leiris, Michaux, Paulhan, Ponge and Reverdy. Taught in French.
Post-Colonial African Issues through Literature and Film
After more than three decades of independence, Africa still struggles to build nations out of the legacies of colonialism. This course explores how writers of fiction (novelists and poets) and filmmakers confront these issues. How, despite political censorship and material hardship, do these writers and filmmakers manage to show their work, whether realistic or allegorical, satiritic or fable-like reinventions? Works of fiction and films are read or viewed critically with special attention to the political and social issues of contemporary post-colonial Africa and its search for a cultural identity. The course emphasizes the former French colonies and makes forays toward the rest of Africa. To help set these works into context, the main pressing social and political issues facing the continent are surveyed. Conducted in French.
Proust's Swann's WayMarcel Proust’s great fresco of French society In Search of Lost Time, first published in Paris in 1913, has been called the culmination of French novel writing. Its first installment, Swann’s Way, became paradigmatic of modernism’s urge to rethink the way experience is conveyed by art. Combining philosophy, art history, and psychology, Proust explodes plot and character to reveal that all writing is rooted in complicated relationships with the past. Taking issue with Plato’s theories of ideas, with Leibniz’s monadic notions of the world, and with Bergson’s theories of time and memory, Proust produces a work that provides a philosophy of both art and life. The focus is Proust’s revolutionary presentation of the self, his debunking of traditional views of love, and anticipation of contemporary theories of art.
Reading for the Plot
This course addresses the complicated relationship nineteenth-century French novelists entertained with the notion of literary entertainment. While they welcomed the feuilleton format (publishing their novels in cliff-hanging installments), novelists often resisted the hostile take-over of a public begging them to surrender stylistic experimentation for plot, aestheticism for entertainment. This conflict of interest figures prominently in the novels studied in the course Balzac's Illusions perdues, Flaubert's Madame Bovary, Zola's L'Œuvre, Huysmans' A Rebours ). In addition to primary readings, we will read secondary material about plot (Aristotle, Lukacs, Barthes, Brooks, D.A. Miller), resistance to pleasure in art (Plato, Augustine, Baudelaire, Adorno), and mimesis (Auerbach, Genette, Derrida, Prendergast). Taught in French. Accepted students must have read Balzac's Père Goriot and Flaubert's Madame Bovary by the beginning of the semester.
Readings: Contemporary French Thought
By focusing on seminal texts from the major schools of twentieth-century French thought, this course will draw from a selection of shorter works that have had particular significance for philosophy, psychoanalysis, linguistics, literary theory, and sociology. The class is designed both for students who have completed successfully intermediate French and for those with a more advanced mastery of the language. Less fluent students will read closely from shorter texts excerpted from larger works (i.e., Derrida's Grammatologie, Deleuze's Anti-Oedipe, Lacan's Écrits), while more advanced students will have the option of concentrating more extensively on authors and texts of their choice. Readings include Saussure, Barthes, Sartre, Kristeva, Cixous, Lacan, Merleau-Ponty, Derrida, Deleuze, Lyotard, Blanchot.Pre-requisite: French 202, or the equivalent.
Rococo to Revolution: Eighteenth-Century French Painting
Art History 245, French Studies
This course explores the role of painters and painting in French society and culture during the last hundred years of the ancien régime. It studies such artists as Watteau, Fragonard, Boucher, Chardin, Vigée-Lebrun, and David and subjects ranging from the erotic or playful fêtes galantes to political or moralizing historical painting. The course also examines such themes as the development of the art academy, the establishment of the annual salons in Paris, the patronage of the church, state-owned and private collections, and the emergence of professional art critics and art criticism.
Survey of 20th Century French Poetry
This course surveys major trends in modern and contemporary French poetry, and documents the evolution of poetic language from Mallarmé’s “Crise de vers”, to Surrealism’s celebration of the “image”, Ponge’s rejection of the “poetic magma” all the way to contemporary playful experiments or attempts to disfigure a literary form often considered “inadmissible”. This survey, while providing students with the opportunity to practice close readings, intends to examine the precarious nature of most of modern French verse, consider the many accounts of a “crisis” in 20th century poetry (for its outcome is not inevitably negative), and study the fate of a rather emaciated and breathless lyrical “I”. Works (poems and essays) by Alferi, Albiach, Apollinaire, Bonnefoy, Cadiot, Char, Denos, des Forêts, Éluard, Gleize, Jaccottet, Perros, Prigent, Ponge, Roche and Roubaud. Taught in French.
The Emotional Brain: Mind-Body Dichotomy in French Thought (Rabelais to Merleau-Ponty)
This seminar will explore different facets of the mind and body controversy in French thought. Following recent findings in neurobiology about the "emotional brain," the class will analyze how French thinkers have both embraced and struggled with the idea of the mind's primacy over the body and vice versa. Starting with Rabelais' belief that the body of man is "rich with all that exists in the universe" (Bakhtin), we will track these tensions in Madame de la Fayette, Racine, and Molière, all of whom presented their readers with protagonists suffering from a blurring between the physical and the psychological (Princesse de Clèves, Phèdre), from hypochondriac cover-ups (Le Malade Imaginaire) or from melancholic symptoms (Le Misanthrope). One had to wait for the nineteenth century and the works of Charcot, Mesmer, Binet, and eventually Pierre Janet to describe in greater detail the confusion between body and mind. Psychic trauma, spiritual yearning, mesmeric trances, and sexual repression became central to medical, literary, and philosophical research. The last part of the class will tackle works by Bergson, Irigaray, Ernaux, and Merleau-Ponty. Taught in French.
The Invention of the Avant-garde in France
In My Heart Laid Bare, Charles Baudelaire, considering the growing reference in his days to the avant-garde or the vanguard of literature, mocked the Frenchmens passionate predilection for military metaphors, and wryly concluded: in this country, every metaphor wears a moustache. Indeed, a good deal of the modern history of French literature, from Arthur Rimbaud in the late 19th Century to Guy Debord and the Situationists in the 1960s, seems inseparable from that of the Avant-Garde, its repeated radical attempts to embrace the new and as Rimbaud famously put it to change life. This course aims to retrace the genealogy of this notion and sketch the history of its burning ambition. A constant preoccupation for community and group poetics, the uneasy rapport of the aesthetic and the political, and a paradoxical understanding of the Present, of Time and History will also be examined. The class is taught in French, with secondary readings in English (Adorno, Burger, Compagnon, Poggioli, Foster, etc.).
The Lost and Found Art of Conversation: From Montaigne to Beckett
Since Socrates, conversation has been admired for its seamless ability to perform thinking, to integrate knowledge into society, and to supplement savoir (knowledge) with savoir-vivre (the art of living). But conversation, precisely because it clashes with the useful, has often been condemned as merely artful, dangerous for its proximity to the decadent and the idle. In his Essais, Montaigne dwells on the relationship between idle conversational banter and self-reflection. With Pascal, idleness becomes the cornerstone of our existential malaise. With the advent of the bourgeoisie, the art of conversation will retreat backstage, replaced by a relationship to work that Paul Lafargue (Marx's son-in-law) describes as an excuse for not tackling la vie elle-même. Paradoxically, work has become an escapist diversion and the time to rest and to converse has been usurped by the false plenitude of mechanical labor. Proust’s In Search of Lost Time adds a new twist to this dichotomy: for the social climber, conversation becomes work, a laborious exercise in appearing rather than being. This course examines how these tensions are played out both on a rhetorical and on a thematic level. After reading a selection of critiques of “pure” work (Aristotle, Marx, and Nietzsche), we will examine texts that expose the vanity of conversation (Pascal’s Pensées, Molière’s Le Misanthrope), novels that thematize the tensions between work and conversation as social and cultural phenomena (Stendhal, Le Rouge et le noir), and works that offer up possible aesthetic theories of conversation (Proust, Contre Sainte Beuve and excerpts from La Recherche). We will also scrutinize instances where conversation becomes a mere filler (Beckett’s Waiting for Godot). Students will also read Paul Lafargue’s Le Droit à la paresse and Corinne Maier’s Laziness, the recent French bestseller attacking the dangers of work. Taught in French
The Novel in Crisis: 20th Century French FictionThis course offers an introduction to major novels of 20th Century France. From Proust’s and Gide’s self-reflective narrations, through Celine’s violence, Sartre’s Existentialism, Camus' Absurde, all the way to the formal experiments of the New Novel and Oulipo, the evolution of the French Novel reflects the fate of a disintegrating genre, where mimesis is rejected. Through close readings and scrutiny of the socio-historical context, we will pay special attention to the figure of the solitary anti-hero, emphasize the ambiguity of political commitment, while incorporating relevant aesthetic theories. Texts includes works of Gide, Bataille, Céline, Sartre, Camus, des Forêts, Duras, Robbe-Grillet, Perec, and Toussaint. Secondary readings in English. Taught in French.
Under the Sun King: French Literature of the Seventeenth Century
Beginning with Italian and Spanish writers, an investigation of the literature of French classicism in its social, political, and intellectual contexts. Aesthetic and epistemological problems inherent in French seventeenth-century works are also probed. Readings in translation include Madeleine de Scudéry, Madame de La Fayette, Racine, Molière, Madame de Villedieu, Pascal, La Rochefoucauld, Guilleragues, Saint-Simon, and Saint-Réal. Conducted in English, though students are encouraged to read works in the original.
Sample Related Courses
LIT 2152 Classics of Francophone African Literature
Cross-listed: Africana Studies, French Studies
Even though African literature from francophone Africa is not yet a century old , it has already produced many important and enduring works. In this course, we will read and discuss some of the books that are now considered classics of that literature. The course will be given in English and the books will be read in translation. However, those who want to take it as part of the French Department will read the texts in the original French and will have special tutoring.
LIT 238 Modern African Fiction
Cross-listed: Africana Studies, Human Rights, SRE
Related interest: French StudiesThe second half of the 20th century saw the emergence of modern African literature. This course will introduce this new writing through a few key texts in its fiction. Works written originally in French or Arabic will be read in their English translations. The course will relate the literature, wherever appropriate to Africa's past traditions as well as its contemporary reality. The authors to be studied include Cheikh Hamidou Kane, Alex La Guma, Nadine Gordimer, Ferdinand Oyono, Amos Tutuola, Nawal El Saadawi, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Tayeb Salih.
LIT 264 19th-Century Continental Novel
Cross-listed: French, German and Russian StudiesThe aim of this course is to acquaint students with representative examples of novels by distinguished French, Russian, German and Central European authors. Their works are analyzed for style, themes, ideological commitment, and social and political setting. Taken together they should provide an accurate account of the major artistic, philosophical and intellectual trends and developments on the Continent during the 19th century. Readings include Dostoevski’s Crime and Punishment, Stendhal’s The Red and the Black, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Balzac’s Cousine Bette, Hamsun’s Hunger, T. Mann’s Buddenbrooks.
LIT 3030 French Society
Cross-listed: French Studies
The political, intellectual and spiritual values associated for a long time with “La France” have undergone considerable changes these past seventy years. The nature and depth of these changes are being traced in this course through a close reading of French philosophers (Finkielkraut, Sartre, Foucault), social scientists (Barthes, Lacan, Derrida, Bourdieu), poets, novelists, playwrights (Michaux, Queneau, Le Clezio, Mondiano, Ionesco, Quignard, Pennac, Agnant) who are thought to have brought about new and different esthetic, social and ethical attitudes, by raising such issues as immigration and identity, of what is French and who is French, whether cultural knowledge defines one’s nationality, the role of women in society and of the individual in the political process, the renewed appeal of anarchism, the relationship between life, artistry and style. The literature is supplemented by viewing paintings, documentary and feature films that contributed in graphically portraying the new trends and developments.
LIT 3031 Hegel’s Legacies in Twentieth-Century French Literature
Cross-listed: French StudiesIt seems difficult to overestimate the importance of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit in Twentieth-Century French thought, especially as it is understood and interpreted by Alexandre Kojève in the “anthropological” commentary he elaborates between 1933 and 1939 in a series of lectures given at the École pratique des hautes études (subsequently published in 1947 as the Introduction to the Reading of Hegel). Kojève’s insistance on the Master/Slave dialectic, and his emphasis on excess, risk, violence and death had a profound influence on an entire generation of thinkers. We will travel between Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit and Kojève’s particular take on it. The goal of this course is to follow the development and fortune of this “interminable explication with Hegel” (Derrida) through such hegelian key concepts as negativity, consciousness, history, non-knowledge, desire, work and play. We will read from the theoretical essays, manifestoes and works of fiction of writers such as Bataille, Blanchot, Breton, Caillois, Klossowski, Leiris, Paulhan, Ponge, Queneau and Sartre. All readings in translation. Students with good knowledge of French will have the option of reading these texts in the original French.
LIT 315 Proust:In Search of Lost TimeCross-Listed: French Studies
Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time is about an elaborate, internal journey, at the end of which the narrator discovers the unifying pattern of his life both as a writer and human being. Famed for its style and its distinctive view of time, love, sex and cruelty, reading, language and memory, Proust's epic broke new ground in the invention of a genre that lies between fiction and autobiography. Through a semester devoted to the close reading of Swann’s Way and Time Regained in their entirety and several substantial key-excerpts taken from all the other volumes, we will try to understand the complex nature of Proust's masterpiece and, among other things, examine the ways by which it accounts for the temporality and new rhythms of modernity. We will also question the narrative and stylistic function of homosexuality, discuss the significance of the massive social disruption brought about by the Great War and see how the arts are represented and why they are seminal to the narration. Additional readings will include philosophy, art criticism and literary theory. Taught in English.
LIT 3203 Doctors and Writers: Perceptions of Hysteria in 19th Century French Literary and Medical Writings
Cross-listed: French Studies, Human RightsThis course will examine ways in which literary and medical texts represented hysteria in the second half of nineteenth-century France. The class will read closely from medical documents – Pinel, Janet, Charcot, Esquirol – and from literary texts – Balzac’s Mémoires de deux jeunes maries, Louise Colet’s Correspondence with Flaubert, Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, and Zola’s Le Docteur Pascal. The friction between literary and medical representations of hysteria brings to the fore fundamental questions about nineteenth-century Realism. How can the dream of mimetic omniscience, of objectivity (i.e., Flaubert) be reconciled with the fluid, vaporous, and ever changing face of the so-called hysteric subject? Could it not be argued that the very nature of literature, with its silences and its dealings with the unsayable, cautions against any single definition of a condition? Concurrent with these literary tensions, the texts of the first aliénistes are also fraught with “unscientific” ambiguities. It would seem that their desire to control their patients with secure medical labels often went astray, leading them into narratives they could no longer control. This course will explore the unintentional slips within these texts, slips that demonstrate the remarkable and unexpected degree in which the medical and literary are bridged. Taught in English with special research projects for French speakers.
LIT 3228 Cosmopolitanism, Secularism, and Modernity in North African Fiction
Cross-listed: Africana Studies, French Studies, Middle-Eastern Studies, Human Rights(World Literature offering) Born out of cross-cultural currents going back to Roman times, North African literature is unique in its multiplicity of world views, its secularity, and its commitment to an anti-colonial stance. The authors are multi-lingual, the writing is as emblematic of its layered triple identity – at once African, Mediterranean and Arab - as it is reflective of its modernity. We will read, in English translation, a handful of the most notable 20th century authors from the Maghreb region. As signposts, we’ll be guided in our analysis by these notions: cosmopolitanism, secularism, and multiculturalism. The authors are Albert Camus, Kateb Yacine, Albert Memmi, Taher Ben Jelloun, Mohammed Dib, Aissa Djebar, Abdulwahab Meddeb,Leila Sabber and Alham Mosteghanemi. We also envisage watching a number of films based on the texts or made by the authors themselves.
LIT 3501 19th Century Continental Novels
Cross-listed: French Studies
Related interest: German Studies, Russian Studies
The aim of this course is to acquaint students with representative examples of novels by distinguished French, Russian, German and Central European authors. Their works are analyzed for style, themes, ideological commitment, and social and political setting. Taken together they should provide an accurate account of the major artistic, philosophical, intellectual and political trends and developments on the Continent during the 19th Century. Readings include: Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment; Stendhal’s The Red and the Black; Tolstoy’s War and Peace; Balzac’s Cousin Bette; Fontane’s Effi Briest. A tutorial will be offered to those interested in reading the original French text. Some film versions of the novels are viewed and critically evaluated as to their fidelity to the original.
LIT 2031 Ten Plays that Shook the WorldCross-Listed: French Studies, Theater
(World Literature offering) A close reading and textual analysis of plays considered milestones in the history of the theater. In this course we isolate and examine the artistic, social and psychological components that made these works become part of the literary canon. Have they lasted because they conjure up fantasies of escape, or make its readers and viewers face dilemmas inherent in certain social conditions or archetypical conflicts? What was it exactly that made them so shocking when first preformed? The language, theme, style, staging? We also explore the theatre as a literary genre that goes beyond the writing. For a meaningful and effective performance, all aspects of the play, directing, acting, staging, lighting will be considered.
LIT 2405 20C Nothing Sacred: Twentieth-Century French Literature & the Reign of TerrorAccording to Jean Paulhan, much of 20th century French literature was given to the experience of “Terror”, a constant state of revolutionary crisis, a severe distrust of language, and a profound hatred of literature that ultimately lead, says Paulhan, to madness and silence. And yet, in declaring that beauty needed to be “convulsive” or that all writing was nothing but filth (“de la cochonnerie”), André Breton and Antonin Artaud were merely stating what many others believed. How did such a “terroristic” imperative come to be central to 20th century French poetics? Why did literature turn against itself in such a ferocious or sacrificial way? And what is the relationship, if any, between terror in literature and other forms of terrors in a century very much marked by violence? In this course we will examine essays, poems and fictions by Aragon, Artaud, Bataille, Blanchot, Breton, Caillois, Céline, Duras, Genet, Leiris, Michaux, Paulhan, Sartre, Tzara and Valéry. Taught in English.
LIT 3013 In Praise of Idleness: Literature and the Art of ConversationCross-listed: French Studies
The Useful, Schiller wrote in The Aesthetic Education of Man, is the great idol of our age. It divorces leisure from labor and turns life into a series of utilitarian dead ends. Conversely, the impulse to play, to engage in gratuitous moments of being, in seemingly evanescent conversations, might be our only chance to convert specialized knowledge into self-knowledge. Since Socrates, conversation has been admired for its seemless ability to perform thinking, to integrate knowledge into society, and to supplement savoir (knowledge) with savoir-vivre (the art of living). But conversation, precisely because it clashes with the useful, has often been condemned as merely artful, dangerous for its proximity to the decadent and the idle. But what is so threatening about idleness? According to Nietzsche, because idleness leads to self-reflection, we avoid it by mindlessly embracing work. The work ethic has become an excuse for not thinking about the desperate human condition.. Paradoxically, work has become an escapist diversion and the time to rest and to converse has being usurped by the false plenitude of mechanical labor. Proust’s In Search of Lost Time adds a new twist to this dichotomy: for the social-climber, conversation becomes work, a laborious exercise in appearing rather than being. This course examines how these tensions are played both on a rhetorical (we will read diverse narratological studies on conversation, studying the use of silences, repetition, dialogue, etc.) and on a thematic level. After reading a selection of critiques of “pure” work (Aristotle, Schiller, Marx, and Nietzsche), we will examine texts that expose the vanity of conversation (Pascal’s Pensées, Molière’s Misanthrope), novels that thematize the tensions between work and conversation as social and cultural phenomena (Henry James, The Europeans, Updike Rabbit Run), and works that offer up possible aesthetic theories of conversation (Proust, Swann’s Way and Against Sainte Beuve). We will also scrutinize instances where conversation becomes a mere filler (Beckett’s Waiting for Godot). Students will also read Paul Lafargue’s In Praise of Idleness and Corinne Maier’s Laziness, the recent French bestseller attacking the dangers of work. Students must email Prof. van Zuylen a one-page rationale explaining their interest in the topic.
LIT 3312 LouisianaCross-Listed: American Studies, French Studies
What does Louisiana (and New Orleans, in particular) mean in the American imaginary? How did the various populations distinctive to the region—Creoles, Cajuns, and free people of color, among others—help define this meaning? How did the idea of Louisiana persist through a history of traumatic change, from the Civil War to Hurricane Katrina? Readings include the first French accounts of Louisiana and works by Cable, Chopin, Faulkner, Hearn, Hurston, Williams, Percy, and Toole.