French Department

Courses

French 110 - First-Year French

Full course for one year. A study of elements of grammar, speaking, and reading. Conference.

French 210 - Second-Year French

Full course for one year. Revision of grammar and elementary composition; readings in philosophy, lyric poetry, novel, and theatre. Prerequisite: French 110 or equivalent. Conference.

French 320 - Advanced French Conversation and Composition

Full course for one semester. This course is designed to help students develop strong written skills and near-native fluency in spoken French through frequent discussions and composition assignments pertaining to French and Francophone texts of various genres, as well as a wide variety of cultural materials and media. Discussion in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference. (May not be repeated for credit if previously completed as a yearlong course.)

French 321 - Advanced French Conversation

Full course for one semester. This course is designed to help advanced students develop near-native fluency in spoken French through pronunciation drills, discussions and diverse types of oral presentations on a broad corpus of cultural materials and media, such as film, fiction and non-fiction literature, theoretical texts, news articles and videos, and podcasts. Students will be evaluated on spontaneous output (such as discussions and oral exams) and rehearsed output (such as recordings and recitations). Class conducted entirely in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.

French 331 - French Literature and Culture of the Middle Ages

Full course for one semester. From bird-men to werewolves, from crumbling political and social structures to farcical judicial proceedings, this course explores several eleventh- to fifteenth-century literary works that stage a “culture clash” of one kind or another. Through formal analysis and close reading of works from several different genres (including the chanson de geste, the lai, the romance, the farce, and the fabliau), we will be particularly interested in how the figuring of discord might suggest certain paradigm shifts in the period. We will ask how these works navigate, for example, questions of cultural or gender difference, changing social structure, or the waning of different institutions. Works will include the Chanson de Roland, the Lais of Marie de France, a romance of Chrétien de Troyes, La Mort du roi Arthur, La Farce de Maistre Pathelin, and several other short works. Discussion in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.

Not offered 2021–22.

French 332 - Early Modern French Literature and Culture

Full course for one semester. This course will take “time and narration” as its principal area of inquiry. We will examine French works of literature from the early modern and Enlightenment periods (as well as a few works from the twentieth century that are inspired by these thinkers) that engage with one of the major philosophic questions of the period: the nature of temporality and its relation to representation. We will look especially at the work of Montaigne, Pascal, Racine, Mme de Lafayette, and Rousseau in an effort to discern how their experiments with representing time and the nature of becoming (rather than just being) inspire later twentieth-century thinkers such as Sartre, Deleuze, and Blanchot. Discussion in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.

Not offered 2021–22.

French 334 - Nineteenth-Century French Literature and Culture

Full course for one semester. This course centers on the notion of l’imaginaire fantastique and looks at the peculiar fascination with the supernatural and the uncanny that permeates nineteenth-century French literature and art. We will not only read a selection of short stories, poems, and essays of the period, but also consider a variety of contemporary media (painting, photography, and early cinema) with an eye to understanding how the supernatural was conceived and recaptured and what new problems of representation and formal experimentations came in its wake. Authors studied include major French writers and poets, such as Nodier, Mérimée, Gautier, Balzac, Hugo, Baudelaire, Barbey d’Aurevilly, Villiers de L’Isle Adam, and Maupassant, as well as influential “theorists” of the uncanny, such as E.T.A. Hoffmann, Poe, Marx, Freud, Caillois, Todorov, and Cixous. Discussion in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.

Not offered 2021–22.

French 341 - French Narrative and the Novel Prior to Realism

Full course for one semester. An examination of the novel and other narrative forms that developed in France from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century. The course will focus on the function of these new narrative forms within their social and historical contexts, with special emphasis on the institutionalized forms of public discourse that developed during the period and the various theories of representation upon which they drew. Authors covered will include Mme de La Fayette, Laclos, Rousseau, Balzac, and Flaubert. Discussion in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.

Not offered 2021–22.

French 342 - Novel from Flaubert to the New Novel: The Collapse of Realism and the Undoing of the Subject

Full course for one semester. The theory and decline of realism in the French novel will be discussed in Flaubert, Proust, Sartre, Robbe-Grillet, and Sarraute. Focusing primarily on the evolution in narrative form from 1850 to 1960, this course will examine the shift in the modern novel from representing social structures or systems objectively to evoking subjectivity and provoking more complex reader-text transactions. Discussion in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.

Not offered 2021–22.

French 343 - Late Twentieth-Century French Fiction

Full course for one semester. This course will examine narrative strategies since the late 1950s and their underlying aesthetic theories. The course will focus on several issues or problems, including the autonomy of the literary text, narrative as a space of encounter between objective reality and the creative imagination, and the construction of the subject through autofiction. How do the formal aspects of prose fiction place into question our experience of the self and the world? To what extent are the self and the world disclosed through narrative, and what is the nature of this process? Readings will include Robbe-Grillet, Perec, Duras, Hébert, Barthes, Modiano, Ernaux, and Condé. Conducted in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.

Not offered 2021–22.

French 351 - Seventeenth-Century French Drama

Full course for one semester. In this course, we will address authority, spectacle, and skepticism in seventeenth-century theater, examining several plays by Corneille, Racine, and Molière. We will focus on how authority is established in a society where all authority is in question and dissimulation reigns. We will look at the theatrical representation of a variety of social roles in order to consider the sources of power and authority in a political climate of suspicion and doubt. We will consider whether theater functions as a skeptical tool for advancing social critique during this period. Conducted in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.

Not offered 2021–22.

French 363 - Francophone Literature: Birthplace of the “Tout-Monde”: Antillean Society as a Precocious Model of Transnational and Transcultural Relation

Full course for one semester. This course will examine how the French Antilles, with their discrete set of sociohistorical coordinates, came to constitute an ideal laboratory of sorts for the elaboration of the concept of “Tout-Monde”—a way of thinking of the world as a productive, though necessarily chaotic, maelstrom of cultural changes and exchanges. How then did this cluster of small islands, which often modestly refer to themselves as small rocks lost in the Caribbean sea, birth a term that offers a radically different understanding of globalization? We will first survey early ethnographies and imagery documenting the multiple immigration waves of Guadeloupe and Martinique to understand how diverse ethnicities coalesced under the banner of the République française universelle. We will then explore how this sociohistorical landscape shaped and was in turn shaped by poetry, fiction, and political and theoretical texts. We will examine Aimé Césaire’s Cahier d’un retour au pays natal, novels by Joseph Zobel, Mayotte Capécia, Maryse Condé, and Raphaël Confiant, and theoretical works by René Ménil, Frantz Fanon, and Édouard Glissant to open up discussions on notions of Négritude/Antillanité/Créolité/Littérature Monde and the universal; on the relationship between politics, identity politics and literary form; and on the role of the engaged author in producing and transmitting a multicultural Antillean ethos. Discussion in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.

French 364 - One is Not Born, but Rather Becomes a Black Woman (Black Women in Francophone Lit)

Full course for one semester. The Black femme body has long been a signifier for a constellation of concepts and emotions, ranging from the nation to nostalgia, and from desire to fear. Upon this body, one can read the history of colonialism, power dynamics, and social structures. This course will explore the evolution of representations of this body in the French and francophone imaginary, tracing a chronological arc that begins with early imagery (e.g., Manet’s L’Olympia) and ends with the rise of a 2018 movement spearheaded by a collective of Black comediennes, denouncing exclusionary practices in the French entertainment industry. We will first focus on the male gaze—European, Caribbean, and African—and the way it constructed the Black femme body, to better understand how Black female authors undermine, resist, parody, subvert, or continue to bear the weight of these early images when they take control of their own representation. We will examine a wide range of discourses and media, and engage with visual art, film, and various texts, including novels, essays, and historical documents. Readings may include works by Mayotte Capécia, Maryse Condé, Mariama Bâ, Marie NDiaye, Suzanne Césaire, and Frantz Fanon. Discussion in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.

Not offered 2021–22.

French 365 - Laughter and the Other in Francophone Literatures

Full course for one semester. This course examines the rhetoric of laughter in French and francophone literatures through the lens of belonging and alterity. We will seek to develop a critical apparatus to answer the following questions: How does laughter unite us? How does it divide us? How does it relate to identity and community formation? Our theoretical corpus will include works by Bakhtin, Baudelaire, Bergson, and Freud, who conceptualized laughter in wildly different ways—respectively as carnivalesque, satanic, sociable, and soothing. In the 1940s, René Ménil, a Franco-Caribbean philosopher, synthesized these early theories and further developed them into a means of resistance for colonial subjects. To illustrate these concepts, we will first read two classic French satires (by Rabelais and Voltaire) to explore how they conjugate laughter with the tropes of the traveler and the other differently in the Age of Discovery and in colonial times. We will then turn to contemporary postcolonial works by minoritized francophone authors, filmmakers, and standup comedians to consider what it means to laugh from a paradoxical position of belonging and alterity, and to work from the margins to amuse the mainstream. Discussion in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.

Not offered 2021–22.

French 366 - Intro to Haitian Culture and Literature

Full course for one semester. In the last few decades, Haiti has come to be known for repeated calamities: earthquakes, hurricanes, droughts followed by floods and vice versa, dictatorships, cholera, etc. These catastrophes tend to overshadow a truly unique history—Haiti’s is the only successful slave revolution in the Caribbean—and thriving avant-garde movements. In this course, we will explore the relationship between historical conditions and literary form, beginning with Haiti’s 1804 declaration of independence from France. Reading a selection of poetry, novels, and recent short stories with noir leanings, we will think through how, in time, Haitian authors reinvented their literature in the wake of the revolution, and later negotiated the dangerous necessity of writing under the brutal Duvalier dictatorships. Texts by women authors will also allow us to explore what it means to write at the intersection of race and gender. Finally, the prolific Haitian diaspora will help us consider the poetics of exile. Authors will include Jacques Roumain, Frankétienne, Dany Laferrière, and Edwidge Danticat. Discussion in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.

Not offered 2021–22.

French 368 - Mind in the World: Cognitive Approaches to North African/Diaspora Literature

Full course for one semester. While the relatively new field of cognitive literary studies has often focused on canonical modernist texts from the Western tradition, interpretation of Francophone literature from North Africa has been dominated by anthropological and historical approaches. This interdisciplinary course brings together research in cognitive science and North African/diaspora literature in order to examine the relationship between mental functions and aesthetic forms. How do cognitive approaches to memory, theory of mind, language, and metaphor allow us to engage North African literature in new theoretical ways? We will examine the ways in which attending to linguistic features (writing direction, time-space metaphors, gendered nouns in bilingual texts), mental features (memory, theory of mind, empathy), and cultural features (e.g., language as a tool for integration, differentiation, assimilation, and resistance) might alter our readings of this corpus. Authors include Djebar, Sebbar, Khatibi, Yacine, Fellous, and Ben Jelloun. Theoretical readings include Scarry, Jakobson, Boroditsky, LeDoux, and Lakoff. Discussion in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.

Not offered 2021–22.

French 381 - Twentieth-Century French Poetry and Poetics

Full course for one semester. This course will focus on poets since Mallarmé and the theoretical, aesthetic, and ethical projects of poetry in the context of modernity. We will explore approaches to reading figurative language and its challenges to representation and referentiality; relationships of poetic language to ordinary speech; the structure of lyric address; selfhood and the modern lyric subject; and the emergence of a poetics of the non-human in late modernity. First and foremost, this course aims to develop the skills of close rhetorical reading as the foundation for all analysis and theoretical commentary. authors studied include Apollinaire, Reverdy, Desnos, Eluard, Ponge, Bonnefoy, Guillevic, Réda, Leiris, and Roubaud. Conducted in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.

French 382 - Modern French and Francophone Theater

Full course for one semester. This course explores a wide spectrum of experimental and theoretical avenues in twentieth- and twenty-first-century French and francophone theater. Taking the notion of interprétation as a point of departure, we will examine the various intersections between modern theories of dramaturgy, acting, and stage production with a view to opening up the theatrical space to new modalities of reading. Texts studied include plays by Jarry, Tzara, Anouilh, Sartre, Beckett, Ionesco, Césaire, Genet, Sarraute, Koltès, Cixous, and Ndiaye, and theories of avant-garde theater by Artaud, Brecht, Barthes, Mnouchkine, Lehmann, among others. In counterpoint to the study of these works, the course will also discuss the demise of the very notions of “author” and “spectacle” and the impact of these changes on theatrical creation in the aftermath of mai 68. Class activities include close reading, discussion, video footage analysis, and a performance. Conducted in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.

French 383 - The Matter of Poetry

Full course for one semester. This course focuses on the 20th-century French poets Francis Ponge and Yves Bonnefoy, whose work displays an acute interest in materiality. By looking in depth at the poetry and essays of these authors, we will explore questions arising at the intersection of literary texts and the world of material things and bodies that they name, figure, or represent. Can language influence our understanding of the real? Do texts declare their autonomy from a world of referents and fortify their own self-enclosure, or can we conceive of a continuity between text and material reality? How are human beings alienated from nature and how can they be reconciled with it? In addition to Ponge and Bonnefoy, we will read other pertinent authors such as Camus, Sartre, Derrida, and Pascal. Conducted in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement examination. Conference.

Not offered 2021–22.

French 390 - Postwar French Cinema (1945–1975)

Full course for one semester. This course examines the testimonial and critical function taken on by French cinema in the second half of the twentieth century. Focusing on films that problematize significant trends or crises in this historical period (the Occupation, the Holocaust, decolonization, the rise of consumer society, student protests in May ’68, etc.), we will discuss what formal strategies allow the filmic medium to propose critical alternatives to traditional historical narratives. Additionally, we will read key essays by film critics and theorists that examine the commitment of postwar French cinema to politics and ethics. Films viewed include works by filmmakers Melville, Resnais, Bresson, Tati, Varda, Truffaut, Godard, Marker, Eustache, and Akerman, as well as various cinétracts. Course includes weekly film screenings. Discussion in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.

French 391 - French Literature and Cultural Studies

Full course for one semester. In an age when truth is conflated with “alternative facts” and facts with spin, it is necessary to investigate how theories of subjectivity, science, and philosophy have successively redefined authenticity, factuality, and the concept of truth itself. We will establish a historical inventory of these changing notions of truth, and analyze how literary works, especially fiction, rely on them to ground their own verisimilitude and meaning. We will read a variety of texts covering five centuries, including texts by Montaigne, Descartes, Pascal, Mme d’Aulnoy, Mme de Graffigny, Rousseau, Flaubert, Sartre, Foucault, Lyotard, Sarraute, Beckett, and Marie NDiaye as well as contemporary theory.  Conducted in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement examination. Conference.

French 392 - French Connections: The Intertwined Histories of French and American Cinema

Full course for one semester. This course explores the deep connections between French and American cinema, which stem from over a century of reciprocal influences disseminated through powerful images and intersecting discourses on film as an autonomous language and art form. Structured around exchanges among cinephilic filmmakers, actors, camera operators, composers, and defiant critics from both sides of the Atlantic, it offers an introduction to the parallel histories of two major filmic traditions, while also questioning the very notion of national cinema. As we move in time from the contested origins of moving images and the development of national cinemas to the emergence of successive “new waves” to the transnational film industry of today, we will examine how the dialogue between French and American artists contributed to shaping significant periods in film history (silent film, surrealism, poetic realism, the French New Wave, New American Cinema), distinctive genres (the film noir, thriller, teen pic, musical, comedy of manners, road movie), and common themes (alienation, precarity, urban violence, police brutality, exile) in both commercial and independent films. Filmmakers discussed include Alice Guy-Blaché, Lois Weber, Germaine Dulac, Maya Deren, Jean Renoir, Orson Welles, Julien Duvivier, John Huston, Nicholas Ray, Roger Vadim, Jean-Luc Godard, John Cassavetes, Robert Bresson, Martin Scorsese, Alfred Hitchcock, François Truffaut, Jacques Demy, Eric Rohmer, Woody Allen, Spike Lee, Mathieu Kassovitz, Agnès Varda, Kelly Reichardt, and Mati Diop. Conducted in English. No previous experience with film analysis is required. Students taking the course for French literature credit will meet in extra sessions. Prerequisite for students taking the course for French credit: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 392.

Not offered 2021–22.

French 470 - Thesis

One-half or full course for one semester or one year.

French 481 - Independent Reading

One-half or full course for one semester. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by examination; approval of instructor and division.