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Department of French and Italian

Recent Courses

French 460-0: Studies in the 20th Century – Literary Inscriptions of the Maghreb (Prof. Nasrin Qader)
In this course, we will read literary texts from the Maghreb in conversation with some of the literary traditions from which they draw inspiration. We focus primarily on the influences of the Arabic and Persian poetic and mystical traditions. The aim of this course is to familiarize students with the multifaceted literary context of contemporary Maghrebian literature. This course has two primary objectives. First, to train students in reading closely contemporary literary texts from the Maghreb. Second, to help students build a context for this literature in conversation with Arabic & Persian literary corpus. The course will be organized around four texts from the Maghreb. In relation to these central texts, we will read texts from the Persian and Arabic traditions in order to further enhance understanding of these contemporary texts.

French 422-0: Visual Culture: Art History & Literature – Icons of Femininity in Ancien Régime Literature & Art (Prof. Bernadette Fort)
This course will explore the construction of three icons of femininity- the virgin, the mother, and the courtesan in 18th century fiction and painting. We'll match novels by Montesquieu, Graffigny, Rousseau, and Diderot with paintings and engravings by Boucher, Fragonard, Greuze, Vigèe Le Brun, and other visual artists to assay differences between the verbal and visual regimes of representation. Essays in cultural history and art history will help to contextualize and theorize the transformation of stereotypes and paradigms of femininity from the Règence to the Revolution. This is a bilingual, interdisciplinary course: readings, discussion and papers allowed in English for students outside the department.

French 490-0: Special Topics in Literature – The Proustian Legacy (Prof. Scott Durham)
Marcel Proust's work foregrounds two tasks of the work of art. First, art provides a locus for thinking our relationship to the past: it serves as the site in which the different worlds and selves through which we have passed can coexist with and communicate with one another. But for Proust art also has a privileged relation to the transformative power of the involuntary: it creates the forms through which we can articulate our relationship to the desires, sensations and events for which our existing forms of life and representation have least prepared us. This course will begin by examining how these two tasks are intertwined in Proust, with a particular emphasis on the ways in which his aesthetic and ethical elaboration of these problems situates his work within French modernism. In the second half of the course, we will turn to the ways in which these two tasks of the work of art are rethought in the works of authors who, even as they engage Proust's legacy, can no longer presuppose the aesthetic, discursive and institutional forms of modernism. We will explore how, in Michel Leiris' autobiographical writing, in the autobiographical and political fictions of Genet, and in the cinematic and new media works of Chris Marker, the relationship between memory and the involuntary are intertwined in new ways, which oblige us both to rethink the place and function of aesthetic experience in culture after modernism and to reconsider the potential importance of the Proustian legacy in elaborating an alternative to postmodernism's dominant forms.

French 420-0: Studies in the 16th Century – Violence & Form (Prof. Cynthia Nazarian)
This course will trace images of violence through French literature of the 16th century, paying close attention to the transmigration of imagery, stylistic devices and discursive postures across literary forms. We will be paying close attention to structure and formal conventions as well as historical and political context in our attempt to trace the conversations between these texts of various kinds and the turbulent times in which they were created. Authors will include Joachim du Bellay, Marguerite de Navarre, Agrippa d'Aubigné, Michel de Montaigne, François Rabelais and others.

French 432-0: French, Francophone, & Transnational Studies – Inventing the Human in a Colonial World: The French Enlightenment in Global Perspective (Prof. Doris Garraway)
If the invention of the human in Europe required the political and scientific delineation of humans from animals, Enlightenment ideas of Man were even more significantly shaped by attempts to account for the radical diversity of human cultures around the world. At the same time, the very aims and scope of early modern "anthropology" call to mind the paradoxes of universalism, seen variously as the generalization of a particular, a culture of thought with anti-universal implications, and a project coincident with a globalizing European modernity. This course examines some of the most influential 17th and 18th Century ideas about humanity in three genres: literature, scientific discourse, and political philosophy, with an aim towards understanding the relations between Enlightenment thought and the colonial world, considered as a catalyst for materialist epistemologies and politically emancipatory discourses, and as a laboratory of European hegemony. Topics include: theories of "natural man" and the "bon sauvage"; natural historical taxonomies of human difference; representations of the speaking native; debates about gender and sexuality in transnational perspective; the theory and practice of colonial slavery; orientalism and the critique of "despotism"; the birth of human rights; and Enlightenment "anticolonialism." Authors include Rousseau, Diderot, Montesquieu, LaHontan, Buffon, Raymond Breton, Olympe de Gouges and others. Taught in French.

French 495-0: Practicum in Scholarly Writing and Publication (Prof. Doris Garraway)
In this course, students will expand and revise a paper written in a previous course with an aim towards producing a publishable work of approximately 20-25 pages in length. In the revised paper, students will develop an original argument relating to a significant problem or research question; demonstrate knowledge of the the primary source material and relevant secondary material; engage critically with a well-defined theoretical approach or scholarly methodology; and draw out clearly the implications and contribution of their findings. The class will meet regularly as a group for the purpose of discussion and feedback on individual work, and students will make oral presentations on various aspects of their projects including the selection of feasible journals, styles of academic writing, and the state of current research on their topics. In addition, students will meet individually with the professor to discuss their progress. Work written in the quarter will be shared and discussed in the final meeting of the quarter. Taught in English. This course is required for second-year students in French and in Comparative Literary Studies and French.

French 460-0: Studies in the 20th Century (Prof. Chris Bush)
In this course we will use the cultural dynamics between France and Japan as a point of departure for exploring the relationship between aesthetics, otherness, and globalization in twentieth-century French literature, theory, and film. We will study some of the particulars of this historical relationship: How did the myth of the "butterfly" (as in Madama Butterfly) emerge? How was the haiku understood to be a modern form of poetry? Why does Japan always seem to be a privileged example in discussions of the "postmodern"? But out of these particular cases we will develop broader historical and theoretical questions about cultural difference, otherness, and aesthetic form, specifically in relation to debates about globalization. Topics will include: ethics and alterity; exoticism and gender; translation and poetic form; and cinema and comopolitanism. Authors and directors will include: Loti, Duras, Resnais, Barthes, and Marker.

French 440-0: Studies in the 18th Century (Prof. Bernadette Fort)
This course will first interrogate theories of gender by contemporary feminist thinkers in visual arts such as Linda Nochlin and Griselda Pollock to lay the ground for an investigation of the increasingly hostile construction of women as subjects, judges, and mainly makers of visual art in eighteenth-century French cultural discourse. Readings will then include works by Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Diderot which fueled a generalized hostility against women's cultural authority, as well as works from 20th-century feminist cultural history (Joan Landes, Lynn Hunt, Madelyn Gutwirth) which investigate the turn against female power in the public sphere in prerevolutionary decades. A good part of the course will be devoted to discuss the construction of a gendered identity in paintings by female painters of the period (Vigée-Lebrun, Labille-Guiard and others) and to analyse the issues raised by these works both in contemporary reviews and in modern scholarly articles

French 494-0: Interdisciplinary, Theoretical, & Critical Approaches (Prof. Chris Bush)
This course offers an intellectual-historical survey of twentieth-century French Marxisms, with an emphasis on those tendencies and thinkers that have been especially important for literary criticism and theory. Our readings will trace the persistent reinvention of Marx and Marxism in relation to an array of cultural movements and historical developments, including existentialism, structuralism, anti-colonialism, and consumerism. While our corpus will be primarily theoretical and critical, we will also consider several literary and cinematic texts. Authors will include Sartre, Althusser, Baudrillard, Debord, and Kristeva.

French 421-0: Visual Culture – Cinema, Performance Studies & Multimedia (Prof. Domietta Torlasco)
This course will explore the notion of "archiving" in the digital age as creative re-elaboration of cinema's aesthetic and ideological complexities. In the context of an ever-changing media landscape, we will interrogate the tension between memory and creation, the persistence of the past and the irruption of the new. To this end, we will focus on works that directly appropriate analog materials (documentary footage, home movies, and Hollywood films) and ask in what way/to what extent they constitute gestures of transformative intervention, capable of confronting, disturbing, and even reconstituting the memory of cinema that we have inherited from the 20th century.

French 465-0: Topics in Francophone Colonial & Postcolonial Studies (Prof. Doris Garraway)
The Haitian Revolution is now commonly regarded as the first successful slave revolution in history, the most radical political movement of the Age of Enlightenment, and the founding moment of Haitian nationhood and literature. Yet the particularity of the Haitian Revolution as an anticolonial movement lies in the unique mix of universalist and transnationalist principles that undergirded Haitian claims to nationhood, in striking contrast to the cultural nationalisms that have been taken to be axiomatic of anticolonialism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In this course, we will explore this problematic from two perspectives. On the one hand, we will test the limits and possibilities of Haitian Revolutionary universalism as an anticolonial, nationalist discourse by examining foundational writings by figures such as Toussaint Louverture, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, and Juste Chanlatte, in light of the most recent theoretical work on universalism (Balibar, Laclau) and on the Haitian Revolution. In so doing we will also examine current debates about the role of the Revolution in the history of "Western modernity." Secondly, we will track the ways in which the tensions that emerged upon the nation's founding between universalism and particularism, and between transnationalism and nationalism, have found expression in Haitian literature from the Revolution to the present, with special emphasis on the period following the U.S. occupation in 1915-34. Works by Louverture, Boisrond Tonnerre, Dessalines, Jacques Roumain, René Depestre, Jacques-Stéphen Alexis, Marie Chauvet, and others, supplemented by critical, theoretical, and historical readings by C.L.R. James, Sibylle Fischer, Michel-Rolph Trouillot, David Scott, Joan Dayan, Étienne Balibar, Ernesto Laclau, and others. Taught in French.

French 493-0: Topics in Literary Theory (Prof. Scott Durham)
This introductory course on problems in contemporary critical theory will begin by focusing on critique of ideology in the Marxist tradition (with particular attention to Sartre, Althusser and Jameson, along with some of their major predecessors, allies and adversaries, including such thinkers as Eisenstein, Barthes, Bataille and Derrida). We will then discuss how the relationships between discursive, institutional and aesthetic practices and their pragmatic effects are rethought in the writings of such theorists as Foucault, Lyotard and Deleuze. While the primary focus of the course will be on theoretical texts, these texts will also be considered in dialogue with literary and cinematic works.