Fall 2015 Courses

French 560: Geography and the Novel

Prof. Dejean
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Is the novel somehow inherently trans-national? How did the novel escape the confines of the national borders within which it began its modern existence? Why, when, and how did the quintessential genre of the here and now become cosmopolitan?

We’ll compare key works from the two national literatures in which complex traditions of prose fiction developed in the course of the long 18th century: English and French. Thus, for example, we’ll consider the very different origins implied for those traditions by the works often seen as their first modern novels: La Princesse de Clèves and Robinson Crusoe.

Throughout our readings, we’ll focus on the question of geography. We’ll use the insights found in Franco Moretti’s Atlas of the European Novel to contrast the two dominant geographical models between which the prose fiction of the long 18th century alternated: big-world roaming and small-world claustrophia.

Some of the questions that we’ll ask include: why is it that some novelists such as Jane Austen systematically construct constricted and constricting universes, worlds in which characters never see the wide world? In contrast, why do others – Voltaire, Mary Shelley – move their characters all across Europe, if not all over the globe? And why do still other novelists (Lafayette) alternate between cosmopolitan fictions and claustrophobic ones? Finally, in what ways does the big world outside almost always invade even the most confined fictional universes? 

The course will be taught in English. All readings, including French ones, will be available in English. French titles will also be available in French. Students wishing to take the course for French credit will do the reading and some of the writing in French. 

The course is open to advanced undergraduates WITH PERMISSION OF THE INSTRUCTOR.


French 601: Language Teaching/Learning

Prof. McMahon
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This course is required of all Teaching Assistants in French, Italian, and Spanish in the second semester of their first year of teaching. It is designed to provide instructors with the necessary practical support to carry out their teaching responsibilities effectively, and builds on the practicum meetings held during the first semester. The course will also introduce students to various approaches to foreign language teaching as well as to current issues in second language acquisition. Students who have already had a similar course at another institution may be exempted upon consultation with the instructor.


French 640: Alterity in Sixteenth-Century France: Cannibals, Monsters, and Ottomans

Prof. Francis
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The sixteenth century in France is characterized by an increasing exposure to the Other in various forms: Amerindians encountered through conquest and colonization and described in travel literature, monstrous beings or humans suffering from deformities seen as signs of divine wrath or examined by increasingly observational medical practitioners, and Ottomans, who figured increasingly in the French national consciousness after Francis I’s “impious alliance” with Suleiman the Magnificent in 1536. This course will examine how these Others were represented and received, and will attempt to determine how they were absorbed into religious, political, and philosophical discourses, as well as ways in which their alterity was respected.

We will begin by looking to the works of Emmanuel Levinas and Édouard Glissant to provide us with a theoretical framework for discussing alterity in the sixteenth century. The first unit, “Cannibals,” will look at French accounts of the Tupinamba, the inhabitants of the short-lived “France Antarctique” (modern-day Rio de Janeiro) best remembered for their custom of cannibalizing slain enemies. Authors studied will include André Thévet, Jean de Léry, and Montaigne. The second unit, “Monsters,” will focus on Des monstres et prodiges by Ambroise Paré, a barber-surgeon considered by some to be one of the fathers of modern surgery, and on Montaigne’s use of monsters in the Essais. In the third unit, “Ottomans,” we will briefly consider the role played by Turks in some of the major authors of the period (Lemaire de Belges, Marguerite de Navarre, Rabelais) before moving on to the works of Guillaume Postel, a diplomat and mystic who drew upon his voyages to Turkey in an attempt to reconcile Christianity with Islam and Judaism. We will conclude with Gabriel Bounin’s La Soltane (1561), the first French play in which Ottomans appear onstage.

Discussions will be in English. Readings will be in the original French where applicable; primary texts will be accompanied by secondary readings to help contextualize the works and familiarize students with critical discourse on them, and one class session will take place in Van Pelt and will revolve around an introduction to and examination of original editions. Papers may be written in English or in French.


French 670: Representations of the City

Prof. Goulet
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"La ville n'est homogène qu'en apparence. Son nom même prend un accent différent selon les endroits où l'on se trouve. Nulle part -- si ce n'est dans les rêves -- il n'est possible d'avoir une expérience du phénomène de la limite aussi originaire que dans les villes." Walter Benjamin, Le Livre des passages [cited in Eric Hazan, L'Invention de Paris]

In this seminar dedicated to prose and poetry of the 19th century, we will study shifting representations of Paris with particular attention paid to the contexts of urbanism, architectural history, and spatial theory. Primary readings will guide our range of topics: social spaces of the city in Balzac (La Fille aux yeux d'or and Le Père Goriot); Gothic revivalism in Hugo (Notre-Dame de Paris); urban change during the Revolution of 1848 in Flaubert (L'Education sentimentale); flânerie and art during the Second Empire in Baudelaire (Le Spleen de Paris); urban renewal and the rise of capitalist commerce in Zola (Au Bonheur des Dames); daily life and popular press culture in Claretie (La vie à Paris); and anticipatory visions of urban space and technology in Robida (Le Vingtième Siècle) and Verne (Paris au XXe siècle). Secondary critical readings may include texts by Benjamin, Ferguson, Hamon, Harvey, Jones, Lehan, Marcus, Nelson, Prendergast, Schivelbusch, and Williams.


French 684: The French Novel of the Twentieth Century (1900-1950)

Prof. Prince
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A narratologically oriented study of the poetics of the modern French novel from Proust and Gide to surrealist "fiction" (Breton), existential and existentialist narratives (Malraux, Céline, Sartre, Camus), and the foreshadowings of the New Novel (Queneau).