Fall 2017 Courses

French 550: Women Writers of the Long 17th Century

Prof. DeJean
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This course will be taught in English; writing can be done in French or in English.  The course is open to advanced undergraduates with permission from the instructor.

The 17th century was the formative period for modern French literature, the so-called grand siècle that gave the French tradition the greatest number of works still considered classics of French literature.  The age from 1640-1715 was also the greatest moment ever for women’s participation in French intellectual life.  Women writers, for instance, both invented and dominated the production of the most important genre to trace its origins to the 17th century, the modern novel.  The first fairy tale was published by a woman; during the early decades of that genre’s existence, most of its important practitioners were women.  Women published major works in every significant literary form of the age, from tragedy to memoirs.  During no other century in the French tradition did women know anything like this kind of visibility.

All over Europe, from Italy and Spain to German, publishers took note of the success story of French women’s writing and began to translate best-selling works in French with a speed never heard of before – often the same year as their original publication.  And nowhere was this more true than in England, where even Scudéry’s immense novels quickly appeared in English.  Lafayette’s Princesse de Clèves was available in English and was even adapted for the London stage within a year of its first French edition.  As a result, these works by women writers became basic reading all over the European continent.  Novels by Scudéry and Lafayette were actively promoted all through that formative period for modern prose fiction, the 18th century. 

We’ll read a variety of works fictional and non-fictional – from novels and fairy tales, from memoirs to the periodical press.  And because translation into English was so widespread in the 17th century, students will be able to read all the works in English if they choose.


French 591: After Odysseus. On Hospitality in France, North Africa, and the Mediterranean

Prof. André Benhaim
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Departing from the Homeric paradigm of hospitality as a fundamental critical framework, “After Odysseus” questions what it means, and what is at stake, when one welcomes (or not) a stranger. After the Revolution, France declared itself, formally and symbolically, a haven for refugees from all nations.  In modern times, this kind of hospitality pertained to many forms of migrations and extended not only to foreign citizens but also to stateless people. Wars, colonization, and their aftermaths, economical upheavals, political vicissitudes, cultural transformations all contributed to challenge this ideal. Since the turn of the millennial, today, and at the gates of Europe, the dire fate of countless migrants perishing at sea trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach its northern shores echoes the crucial questions to and by hospitality, not only for the southern nations the most directly involved (Greece, Italy), but also for France, as the culture that has sustained the most significant mutually influential relations with North Africa. Thus, hospitality will be considered from an array of perspectives. Recalling different models in the Western, Mediterranean, and Arab traditions, we will examine the relationship between France, North Africa, and the Mediterranean at large, whilst challenging its common definitions (to reconsider the North-South dynamics, for instance). Using literature and philosophy, linguistics and the visual arts from canonical to popular culture, we will ponder the notions of cosmopolitanism and borders, address issues of colonization, immigration and citizenship, and also, language and its discontents with “literature” as the ultimate ethos for both exclusion and togetherness. 

This course will be conducted in French.


French 601: Language Teaching and Learning

Prof. McMahon
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This course is required of all Teaching Assistants in French and Italian 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 630: Roman de la Rose and the French Vernacular Canon

Prof. Brownlee
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The course will be centered on an extended reading of all of the 13th-century Roman de la Rose--the single most widely read and influential literary work of the French Middle Ages. We will study the ways in which the Rose redefines the status of the French vernacular as a “canonical” literary language, while establishing itself as the new foundational work in the French canon. Special attention will be given to how the Rose deploys conflicting discourses of desire and knowledge.

We will begin by situating the Rose within the preceding French literary tradition, both lyric and narrative, focusing on the lyrics of the trouveres and on the romance narratives of Chrétien de Troyes. We will conclude with Christine de Pizan’s polemical reading of the Rose in the early 15th century.


French 684: The Novel in the First Half of the 20th Century

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).