Graduate course descriptions

  • To view course schedules by subject, department, or keyword visit the Directory of Classes website page.

Forms of Desire in Medieval French and Arabic
Yasmine Seale and Eliza Zingesser
(taught in English)
How did people conceive of and talk about love on either side of the Pyrenees? This course will explore the many faces of desire in medieval French, Occitan, Arabic, Hebrew and Romance (proto-Spanish) literature to ask a broader question: what would be our understanding of lyric poetry, often taken to originate with the troubadours, if we incorporated the poems and songs of Al-Andalus? After anchoring ourselves in history, we will survey the major events and trends that attended the emergence of new poetic and musical forms both in Andalusia and in France between the 8th and the 14th centuries. We will study how these works were composed, read, performed, and transmitted. Weekly readings will combine scholarship with primary texts exploring the many facets of erotic experience: from sexual contact to love from afar, love as madness, love mediated by birds, rejection of marriage, gender fluidity and queerness. We will also think about the literary forms in which these themes are expressed, including dawn songs, bilingual love poems, treatises on achieving female orgasm, conduct manuals, and hybrid texts combining prose and verse. (Translations will be provided for most material, but reading knowledge of modern French is required.)

French Film Aesthetics
Tadas Bugvenecius
(taught in English)
The seminar examines a particular branch of French-language film theory and criticism that
deals with medium specificity, at the expense of reception and apparatus theories. We follow its history from the silent-era writings of Dulac and Epstein to the most recent inquiries into the notions of montage, découpage, and mise en scène. Along the way, we discuss the privileging of aesthetics in the Cahiers du cinéma criticism as well as its intersection with French theory in the work of Barthes, Deleuze, Lyotard, and Rancière. Obligatory weekly films by filmmakers such as Akerman, Delsol, Dulac, Duras, Hou, Ruiz, Sissako, Tati, and Triet will accompany and put pressure on theory.

Rebel Literature: Politics and the Novel in the Francophone World, 1950-1980
Emmanuel Kattan
(taught in French)
“Quand on refuse, on dit non” ("When one refuses, one says no"), said Ivorian novelist Ahmadou Kourouma towards the end of his life. Taking this stance as a starting point, this seminar will explore, through the lens of the novel, major political upheavals in the Francophone world during the 1950s, 60s and 70s. We will shed light on the history of decolonization, May 68, the feminist movement, and struggles against racism and injustice by delving into the imaginary worlds of six leading francophone novelists: Marguerite Duras, Ahmadou Kourouma, Assia Djebar, Hélène Cixous, George Perec and Édouard Glissant.

Classical French Moralists
Pierre Force
(taught in French)
A study of three seventeenth-century “examiners of the human soul” known for their virtuoso use of the short form and their attention to the puzzling nature of human behavior, with a focus on Pascal’s Pensées, La Rochefoucauld’s Maximes, and La Bruyère’s Caractères.

Images of the French Revolution
Caroline Weber
(taught in English)
Since 1789, the French Revolution has been mythologized and analyzed in a host of polemical, historiographical, and literary writings as well as in the visual arts and cinema. This course focuses on Western European responses to the Revolution from the late 18th century to the present day. Authors studied include William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Blake, Olympe de Gouges, Edmund Burke, Mary Wollestonecraft, the Marquis de Sade, Georg Büchner, Jules Michelet, Charles Dickens, Hegesippe Legitimus, and Chantal Thomas. A selection of 18th- and 19th-century caricatures and paintings and contemporary films will also be examined. (Reading knowledge of French required.)

Dissertation Workshop
Pierre Force
FR GR9701
(taught in English)
This workshop is open to all graduate students in the Department of French who have begun to work on their dissertations. It provides a setting for discussion and critical reading of dissertation prospectuses, outlines, and chapters, as well as fellowship and grant proposals. Readings for each session will be scheduled on the basis of students' needs and wishes.

Francophone Romance:  Love, Sex, Intimacy in the French Colonial World
Madeleine Dobie
Colonial domination and violence have been interwoven with desire and various forms of intimacy. Personal relationships have been vectors of colonial power as well as sites of resistance. This course explores various ways in which love, desire and intimacy have emerged as questions in French colonial practice. It covers a broad historical and geographic span stretching from the age of plantation slavery to the era of decolonization and from the Caribbean and Louisiana to Vietnam and Africa. The primary lens is literature, a medium in which the personal dimensions of empire have often found expression, though we also draw insights from history, sociology and law.

Caroline Weber
This seminar will examine Ancien Régime culture through the history of Versailles from its origins as a hunting lodge through Louis XIV's displacement of the court to the château in 1682, through the Revolution. We will read contemporary literature; look at cultural history, architecture and the arts; and consider film treatments from Sacha Guitry's 1954 "Si Versailles m'était conté" to the recent television series "Versailles."   

Medieval Animals, Human and Other
Eliza Zingesser
How did medieval people separate themselves from other (non-human) animals? Was it the ability of humans to talk, use tools, exercise rationality or something else? We will consider these questions in the first unit of this class, in which we’ll look at cases of what Agamben calls “the anthropological machine”—the ways in which humans distinguished themselves from other species. Why do some bestiaries (catalogues of animals) include human animals but not others? How did medieval people understand Genesis and the notion of ‘dominion’ given to humans over the rest of creation? In the next unit, we will turn to talking animals, both in medieval philosophical texts and in literature. Do they speak differently from human animals? Do humans speak differently when speaking of them (for example, do texts about parrots or other bird mimics start to ‘parrot’ other texts?). We next turn to cases of metamorphosis (human to animal or vice versa) and hybridity (in which a single body is both human and animal). What do these texts reveal about what is proper to the human and how does the body play a role in shoring up species identity? In a final unit, we turn to assemblages—conglomerations in which human and nonhuman animals act together. We will look both at chivalry (knight+horse) and at medieval lovers, who are often surrounded by birds.

French Empires: History and Historiography
Emmanuelle Saada
At the beginning of the 21st Century, forty years after its last colonial war, France, which had primarily seen itself as a “nation” in the previous two hundred years, discovered that it had been an “empire” for most of its history. The questions of slavery, colonial violence, racism, exclusion, and exploitation became prevalent in public debates with the conviction that colonial legacies continued to shape France’s present. This new interest in the imperial trajectory of France both informed and was shaped by the publication of many historical works.

This class will explore this 'imperial turn' and examine its specificity vis-à-vis the historiographies of other European empires. We will examine the questions that have been at the center of the historian's agenda: what kind of historical processes are revealed (or masked) by the imperial perspective? How do we think historically about the relationships between nation, Republic, and empire?  How has the 'imperial turn' shaped the categories and writing practices of historians? How have new repertoires of questions about citizenship, gender and sexuality, racism, capitalism, and the environment emerged in the study of imperialism?  What are the contributions of historians to the understanding of postcolonialism?

French for Diplomats
William U Kehl
This course deals with French foreign policy. It is designed for students who have a good French level (the whole course is taught is French, so there are minimal requirements) and are interested by international relations and France. It aims at improving students knowledge of French diplomacy : the vision and values it carries, its history, its logic, its strenghts, its weaknesses, the interrogations and challenges it faces. Though it is not a language course (there will be no grammar), it will also shapren students mastering of French (especially useful for those considering an exchange at Sciences Po, or wanting to work in places such as the United nations where it is useful to master some French diplomatic vocabulary).