Graduate course descriptions

Proust vs. Sainte-Beuve
Prof. Antoine Compagnon
A seminar on the origins of the Proust’s novel, À la recherche du temps perdu, in the pamphlet Contre
Sainte-Beuve, both an essay and a narrative drafted by Proust in 1908-1909. But who was Sainte-Beuve? And how did the monumental novel curiously emerge out of a quarrel with a 19th-century critic? We will also look at the various attempts to reconstitute the tentative Contre Sainte-Beuve, buried deep in the archeology of the Recherche.

African Literature and Philosophy
Prof. Souleymane Bachir Diagne
The seminar will be a study of the philosophical and literary movement known as Negritude, created in the late 1930’s by black poets and thinkers Léopold Sédar Senghor (1906-2001) from Senegal, Aimé Césaire (1913- 2008) from Martinique and Léon Damas (1912-1978) from Guyana. The ways in which Negritude has developed in conversation with the works of philosophers such as Marx, Nietzsche, Bergson, Levy-Bruhl, Sartre and Teilhard de Chardin will be examined. So will be the role played by Negritude in the contemporary development of African philosophy, in the works of thinkers like Paulin Hountondji, and Marcien Towa for example.

Discovering Existence
Prof. Souleymane Bachir Diagne
Modern science and the end of the closed world meant that Earth, the abode of the human being, had lost what was considered its natural position at the center of the universe. The new situation raised the question of the meaning of human existence, which is the topic of the seminar. First, the course will present a description of the passage from the Aristotelian closed world to the infinite universe of modern science. The responses to that new world by Descartes and Pascal will then be examined through the study of passages from Les Méditations and Les Pensées. We will then proceed to study how, in the twentieth century, Pascal’s philosophy of human existence found an echo in Jean Paul Sartre’s philosophy of the proliferation of existence and Albert Camus’ confrontation with the “absurd”.

Communism or Democracy? A French debate at the end of the 20th century
Prof. Etienne Balibar
In the last three decades of the 20th century, i.e. roughly in the wake of the 1968 insurrections and the final collapse of the Soviet regime and the end of the Cold War, a lively debate took place in France as in other countries, but with specific character, which involved a number of prominent philosophers, writers and political theorists, usually (but not always) classified on the left. It has left profound traces on contemporary political philosophy and philosophy in general. As a consequence, it proposed deep and diverse insights into the vexed question of the articulation of communism and democracy, which can be compared fruitfully with the current debates about "assembly" movements and post-capitalist democracy. The class will read a number of texts from this debate, organizing them in the form of dialogues among the protagonists and trying to identify their points of heresy.

Law and Violence in Modern European Empires
Prof. Emmanuelle Saada
This class explores the history of the relationship between law and violence in Europe and its empires since the 16th century. We will pay special attention to the articulations between political and philosophical debates and legal and governmental practices. Readings will be drawn from intellectual history and legal theory as well as from the social and political history of European imperialism and colonialism. The French and British cases will be at the center of our reflection but we will also explore links with other European empires and with US History.

Francophone Romance: Love, Sex, Intimacy in The French Colonial World
Prof. Madeleine Dobie
The forms of domination and violence that have characterized empire have always been interwoven with desire and various forms of intimacy. Personal relationships have been vectors of colonial power as well as sites of resistance. In this course we consider various ways in which love, desire and intimacy have emerged as questions in the French colonial context. The course 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. We consider both the transmission of categories and practices across colonial contexts and historical transitions and regional specificities. The course methodology is interdisciplinary, drawing on insights from history, sociology and law. The primary lens is, however, be that of literature, a medium in which the personal dimensions of empire have often found expression. We consider how recurrent themes and figures of colonial desire and intimacy have taken shape across different genres and registers of writing.

During the first few weeks of the semester we focus on the first French colonial empire, established in the Americas and the Indian Ocean in the 17th and 18th centuries. We consider love, sex and intimacy as dimensions of the system of plantation slavery, exploring questions such as the biopolitical relationship between production and reproduction and the intersectionality of gender, sexuality and race. We begin by looking at fictional and non-fictional texts from the slavery period, then, consider how the history of slavery frames the treatment of race, gender and sexuality in the work of several important 20th-century Francophone Caribbean writers. In the second part of the course we turn to France’s second colonial empire, established in Africa and Asia in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Our readings in this section explore the colonial ‘family romance,’ i.e. the presentation of the colonial relationship as a natural, familial bond between parents and children. We consider the central place that marriage and sexuality occupied in legal codes that prescribed the rights and duties of ‘citizens’ and ‘natives’ along with the ambiguous status of ‘métis.’ The course ends with consideration of gender and sexuality as sites of tension within anticolonialism and nationalism.

Practicum in French Language Pedagogy
Dr. Pascale Hubert-Leibler
Designed for first-time teaching fellows (second-year graduate students). The goal of the course is to provide novice instructors with practical support throughout their first semester of teaching, help them learn about and apply best practices, and give them a theoretical foundation in second-language pedagogy.

 FALL 2018

Practicum in French Language Pedagogy
Dr. P. Hubert-Leibler
Designed for first-time teaching fellows (second-year graduate students). The goal of the course is to provide novice instructors with practical support throughout their first semester of teaching, help them learn about and apply best practices, and give them a theoretical foundation in second-language pedagogy.

Questions in African Literature
Prof. S.B. Diagne
The seminar will examine the writing of violence, resistance and hope in two films by Ousmane Sembène and four novels dealing with the genocide in Rwanda. The novels are Boubacar Boris Diop’s Murambi, le livre des ossements, Veronique Tadjo’s L’ombre d’Imana, voyage jusqu’au bout du Rwanda; Abdourahman Waberi’s Moisson de crânes, and Tierno Monenembo’s L’aîné des orphelins. Sembene’s films are Moolaadé and Guelwar

FREN GU4626 (new course)
Derrida and His Others
Prof. E. Balibar
A study of Derrida’s work using as a guiding thread a comparison with contemporary “others” who have addressed the same question albeit from an antithetic point of view:
1) Derrida with Althusser on the question of historicity
2) Derrida with Deleuze on the question of alterity, focusing on their analyses of linguistic difference
3) Derrida with Habermas on the question of cosmopolitanism and hospitality

FREN GR6602 (new course)
War and Memory: Postwar Representations of World War II and the Occupation in French Literature, History, and Film
Prof. Susan Rubin Suleiman

This seminar will examine the evolution and varieties of French memories of World War II, specifically as concerns the still sensitive subjects of defeat, collaboration, and resistance.  We will discuss selected works from 1945 to the present, representing a range of styles and genres as well as points of view.  The focus of class discussions will be chiefly on fiction, memoirs, and a few films (documentary and fiction); and, in a supporting role, on current historiography.  Required works by J-P Sartre, Irène Némirovsky, Claude Simon, L.-F. Céline, Robert Antelme, Marguerite Duras, Georges Perec, Patrick Modiano, and others.

Work in the seminar will consist of active class participation (students will sign up to lead weekly discussions) and the preparation of a substantial term paper.  For each class meeting, students should prepare a short (300-400 words) response paper on a single assigned work or problem, in preparation for the final project.  

Note:  The first meeting of the seminar will be on September 13, but the Syllabus will be available before then on the course web site.  Please do the reading indicated for September 13 and come prepared for a full discussion.  The September 13 readings are:  Henry Rousso, Le syndrome de Vichy (or if not available in French, then The Vichy Syndrome, Harvard U.P.), chaps. 1-3;  Jean-Paul Sartre, “La République du Silence” and “Paris sous l’Occupation” in Situations, III (pdf’s will be on course web site); and Charles de Gaulle, “Discours du 25 août 1944,” available on line and also on course site.  Also, if possible, watch Le chagrin et la pitié in time for the September 13 meeting.

Proseminar. Introduction to Literary Research
Prof. P. Force
This course is designed for first-year graduate students in French. It is an introduction to the conceptual and practical tools of literary research.

How to teach French Civilization
Prof. T. Dodman
This class prepares graduate students to teach “Civilization” classes in French departments, a qualification that is increasingly being demanded for positions in the field. It does so by examining major themes in French politics, culture and society, and by placing these in historical context. By studying historiographical and methodological debates, students also work towards refining their own research topics.

FRHS GR8813 (new course)
A History of the Social
Prof. E. Saada
This graduate seminar will explore the trajectory of a “science of the social” in France from the end of the nineteenth century to the present with a focus on the transformation of the concept of the “social” it entailed. Starting with the successful efforts by Emile Durkheim to institutionalize sociology as a field that federated all other forms of social analysis, the class will end with Bruno Latour’s critique of the durkheimian conceptualization of “the social.” On the way, we will read some of the major works by Marcel Mauss, Maurice Halbwachs, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu, with attention to the relationship between different social sciences (sociology, anthropology, economics and history), the shared interest in the production of ‘categories’, the recurring debate over the ‘scientific’ status of the social sciences and their relationship to politics, among others. In a nutshell, the class will function as (1) an introduction to French social theory and social sciences and (2) a history of the concept of the "social."

FRHS GR8938 (new course)
Gender As Critique
Prof. C. Robcis
In recent years, conservative and religious activists throughout Europe and Latin America have organized massive street protests against what they are calling “the theory of gender.” Although rarely defined, this “theory of gender” has been decried as the inspiration for women and LGBT rights and it has come to encapsulate a series of wide-ranging fears and fantasies from individualism, Marxism, hyper-liberalism, to the dissolution of the self. The goal of this seminar is to explore different scholarly articulations of gender, in order to understand why this concept appears so threatening today. What does it mean to consider gender as a method rather than an object and how does it shift in relation to sex, class, and race? The course will begin with more “classic” accounts of gender (Beauvoir, Lévi-Strauss, Rubin, Wittig, Butler, Foucault, Scott) before turning to recent critical works across various disciplines (history, anthropology, literature, political theory, history of science, and psychoanalysis).


Sixteenth-Century French Literature
Prof. J. Meyer
This course will introduce major works from the sixteenth century with a particular emphasis on the relationship between geography and literature. We will consider representations of France in the works of Marguerite de Navarre, Montaigne, and Rabelais, noting ways in which cartographic practices inform literary depictions of French space. Our examination of the historical context of these readings, with attention to such topics as the rediscovery of Ptolemy, the discovery of the New World, and the Wars of Religion will help elucidate the unique historical circumstances that shaped the literary developments of the French Renaissance. Readings will include works by contemporary scholars of the period Frank Lestringant, Timothy Hampton and Tom Conley, among others. 

ENFR GU4419 (new course)
Images of the French Revolution
Profs. Elisabeth Ladenson and Caroline Weber
This course is designed as an overview of responses to the French Revolution, concentrating on popular depictions in Francophone and Anglophone works.  We will start with contemporary responses and move on through 19th- and 20th-century literary representations of the Revolution, including plays and films, both adaptations of literary responses and original treatments.  Readings will include works by Wordsworth, Coleridge, Burke, Wollestonecraft, Sade, and Dickens, along with more recent responses.

Diderot and the Disciplines
Prof. J. Stalnaker
One of the central concerns of Denis Diderot’s famous Encyclopédie — the “machine de guerre” of the Enlightenment — was the organization of human knowledge. In this course, we will read Diderot’s remarkably wide-ranging corpus as an occasion to think critically and historically about the organization of disciplines in his time and our own. On the one hand, the range of Diderot’s polymathic writings indicates the extent to which our modern disciplinary divisions were not operative during the Enlightenment: his work ran the gamut from natural philosophy, to theater, to the novel, to moral philosophy, to political theory, to medicine, with significant overlap among these areas. On the other hand, he contributed to the elaboration of a number of modern disciplines, both through his reflection on knowledge in the Encyclopédie and through his forays into new modes of knowledge such as art criticism and anthropology. We will read his works both in their Enlightenment context and in the context of recent critical reflections on the organization of knowledge and the problems it poses in our own interdisciplinary, information-laden age.

FREN GR8819 (new course)
Sociologies of the Everyday
Prof. A. Gabel
Mid-to-late 20th-century France saw the rise of literary practices less centered on narrative, and more on the experience of everyday life. Influenced by scholars from diverse intellectual traditions (like Marxism, history, anthropology, sociology, and psychoanalysis), authors and intellectuals directed their attention to analyzing, understanding, and documenting lived experience. We will consider how literature engaged in “comportements analogiques” to sociology, undertaking its own critical investigation of le quotidien.

FREN GR8189 (new course)
Bergson and Bergsonism
Prof. S.B. Diagne
This seminar will examine the significance of a “Bergson moment” in the history of French philosophy. In a first part, different works by Henri Bergson will be studied with a particular emphasis on his reflections on art and literature. The second part will be devoted to the reception of Bergson’s thought beyond France, among intellectuals from the colonial world in particular Indian poet and philosopher Muhammad Iqbal and Senegalese poet and thinker Léopold Sédar Senghor.

FALL 2017

Practicum in French Language Pedagogy
Dr. P. Hubert-Leibler
For first-time Teaching Fellows (second-year graduate students). The goal of the course is to provide novice instructors with practical support throughout their first semester of teaching, help them learn about and apply best practices, and give them a theoretical foundation in second-language pedagogy. 

The 68-Effect in French Theory
Prof. E. Balibar
A study of the relationship between the May 68 events in Paris and "French theory," with a focus on 1) “Power and Knowledge” (Foucault and Lacan); 2) “Desire” (Deleuze-Guattari and Irigaray); 3) “Reproduction” (Althusser and Bourdieu-Passeron).

African Literature and Philosophy
Prof. S.B. Diagne
The seminar will examine the poetry and the philosophical writings of Negritude authors Léopold Sédar Senghor (1906-2001) from Senegal, Aimé Césaire (1913- 2008) from Martinique and Léon Gontran Damas (1912-1978) from Guyana in connection with the works of Marx, Nietzsche, Bergson, Levy-Bruhl, Sartre, and Teilhard de Chardin. Discussions on philosophical questions of identity and difference, or of an African aesthetics, or of universalism will be combined with close readings of the poetry and theater of the three authors.

French Empires
Prof. E. Saada
As in many other European countries in the last twenty years, the historiography of France has been reshaped by interest in the imperial trajectory of the nation. 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? What are the contributions of historians to the understanding of post-colonialism?

Rousseau and his Critics
Prof. J. Stalnaker
In this course we will read Rousseau through the lens of the extremely polarized critical reactions his writings have elicited, from Diderot to Derrida and beyond. We will try to understand why this figure has been viewed as an exemplar of both the Enlightenment and the Counter-Enlightenment, as a defender of human liberty and as a proto-fascist, as an inspiration to women writers and as a misogynist. We will also address the ways Rousseau defined himself and his work, often in opposition to his fellow philosophes and critics. The course will be held in French, but papers may be written in English for students outside the French department.

Proseminar: Introduction to Literary Research
Prof. P. Force
Designed for first-year graduate students. An introduction to the conceptual and practical tools of literary research.

Structures of Feeling: Emotions in History and Literature
Prof. T. Dodman
This seminar initiates graduate students in the humanities and social sciences to the historical study of emotions broadly defined. It provides an interdisciplinary genealogy of a field recently propelled into the spotlight by the so-called “biological turn,” and pushes to reflect upon the opportunities and pitfalls of studying emotions. Topics covered include: anthropological and psychological understandings of emotion; affect theory and its critique; what insights neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and evolutionary biology can bring to the humanities; and, conversely, what a historically grounded approach to emotion can provide to a critical understanding of society and culture.


French America, 1534-1804
Prof. P. Force
A study of the French Atlantic World from the exploration of Canada to the Louisiana Purchase and Haitian Independence, with a focus on the relationship between war and trade, forms of intercultural negotiation, the economics of slavery, and the changing meaning of race. The course is designed for advanced undergraduates and graduate students.

Eloquent Animals in Medieval Literature
Prof. E. Zingesser
Medieval literature, like contemporary literature, sometimes features talking animals. But medieval grammatical treatises describe non-human animal utterances as meaningless and (usually) as untranscribable in writing. Some human utterances also fall into this category—a fact that grammatical treatises acknowledge—, rendering language alone an inadequate means of shoring up the species boundary. When authors liken their own language to that of a non-human animal, such as the myriad medieval poets who profess to "sing like the birds," is this a serious claim, leading to experimental poetics? When non-human animals "speak" in medieval fiction, do they speak differently from their human counterparts? This seminar surveys texts in which animals communicate—via language or via other symbolic systems. How, if at all, did medieval authors attempt to draw the line between human and non-human animals? Our reading will include lyric poetry by the troubadours and trouvères, Chrétien de Troyes' Yvain, Philomena, selected lais by Marie de France, the Novas del papagai (The Story of the Parrot), the Roman de Renart, and Gaston Phébus's Le livre de chasse. Alongside these texts, we will read theoretical reflections on language and sound, both medieval and modern, including medieval catalogs of animal "noises" and grammatical treatises on voice. Contemporary reflections by Derrida, Jean-Christophe Bailly, Mladen Dolar and others.

Discovering Existence
Prof. S.B. Diagne
Modern science marking the end of the closed world meant that Earth, the abode of the human being, lost its natural position at the center of the universe. The passage from the Aristotelian closed world to the infinite universe of modern science raised the question of the meaning of human existence, which is the topic of the seminar.  How that question continued to resonate in French literature and philosophy, will be examined, first through the study of texts by Blaise Pascal in the 17th century; then through the reading of texts centered around the topic of the “discovery of existence” (echoing, as we will see, many of Pascal’s topics): texts by Jean Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Frantz Fanon and Albert Camus will thus be analyzed. 

The Maghreb in Transition: Culture and Society in North Africa Since 1990
Prof. M. Dobie
In this course, we explore cultural production in the contemporary Maghreb. We consider how important dimensions of social and political life are explored in literature and film as well as the role of these and other media in shaping social and political dynamics. We focus on Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, though we also situate these nations in broader regional and global contexts. As former French colonies, these three nations share a multilingual cultural environment in which French coexists with Arabic. Though our sources are primarily in French, we examine material produced in both languages with options to read/watch in translation. Most of the course materials are also available in English translation.

The course begins in roughly 1990, a time of disenchantment when the political leadership brought to power at Independence was replaced or at least challenged. We explore the dynamics of Algeria’s ‘Black Decade’, Morocco’s emergence from the ‘Years of lead’ and, with an eye to more recent developments, Tunisia’s ‘Arab spring’ as well as less punctual and less highly mediatized currents of social and economic life. Our primary focus is on the varied ways in which the arts and cultural media have responded and contributed to change while also revisiting the past and reframing national narratives. The course is interdisciplinary, combining historical, sociological and anthropological approaches with close reading of texts and films.

The syllabus is organized both historically and thematically. We explore questions including aesthetic responses to violence and the theorization of trauma and memory; the changing geography and sociology of migration and the changing landscape of media and publication. Many of our sources explore the meaning of ‘modernity’, often in conjunction with explorations of subjectivity and spirituality, gender and sexuality.

Pascal, Hermeneutics and Rhetoric
Prof. P. Force
A study of Blaise Pascal’s complete works, including the Pensées, the Lettres provinciales, and the Entretiens sur Epictète et Montaigne, with a focus on issues of persuasion, Biblical interpretation, epistemology, and politics.