Graduate course descriptions

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

GU4301 17th Century Literature  
Pierre Force
A one-semester survey of seventeenth-century French literature, with an emphasis on the relationship between literature and the major cultural, philosophical, and religious developments of the period.

GU4422 Baudelaire Painter of Modern Life  
Antoine Compagnon
Close reading of Baudelaire’s poetry and prose as it relates to both the painting of modernity and the resistance to modernity. The course will be taught in French.

GU4730 Discovering Existence
Bachir Diagne
A study of the theme of human existence confronted with the infinite universe of modern science (Descartes, Pascal), with the proliferation of existence (Sartre), with the absurd (Camus), with the other (Levinas).

GU4422 Versailles
Elisabeth Ladenson and 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 his ongoing château project, through the Revolution. We will read contemporary documents; 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."   

GR6020 French Lecture Series
Students curate, organize and attend a series of lectures open to all members of the French department, including graduate students, faculty and undergraduate majors/concentrators. Working with a faculty member, they invite two speakers each semester, collaborate on the scheduling and organization of talks, introduce guests and lead the discussion.

GR9701 Dissertation Workshop
Joanna Stalnaker
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.

GU4426 Rousseau, Women and Gender
Joanna Stalnaker
This course will tease out Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s complex and often contradictory ideas on women and gender difference in nature and society, to examine his own gender construction in his autobiographical writings, and to determine how women writers from the eighteenth to the twenty-first centuries have responded to these aspects of his work.

GU4002 French Theory in a Global Context
Madeleine Dobie and Thomas Dodman
Staring in the 1980s, ‘French theory,’ an eclectic corpus of philosophy, political theory, psychoanalytic and feminist thought, became a catalyzing force in North-American intellectual culture. But while ‘theory’ came to be associated with France, it was in reality a product of transcontinental colonial and postcolonial intellectual encounters and exchanges. Seminal thinkers such as Althusser, Cixous, Derrida, Fanon, Glissant, Balibar, Bourdieu and Rancière were either born or began their careers in Algeria or the Francophone Caribbean. Others, such as Kristeva and Todorov, were immigrants from Eastern Europe. This course approaches ‘French theory’ from a decolonial perspective resituating its leading thinkers, intellectual contributions and political interventions  in light of colonial hybridity, postcolonial migration, the global circulation of Marxism and psychoanalysis, and American branding and marketing. We examine influential texts from the 1950s, 60s and 70s that came to be read in new intellectual contexts in the 1980s and 90s and more recent work that has built on this seminal thinking about identity and difference, power and cultural hegemony.

The course is divided into five units, each organized around a pair of complementary terms. Neither these categories nor the readings associated with them are in any way exhaustive; rather, they introduce a few important theoretical conversations, notably at the intersections of literary and historical studies, the two fields in which the instructors of this course are trained. During the semester we explore questions about authorship and reading, canonicity and the worlding of literature, documents and emotions, and the boundedness and/or fluidity of selves and others.

GU4292 Queer Medieval France
Eliza Zingesser
What did it mean to be queer in the francophone Middle Ages? Was there such a thing? The term ‘sodomy’ was used in the period to describe a wide variety of acts (not all sexual), and the term would seem to foreclose the possibility of female same-sex eroticism. In an era in which all non-procreative sex was conceived as sinful, does the opposition between homosexual and heterosexual still hold? Was male and female homosexuality conceived symmetrically? Topics include the construction of gender (binary vs. spectral, natural vs. cultural), gender variance (transgender and nonbinary people), sodomy and the contours of “sex,” and sadomasochism. Our readings will take us through a broad range of genres—from penance manuals to lyric poetry to romance. Texts include selected lais by Marie de France, troubadour songs, Alan of Lille’s Plaint of Nature, the Roman d’Enéas (a medieval French rewriting of the Aeneid that makes Aeneas gay), Heldris of Cornwall’s Le Roman de Silence and selected saints’ lives. Class taught in English, although some readings may be available only in modern French translation (reading knowledge of French required).

GR8189 Bergson & Bergsonism
Bachir Diagne
The work of French philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941) has defined in the history of ideas what Frederic Worms has rightly called the “Bergson moment”. It’s influence on literature and philosophy started with his 1889 Essai sur les données immédiates de la conscience (known in English under the title Time and Free Will) and still endures, as can be seen in Gilles Deleuze’s works for example. The revolution he represented in philosophical thought with his concepts of duration, intuition, élan vital, dynamic religion and open society have exercised also a profound influence among intellectuals in Asia and Africa fighting for a decolonized world. Bergson’s philosophy and the global influence of Bergsonism, especially among colonial/postcolonial subjects are examined in this seminar. After a presentation of Bergson’s thought and main concepts, we will examine the “Bergsonism” of two important poets and thinkers of the twentieth century: the Indian Muhammad Iqbal and the Senegalese Léopold Sédar Senghor.

GR9701 Dissertation Workshop
Pierre Force
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.

G8095 MA Research Workshop
This course is an introduction to academic writing. Students focus on the different written components of the first stages of their doctoral program, especially the MA thesis, but also term papers, conference proposals, grant applications and the explication de texte exercise. They develop skills that contribute to successfully producing these different kinds of writing. The main goal of the course, and its primary focus, is to prepare students for the MA thesis. It provides a welcoming and collaborative environment in which to workshop outlines and drafts. Students also build on skills developed in the first-semester Proseminar by honing their research techniques, including bibliographic skills and knowledge of the expanding range of digital tools. As a complement to their exploration of academic genres, students also begin to explore opportunities for non-academic writing in the public humanities.

The course is organized as a workshop with short weekly readings and, in some cases, writing assignments and exercises. We use collaborative techniques such as brainstorming and peer editing along with writing drills and other exercises.