Graduate course descriptions

Etienne Balibar
This seminar will focus on an anthology of major philosophical texts from the second half of the 20th century that address the issue of the Other (l’autre/Autrui) as an ontological and anthropological problem. They range from Sartre and Lacan to Levinas and Derrida through de Beauvoir, Levi-Strauss, Foucault, Irigaray and Fanon. Together, they construct a theoretical conversation which arguably redefined the dilemmas of identity and difference tracing back to the very beginnings of Western philosophy.

Antoine Compagnon
Close reading of Rabelais and Montaigne in the context of the Renaissance, the rise of the individual, religious quarrels, the civil wars, the discovery of the New World and the progress of science.

Souleymane Bachir Diagne
The seminar will examine the writing of violence, resistance and hope in two films by Ousmane Sembène, Moolaadé and Guelwar, and four novels dealing with the genocide in Rwanda: 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.

Madeleine Dobie and Thomas Dodman
In this course we explore the history of epidemics and medical confinement in France and some of its colonies/former colonies, from the 1720 plague in Marseille to recent outbreaks of Ebola and COVID-19. We consider how disease, contagion, quarantine and confinement have been understood and represented, drawing on contemporary and later sources that include medical treatises, news media, personal accounts, fictional works, films and visual depictions such as paintings, illustrations and cartoons. Though we focus on disease and representation in the French and ‘francophone’ context, the course also has a comparative dimension: we turn to other historical contexts and texts associated with them when these connections are illuminating. The course is organized around a series of five case studies centering on different contagious diseases and their historical context. We will see that each of these pandemics raises its own moral, political, social and historiographical questions, though there are also connecting threads that traverse historical periods, including the linkage between epidemics and the othering of certain population groups; the intersection of colonialism, revolution and warfare with disease and the introduction of new medical protocols, and the gradual emergence of biopolitics as a framework for the relationship of individual to state.
Discourses about contagious disease have always had a ‘literary’ dimension, making regular use of metaphor and allegory. This course explores the intersections of history and literature, considering not only these recurrent tropes but also how writers and, to a lesser extent, film-makers have explored the experiential, ethical and political aspects of illness and contagion. Without making general claims about the specificity of literature, we approach literary texts as sites that condense and catalyze philosophical and political reflection and debate. The course examines chapters in the history of disease and medicine but it also has a historiographical component as we consider how representations of epidemics have changed over time and to what extent the historical study of illness, medicine and public health helps us to think about the present.

Curated by Aubrey Gabel and Students
The class organizes two lectures on current work in the field of French & Francophone Studies. Students participate in selecting and introducing speakers and leading the discussion.

Kaiama Glover & Alex Gil
The Internet is analogous in important ways to the Caribbean itself as dynamic and fluid cultural space: it is generated from disparate places and by disparate peoples; it challenges fundamentally the geographical and physical barriers that disrupt or disallow connection; and it places others in relentless relation. This class will both introduce students to the digital humanities and to the French-speaking Caribbean as a generative geo-cultural space for exploring the potential of the Internet to confront and disrupt many of the structures of dominance that have traditionally silenced marginalized voices. It will provide an introduction to several of the formats and tools that have facilitated such engagements, along with immediate critical reflection and discussion about their value to the academy. Since information technology has become one of the key ways in which the peoples of the French-speaking Caribbean and its diasporas both communicate with one another and gain access to global conversations, alongside this exploration of digital tools, in general, this class will consider how the Internet enables people in marginalized spaces to engage with crucial social problems and to express their intellectual and political perspectives.

Madeleine Dobie
Offered in conjunction with the Center for Spatial research, this seminar explores representations of space in contemporary Algerian literature and film, considering how spatial imaginaries engage with changing social and political landscapes. The arts in Algeria have often been approached from the perspective of their narration of national history, notably the country’s emblematic War of Independence against France (1954-62). We consider how they attend, in addition, to contemporary social and political dynamics distilled in the experience of space, e.g. urban overcrowding, intra and inter-national migration, environmental damage and real estate development and speculation. We also look ‘outside’ the text/image at the sites and physical locations of cultural production such as publishing houses and book fairs, film festivals and cine-clubs, arts associations and literary cafes. The course methodology is cross-disciplinary, combining a primary focus on the arts with readings in sociology, critical geography and urban and architectural history. We draw on seminal theoretical approaches to the experience and representation of space, including the influential French tradition represented by Henri Lefebvre, Michel de Certeau and Guy Debord, for whom colonial Algeria furnished crucial points of reference. The course also has a cartographic component. Students explore how, since the colonial era, Algeria has been mapped and remapped, considering the political and economic investments that have underpinned these cartographic practices. Through a 1.5 credit Center for Spatial Research workshop, Questions in Spatial Research, they receive technical instruction in digital cartographic methods and develop skills to undertake digital projects that reflect their own questions and modes of enquiry.

Pierre Force
Open to all students who have begun to work on their dissertations the workshop provides a setting for discussion and critical reading of dissertation prospectuses, outlines, and chapters, as well as fellowship and grant proposals.

Pierre Force
A study of seventeenth-century prose writers who cultivated brevity and paradox in their accounts of the human condition, with a focus on Pascal’s Pensées, La Rochefoucauld’s Maximes, and La Bruyère’s Caractères.

Camille Robcis and Emmanuelle Saada
This graduate seminar explores the intersections of race and sexuality in France and its empires from the 18th century to the present. Through close readings of primary sources, historical, and theoretical works, we will examine how the politics of desire, the management of affective regimes, and the production of sexual norms and exceptions intersected with the making and unmaking of racial orders.

Emmanuel Kattan
This seminar will explore the multidimensional interplay between collective memory, politics, and history in France since 1945. We will examine the process of memorializing key historical events and periods – the Vichy regime, the Algerian War, the slave trade – and the critical role they played in shaping and dividing French collective identity. This exploration will focus on multiple forms of narratives – official history, victims’ accounts, literary fiction – and will examine the tensions and contradictions that oppose them. The seminar will discuss the political uses of memory, the influence of commemorations on French collective identity, and the role played by contested monuments, statues and other “lieux de mémoire” (“sites of memory”). We will ask how these claims on historical consciousness play out in the legal space through an exploration of French “memorial laws”, which criminalize genocide denial and recognize slave trade as a crime against humanity. These reflections will pave the way to retracing the genesis of the “devoir de mémoire” (“duty to remember”), a notion that attempts to confer an ethical dimension to collective memory. The seminar will examine the multiple uses of the French injunction to remember – as a response to narratives of denial, as an act of justice towards the victims, and as an antidote to the recurrence of mass crimes and persecutions. We will examine how amnesty is used to reconcile conflicting collective memories and will evaluate the claim that the transmission of knowledge about past crimes can become an effective tool for civic education.

Eliza Zingesser
This course is designed for students in their second semester. We continue the work of the Proseminar on exploring the profession (professional organizations and societies; journals) and techniques of scholarship such as digital humanities. Students also begin to plan and write their MA essay, benefitting for opportunities to brainstorm ideas and workshop writing in a collaborative setting.

Curated by Aubrey Gabel and Students
The class organizes two lectures on current work in the field of French & Francophone Studies. Students participate in selecting and introducing speakers and leading the discussion.