Undergraduate course descriptions
THIRD YEAR CONVERSATION
Activities include oral presentations, debates, role-playing, pronunciation exercises, discussion of current events, articles, films, etc. Students’ interests form the basis for the syllabus.
FRENCH LANGUAGE, SOCIETY & CULTURE THROUGH FILM
Socio-political issues and language through the prism of film. Especially designed for non-majors wishing to further develop their French language skills and learn about French culture. Each module includes assignments targeting the four language competencies: reading, writing, speaking and oral comprehension, as well as cultural understanding. Note: this course does not count toward the French major or concentration.
FRENCH LANGUAGE, SOCIETY & CULTURE THROUGH THE DISCOVERY OF PARIS
Paris may be referred to as the capital of modernity, as the city of romance and pleasure, as the center of social and political powers, or as a privileged stage for crises and revolutions. Analyzing and researching the meanings of these diverse representations would expose students to key aspects of French and Francophone political, social, and cultural history. This is a course intended for students who, having completed their language requirement in French, would like to better their knowledge of French language and society. It offers students the opportunity to study representations of Paris over the centuries as a way to practice writing, reading, and conversation in French and as a way to deepen their understanding of French and Francophone cultures. Materials for the course include major literary texts as well as paintings, movies and popular songs, but also museum websites, local newspapers and local ads, brochures from retail and food malls, restaurant menus, postcards... such variety can be utilitarian and intellectually compelling at the same time. It allows students not only to study language registers and vocabulary contextualization but also work on finding patterns and making connections.
Class sessions follow a chronological order helping students discover and understand the geography and the history of the construction of the city from the Renaissance to present-day Paris, focusing more particularly on the 19th and 20th centuries. Within this chronological time-frame, each week would be devoted to a specific social or cultural topic relevant to the period.
INTRO TO LITERARY STUDIES I
Major literary works from the XIIth Century to 1700. The goal of this course is to train students in literary analysis, and to make them comfortable speaking and writing on literary topics. Authors include Chretien de Troyes, Rabelais, Moliere, Corneille, Madame de Lafayette.
INTRO TO LITERARY STUDIES II
Major literary works and films since the 1700s. The goal of this course is to train students in literary analysis, and to make them comfortable speaking and writing on literary topics. Authors include Montesquieu, Rousseau, Chateaubriand, Balzac, Baudelaire, Proust, Sarraute.
THIRD-YEAR GRAMMAR & COMPOSITION
Prerequisites: Satisfaction of the Columbia University language requirement or the permission of the Director of undergraduate studies. W3405 helps students to improve their grammar and perfect their writing and reading skills, especially as a preparation for taking literature or civilization courses, or spending a semester in a francophone country.
INTRO TO FRENCH AND FRANCOPHONE STUDIES I
Examines conceptions of culture and civilization in France from the Enlightenment to the Exposition Coloniale of 1931, with an emphasis on the historical development and ideological foundations of French colonialism. Authors and texts include: the Encycloplédie; the Déclaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen; the Code noir; Diderot; Chateaubriand; Tocqueville; Claire de Duras; Renan; Gobineau; Gauguin; Drumont.
FRENCH CULTURAL WORKSHOP
Designed (though not exclusively) for students contemplating a stay at Reid Hall, this course will foster a comparison of the French and American cultures with readings from sociological sources and emphasis on in-class discussion in an attempt to comprehend and avoid common causes of cross-cultural communication.
FRENCH CIVILIZATION THROUGH GRAPHIC NOVELS AND CINEMA
In France and Belgium, the bande dessinées [comic strips] and graphic novels are recognized as the ‘Ninth Art’, after cinema and visual arts. Popular and celebrated, the bande dessinées have their own museum in Angoulême, France. The medium has quickly evolved from its 19th-century roots in caricature to become a reflection of Francophone identity, history, and artistry. While studies tend to focus on France and Belgium, this course moves beyond Europe into the history of France and its colonial empire. This is reflected in graphic novels from "Tintin au Congo"– which is still at the core of controversies about the representations of Africa and Africans by European colonizers – to "Le Chat du Rabbin" – which narrates the history of the Algerian colonization. After reading the graphic novels, students will watch and analyze several cinematographic adaptations. Thanks to a fellowship from the Center for Teaching and Learning, students will have the opportunity to write and design their own digital graphic novel.
This seminar is required for all French and French & Francophone Studies majors, who usually take it during their senior year. Students have the opportunity to collaboratively create their own syllabus of literary and critical readings.
"BLANCHITÉ" THINKING WHITENESS IN FRENCH
What are the stakes of the emergence, in French, of a vocabulary to discuss racial formations adapted from US academic and activist discourse? How does the neutrality and invisibility associated with whiteness relate historically to French Republican universalism? How has the lack of a language to critically address whiteness, in particular, affected French and Francophone thought, politics and literature? This class examines the conceptualization and representations of racial whiteness in the French language and in French and Francophone literatures. Foregrounding a republican universalist rebuttal of identity politics and a post-WWII denunciation of scientifically defined “race”, France has long perplexed foreign observers with such particularities as its restrictions on ethnic statistics and religious symbols. Yet a public debate on the meaning and implications of language used to discuss racial formations is currently underway. This class will reflect on the historical and contemporary significance of this shift in language in three ways. First, by interpreting current discussions of racial identities and whiteness; Second, by gaining a contextual understanding of how language addressing race in French has been shaped through the related histories of colonization, revolution, and migration. Finally by analyzing literary representations of racialized and racializing identities in French and Francophone literature.
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
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.
FRANCOPHONE ROMANCE: LOVE, SEX, INTIMACY IN THE FRENCH COLONIAL WORLD
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.
INTRO TO LITERARY STUDIES I
Major Literary Works from the Twelfth Century to 1800. The goal of this course is to train students in literary analysis and help them improve their communication and writing skills in French. Authors include Marie de France, Chrétien de Troyes, Rabelais, Marguerite de Navarre, Montaigne, Molière, Mme de Lafayette, Voltaire, and Beaumarchais.
INTRO TO LITERARY STUDIES II
Major literary works since 1700. The goal of this course is to train students in literary analysis, and to make them comfortable speaking and writing on literary topics. Authors include Montesquieu, Rousseau, Chateaubriand, Balzac, Baudelaire, Proust, Sarraute.
INTRO TO FRENCH AND FRANCOPHONE STUDIES II
In this course, students return to an exploration of the general concepts introduced in “Introduction to French and Francophone Studies I” and evaluate the significance of these ideas in the particular context of French-speaking communities in the postcolonial world. Re-examining such notions as universalism and relativism, tradition and modernity, integration and exclusion, etc., students consider the extent to which challenges and questionings of 18th and 19th century ideology have affected French imperialism and brought about changes in contemporary constructions of cultural and national identity. We examine and discuss France’s historical and cultural sense of itself with respect to its former colonies, along with that of the francophone world with respect to metropolitan France. Moving between sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, the Caribbean, and France, we reflect on the socio-political phenomena of decolonization, nationalism, and immigration – from the early 1930s into the 21st century. Readings, films, class discussions, writing assignments, and exams are all in French. (3421 can be taken independently or before 3420)
FRANCE PAST AND PRESENT
Based on readings of short historical sources, the course will provide an overview of French political and cultural history since 1700.
A practical introduction to translation from French to English (and vice versa), to translation theory and to comparative stylistics. The course will emphasize stylistic issues through close reading and frequent individual and group work on both prose and poetry.
XVIITH CENTURY LITERATURE
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.
HISTORY AND LITERATURE: GOING MICRO
This course explores overlaps and interconnections between history and literature. It introduces students to the ways in which literary scholars examine the historical dimension of texts and, conversely, historians grapple with the literary qualities of their narratives. In spring 2020 the course will focus on the methodological challenges and epistemological effects of working at small scales of analysis: in psychoanalytic case studies; ethnographic fieldwork; microhistorical research; and genre-defying narratives that weave together biography, sociological study, and the author’s implication (ethical, political) in the object of study. Course open to graduate students and advanced undergraduate students. All classes and readings in English.
ROUSSEAU, WOMEN & GENDER
The objective of this course will be to 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. Readings of Rousseau’s works (in French) will include the Discours sur l’inégalité, Émile, the Lettre à d’Alembert and the Confessions. Other authors will include Louise d’Épinay, Isabelle de Charrière, Olympe de Gouges, Germaine de Staël, Mary Wollstonecraft, Marie-Jeanne Roland de la Platière, George Sand and Monique Wittig, along with contemporary feminist criticism on Rousseau. The course will be taught in French with most readings in French, but papers may be written in English for non-majors or graduate students from other departments. This course fulfills the pre-1800 requirement for the French major and the 18th Century requirement for the MA or PhD in the French Department.
NARRATING WOMEN’S LIVES IN 19TH CENTURY FRENCH AND BRITISH NOVELS
Professors N. Dames and E. Ladenson
Female protagonists are central to both French and British fiction in the 19th century, but they tend to be depicted very differently. Sexuality, for instance, is much more explicit in French fiction, with its emphasis on adultery narratives, than in marriage-plot-heavy British novels. Relatedly, the most famous accounts of women’s lives are by women in England and by male authors in France. With these questions (among others) in mind, we will take a close comparative look at some of the most emblematic novels depicting women’s lives in the 19th century. Texts will include Brontë’s Jane Eyre; Flaubert’s Madame Bovary; Eliot’s Middlemarch; and Zola’s Nana.