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Spring 2022 - Course Description

French 71110 – Problems in Literary History                          
Professor Erec Koch

Thursdays, 6:30pm -8:30pm
Taught in French (2/4 credits)
Fully In-Person

In this course, we will explore the problematic literary history of the essai. A genre that has no real precedent prior to Montaigne, the essai is unlike others in literature in that it is often characterized negatively as not being narrative, dramatic-performative, or poetic—in short, as what is left or what is excluded by other literary genres.  We will examine what unifies this genre while attending to its different incarnations throughout literary history. The constants of the essai include that it is open-ended and consciously uncompleted writing calling for further writing; that, in responding to other texts, it is fundamentally intertextual and thus invites consideration of the mutual imbrication of reading and writing; that it cites and invites citation; and that it models itself on everyday discourse and conversation.  The genre evolves over the course of literary history: it crosses different discursive boundaries over time, assuming the form of philosophical and speculative discourse in the early modern period, critical-aesthetic speculation as well as popular/journalistic writing that helped shape the public sphere in the 18th century, and polemical and political thought in the 19th and 20th centuries.  At different times in its history, the essai strategically converges with or diverges from related discursive forms such as the traité, considérations, rêveries, réflexions, and mélanges. Primary texts for this course span the 16th to the 20th centuries and include Montaigne’s Essais, as well as writings by Francis Bacon, Blaise Pascal, Pierre Nicole, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Denis Diderot, David Hume, Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, Charles Péguy, Alain, György Lukacs, Theodor Adorno, Jean Paulhan, Michel Butor and Roland Barthes.
The course will be conducted in French.

French 85000 – Sentiment, Affect, Sensation: Forms of Desire in the Nineteenth-Century French Novel
Professor Bettina Lerner
Mondays, 4:15pm-6:15pm
Taught in French (2/4 credits)
Fully In-Person  

This course construes desire as constitutive of modern narrative and of the nineteenth-century French novel in particular. We will examine how sentimental, realist, and decadent novels configure desire differently through character and plot. We’ll also see how these configurations are challenged by a range of affects that emerge, often within the same texts, to reveal the mediated and constructed dimensions of attraction and longing. The course also asks us to consider not just the forms of erotic desire that are developed in these novels but, in a period marked by revolution and social change, we will pay close attention to texts that explicitly tie desire to political aspiration. These explorations may ultimately help us address the question of the century’s desire for the novel and the sensations it provokes over and above all other literary forms. Novels and novellas will likely include Stendhal’s Le Rouge et le noir; Claire de Duras’s Ourika; Honoré de Balzac’s La Fille aux yeux d’or; Gustave Flaubert’s L’Éducation sentimentale; Jules Vallès’s L’Enfant; and Rachilde’s Monsieur Vénus. Our definitions of desire will be informed and challenged by theorists and critics including Roland Barthes, Leo Bersani, Peter Brooks, Georges Bataille, Gilles Deleuze, René Girard, and Raymond Williams and will engage with recent debates associated with the work of Lauren Berlant and Joan Copjec among others.

French 707000 - African Cinémas: History, Theory, and Industry
Professor Boukary Sawadogo

Wednesdays, 4:15pm-6:15pm
Taught in English (2/3/4 credits)
Fully In-Person
African cinema was birthed out of the imperative need for Africans to appropriate the gaze against the backdrop of discursive othering in colonial cinema. Being in front and behind the camera allowed more nuanced and complex African stories to be told from African perspectives by pioneering filmmakers such as Ousmane Sembène, Med Hondo, and Moustapha Alassane in the 1960s. The historical development of African cinema is marked with the use of the medium as an instrument of political and cultural liberation, and a critical reading of postcolonial African societies depicted onscreen. Technological development—video in the 1990s followed by digital in the 2000s—has led to democratized access to filmmaking and the emergence of diverse voices and practices. From a theoretical standpoint, African cinema can be regarded as a form of oppositional cinema, with similarities to the anti-establishment vein of the Italian neorealism, French New Wave, Cinema Novo, and Third Cinema. More recent trends include a gradual shift toward transnational cinema with production, distribution and consumption which involve local stakeholders, the (new) African diaspora, and transnational media companies such as M-Net, Netflix, Showmax, Disney, and HBO. Also, the ecosystem of local film industries is being shaped by several African governments passing laws or creating film funds to enable the emergence of sustainable local film industries. More film schools are created to locally train professionals. Festivals, and televisual and online distribution are bringing content to local audiences on a multiplicity of screens. 

French 87400 – Queer Africa: Foreign Bodies/Forbidden Sexualities
Professor Nathalie Etoke

Thursdays, 4:15pm-6:15pm
Taught in English (2/4 Credits)
Fully In-Person

According to a report by Amnesty International, homosexuality is still illegal in thirty-eight African countries and is punishable by the death penalty in four. Despite these repressive laws, sexual subjectivities beyond the heteropatriarchal stranglehold are no longer taboo to name. They are a part of public debates. 
This course explores sub-Saharan African LGBTQI+ subjectivities while highlighting several trends that expose tensions between local and global dynamics in the day-to-day existence of these countries’ citizens. Such trends include the overlapping of European colonization and discourses on African sexual identities, the hate-driven influence of American far-right evangelicals on the African Christian church, sexual democratization, homonationalism and state-sponsored homophobia.
We will examine current conflicting discourses on sex, gender, and subjectification within the domains of law, anthropology, art, literature, documentary cinema, social media, and journalism. Our analysis will bring out the tension between local and global dynamics at stake in the struggle for queer freedom in sub-Saharan Africa.
Course taught in English.

Hist. 74300 - Gendered Justice in Europe and the Americas c.1350- 1750
Professor Sara McDougall

Wednesdays, 2:00pm-4:00pm, 
Taught in English (3 credits)
Fully in Person 

The course will explore the role of gender in the prosecution and punishment of crime in social and cultural context in Europe and the Americas c.1350-1750. We will examine gender and justice as it intersected with race, religion, and status, as found in the Atlantic World, and particularly the French and Iberian metropoles and colonies. Our main body of evidence will be trial records, including litigation, witness testimony, confessions, and sentences. In addition, we will engage with a range of other source materials such as law codes, prison records and the writings of incarcerated persons, newspaper reports, true crime narratives, and images of alleged criminals and crime. Training in these subjects welcome but not a requirement, this will be an interdisciplinary inquiry open to graduate and professional students in the humanities and social sciences and related fields.