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Fall 2017

Fall 2017 – Course Descriptions

FRENCH 70500: Writing The Self: From Augustine to Selfies
Domna C. Stanton (
Tuesday: 4:15 to 6:15
2 or 4 Credits

How is the self written, visualized, constructed? What different forms and shapes do such texts take over time, in different genres? What purposes do they serve, for the several selves inscribed in a text and for others (including the self) who will read it.This course will begin by examining several theoretical texts on writing the self (Lejeune, Smith, Derrida, Glissant, Stanton), then trace self-writing from the Middle Ages (Augustine, Kempe, Pisan) through the early-modern periods, focusing on both the global (travel narratives on conquest --Columbus, La Casas, Equiano), and on various forms (letter and diary, for instance) of gendered interiority (Cavendish, Gentileschi, Sévigné, Westover). Signal texts on post-Enlightenment confession and memoir (Rousseau, Sand) will be followed in the second half of the seminar by a more thematic approach to issues of modernity, including slavery and liberation always deferred (Jacobs, Douglass, Wright, Coates); modernism and the limits of experimentation (Woolf, Nin, Kafka, Cahun); autofiction (Colette, Joyce, Stein); dislocated, traumatized selves in wars and holocausts (de Beauvoir, Sartre, Anne Frank, Levi, Henson [comfort women]); testimonio, the indigenous (Hurston, Levi Strauss, Menchu) and human rights narratives (Eggers); and French post-structuralism and the psychoanalytic (Barthes, Kristeva, Cardinal, Louise Bourgeois, Lacan). Our last two seminars will lead to a discussion of contemporary inscriptions of sexual and medical bodies, featuring birthing, AIDS, cancer and transgender selves (Arenas, Guibert, Bornstein, Leonard, N.K. Miller), and end with digital/virtual self-writing and the selfie (Smith, Giroux, Nemer and Freeman). Throughout, we will consider what the enduring obsession with confessing/revealing/ concealing; constructing and deconstructing selves might mean; and finally, whether, at bottom, all writing is self-writing

Work for the course: Whether the course is taken for 2, 3 or 4 credits, all students will be responsible for doing the readings closely and for engaging consistently in class discussion.
a, Students who take the course for 2 credits will present in class a reading of one primary text, which will also be submitted in writing (c 5-7 pp); these students will also take the final exam.
b, Students who take the course for 3 credits, will do all of the above and in addition, they will do a 10-13 page paper on a topic they select, after consultation with the instructor. They will also submit a thesis statement, a bibliography and an outline, and the introduction (the schedule will be indicated on the syllabus).
c, Students who take the course for 4 credits will do all of the above, but will do a 20-25-page paper on a topic they select, after consultation with the instructor; they will also submit a thesis statement, a bibliography and an outline, and an introduction (the schedule will be indicated on the syllabus).
Please contact Domna Stanton with any questions (

The syllabus and the course materials to be downloaded will be posted on Blackboard by August 15, 2017.

The class will be conducted in English; readings are in English and French; all French readings will be listed in the syllabus along with their translations.
FRENCH 77010: Techniques in Literary Research
Bettina Lerner
Thursday: 4:15pm – 6:15pm
4 Credits
This course considers some of the major theoretical approaches to literature since the Enlightenment with the aim of helping first-year students situate and refine their own critical voices. The course opens with Kant and Hegel and goes on to examine the figure of the critic as it emerged during the first half of the nineteenth century (Mme de Staël, Sainte-Beuve, Baudelaire). We will then examine representative essays drawn from twentieth-century approaches to textual analysis including structuralism, psychoanalysis, hermeneutics, and deconstruction as well as from feminist and queer theory. Finally, we will look at more recent interventions by French, Francophone and American thinkers such as Jacques Rancière, Achille Mbembe and Lauren Berlant. We will reinforce our in-class discussions through regular written assignments modeled on rhetorical exercises which have become central to academic writing both in the United States and abroad, including abstracts, conference papers and grant proposals. We will practice these not just as writing exercises in themselves, but also as a way of scaffolding the final project in the course: a forty-page paper on a subject that reflects each student’s research interests. This course is open only to first-year students in the PhD Program in French and will be taught in French.

FRENCH 70700: Myth in French Literature and Film
Royal Brown
Tuesday: 6:30pm – 8:30pm
2 or 4 Credits
The course will focus first of all on the very phenomenon of myth: how it relates to the cultures that produce it, and the ways in which it communicates. Various specific myths, such as the myth of Orpheus, will be examined, along with their manifestations in two films, Jean Cocteau’s Orphée (1950) and Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958), which is based on a French novel, along with various other works found in French literature and film. The course will also focus on various contemporary theories of myth from writers such as Claude Lévi-Strauss, Roland Barthes, René Girard, and Mircea Éliade as well as on several non-French theorists such as Joseph Campbell and Carl-Gustav Jung. Works of French literature and film will be studied as illustrations of these theories.​
Cross-listed Courses
HISTORY 71200: The Intellectual Politics of the French Revolution
Helena Rosenblatt
Wednesday: 4:15pm – 6:15pm
2 or 4 Credits
This course is an in-depth introduction to the French Revolution and the heated debates it has engendered. We will privilege political/cultural/intellectual perspectives, focusing on the Revolution's relationship with "modernity" and its various ideologies (socialism, liberalism, totalitarianism, feminism, etc.) Scholarship on the French Revolution will be placed in historical and political context in an effort to answer the question: "what is at stake when scholars adopt certain methodologies and perspectives on the French Revolution?"
COMP LIT 85000-Lyric, Prose, Modernity, Tuesdays, 2-4pm, 2,4 credits
Joshua Wilner
Tuesday: 2:00pm – 4:00pm
2 or 4 Credits
In one of Baudelaire’s late prose poems, a poet tells of losing his halo while dodging traffic on a crowded boulevard: “It slipped from my head into the mire of the pavement, and I didn’t have the courage to pick it up - better to lose my insignia than to break my bones.” In this allegorical sketch, Baudelaire propels the desanctified language of the lyric poet into the busy, crowded world of prose.
The cultural condition Baudelaire evokes and its connection with a changing sense of the relationship between poetry and prose will be the subject of this course. We will begin by examining a group of romantic texts (some pages from Rousseau’s Reveries, some fragments by Schlegel, the debate over “poetic diction” between Wordsworth and Coleridge) which more or less directly challenge neo-classical genre theory and adumbrate formal possibilities which will emerge more distinctly over the course of the century. We will then turn to another group of romantic texts, including writings by Dorothy Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Mary Shelley, to study the gender sub-text which informs this history:  a sub-text in which the figure of poetic election is male and the matrix of prose female. Thomas De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, which was a self-conscious experiment in “impassioned prose,” and the prose poems of Baudelaire’s Paris Spleen, a number of which are directly influenced by De Quincey, are at the historical center of the course. These writings will provide a bridge between the romantic writers with whom we began and the late nineteenth and early twentieth century writers of experimental prose with whom we will conclude, among them Rimbaud, Stein, Woolf, and Benjamin.
Requirements: 4 credits – a weekly reading journal, informal class presentations, a term paper; 2 credits – a weekly reading journal.

SOCIOLOGY 80000: Foucault, Bourdieu and Baudrillard:  Power, Culture and Social Change
Marnia Lazreg
Monday: 4:15pm – 6:15pm
2 or 4 Credits
Like Michel Foucault, Pierre Bourdieu as well as Jean Baudrillard addressed issues pertaining to the transformations of French-qua-Western culture.  Yet they also sought, directly or indirectly, to distinguish their sociology from Foucault’s social philosophy.  In 1977 Jean Baudrillard wrote that Foucault’s conception of power is a “mythic discourse” rather than a discourse that purportedly reveals the truth about the nature of power relations.  In 1968, Bourdieu, a one-time former student of Foucault, turned Foucault’s question “What is an Author?”  into “How to read an Author.”  However, Baudrillard also shared with Foucault a rejection of the core concepts of Cartesian rationalism and a “poststructuralist” orientation, while Bourdieu intended to stake out a sociological perspective that incorporated a number of Foucault’s critical theoretical insights.  What historical, philosophical, political and biographical factors account for these French sociologists’ mixture of reticent admiration for, and skepticism about Foucault’s ideas and political engagements?  Did they resolve the ambiguities and antinomies present in Foucault’s theoretical orientation and methodology? To what extent sociology transforms or is transformed by Foucault’s social philosophy?
Using methods borrowed from the history of ideas as well as the sociology of knowledge, this course examines Bourdieu and Baudrillard’s efforts to build a critical sociology with practical applications for social change as they grapple with Foucault’s conceptual innovations. Special attention will be given to the meanings and articulations of key concepts and issues, including structure and event/history; language, rules and discourse; power and subjectivation; body, sex/sexuality and gender; biopolitics and liberalism; revolution and political spirituality; security/war and self-defense.  The course will further examine the concrete socio-political activities in which each author engaged as a result of his theoretical commitment.  
Although students are encouraged to read each author’s seminal works, special attention will be given to Foucault’s Lectures at the College de France in addition to the Order of Things, and Madness and Civilization; Bourdieu’s Pascalian Meditations, Practical Reason, Acts of Resistance, and Masculine Domination; Baudrillard’s Seduction, Simulacra and Simulation, Symbolic Exchange and Death.
Students are expected to immerse themselves in the works of these authors, and write a paper focusing on three critical issues with which one of them grappled. Selecting current socio-political events or issues as testing ground for the three theorists’ ideas is also encouraged. The paper will be elaborated in stages to be discussed in class until its completion.
Room:  Seminar