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Spring 2008 Courses

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FRENCH 72000

Rabelais et l’humanisme en France
Professor Renner

GC 6:30-8:30
Room: TBA
3 credits


FRENCH 85200

La tragédie est-elle l'art essentiel du théâtre?
Professor Glissant

GC 2:00-4:00
Room: TBA
3 credits

FRENCH 87100

Human Rights and Critical Theory
Professor Stanton

GC 4:15-6:15
Room: TBA
3 credits


FRENCH 74000

Techniques of Literary Research II*
Professor Sautman

open to level 1 French students only

GC 6:30-8:30
Room: TBA
4 credits


see also:

C. L. 80100 - Symbolisms
GC: W, 4:15-6:15 p.m., Rm. TBA, 4 credits, Prof. Caws

FSCP. 81000 - Slavery/Hist Leg/Cin Americas
GC: M, 6:30-9:30 p.m., Rm. TBA, 3 credits, Prof. Carlson
Cross listed with ART 89500.

HIST. 70200 - Making of Modernity: IDS Prspct
GC: R, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Rm. TBA, 3 credits, Prof. Smith-Rosenberg
Cross listed with WSCP 81000.


Course Descriptions

FRENCH 72000 Rabelais et l’Humanisme en France
GC: M, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Rm. TBA, 3 credits, Professor Renner

Nous voudrons explorer les courants politiques, intellectuels et religieux de la première moitié du seizième siècle à travers l’œuvre de François Rabelais. Les quatre livres authentiques seront au centre de nos préoccupations et serviront d’illustration de ce qu’on appelle fréquemment la “Grande Renaissance”. Parmi les humanistes contemporains, nous nous intéresserons à Budé, Castiglione et Machiavelli, mais surtout à Erasme que Rabelais considérait comme son père et sa mère. De surcroît, nous étudierons un nombre d’approches critiques modernes qui nous aideront à cerner les enjeux de cette littérature engagée et parfois difficile et qui ne manqueront de faire surgir des questions pertinentes pour nos discussions.

Il est important que tous les étudiants se servent des éditions indiquées ci-dessous pour faciliter le travail en cours. Il y aura aussi une collection de documents photocopiés qui inclut un choix représentatif d’articles théoriques et critiques.

Chaque étudiant présentera un exposé oral de 20 minutes et rédigera deux travaux écrits (de 3 à 5 pages à la mi-semestre et de 12 à 15 pages à la fin du semestre). Les sujets respectifs seront à déterminer au cours du semestre.


L’édition bilingue (texte original et français moderne) récente des quatre premiers livres (Pantagruel, Gargantua, Le Tiers Livre, Le Quart Livre) parue aux Editions du Seuil, éd, G. Demerson, Paris, 1996-97.

FRENCH 85200 La tragédie est-elle l'art essentiel du théâtre?
GC: T, 2:00-4:00pm, Rm. TBA, 3 Credits, Professor Glissant

La Tragédie est-elle l’art essentiel du théâtre ?

La tragédie est chronologiquement l’art qui apparaît d’abord au théâtre dans la Grèce antique, après la célébration des mystères et des cérémonies bachiques par exemple. La tragédie, héritière des grands mythes, fonctionne alors comme une « résolution du dissolu », comme le rétablissement d’une situation « pourrie » dont l’action tragique continue au dénouement. Les spécifications du théâtre (comique, psychologique, dramatique, etc...) apparaissent ensuite.

Peut-on considérer les phénomènes de la colonisation comme le fait d’une situation « dissolue » dont l’action tragique aiderait à concevoir une résolution ? La comparaison de Une Tempête d’Aimé Césaire et de la traduction française de La Tempête de Shakespeare nous servira d’axe de réflexion. Les situations contemporaines des peuples dans la colonisation seront illustrées par deux autres tragédies, d’Édouard Glissant et de Kateb Yacine.

Corpus : William Shakespeare, La Tempête (trad. française). Aimé Césaire, Une Tempête. Edouard Glissant, Monsieur Toussaint. Kateb Yacine, Le Cadavre encerclé.

FRENCH 87100 Human Rights and Critical Theory
GC: T, 4:15-6:15 p.m., Rm. TBA, 3 Credits, Professor Stanton

This course aims to grapple with the problematics of human rights praxis (discourse and activism) from the perspective of post-enlightenment critical and literary theory. It both recognizes the crucial importance of the human rights movement and it examines its blindspots to expose the need – and the possibility-- of its re-formation. Starting with a close, critical reading of the major human rights documents, the course will be organized into two parts. A first part will focus on enlightenment notions of human rights (including Kant, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Declaration of the Rights of Women) and their critique in Arendt, Lyotard, Rorty and Derrida; engage in a rapid historical overview to 1950 (including, the issue of imperial humanitarianism) and close with discussions of the current impasse in human rights in political terms (Feher) and in global economic terms (Cheah).

In the second half of the course, we will tackle a series of problems with the help of particular theorists: the question of the human in human rights (eg. Scarry); the universal vs local divide (eg Butler); and the movement to think of women’s rights as human rights (eg Bunch).  And we will then look more closely at ways of reading/analyzing human rights discourse and stories (Nussbaum, Appiah), for instance, in work on (traumatic) testimonials (Felman), life-writing (Smith) and the bildung (Slaughter); in news reports and popular culture in the United States (Solomon, Volpp); and in globally circulated visual images (eg of and by the children of darfur). We should end with a discussion of the future of human rights.

Work for the semester includes: reading and class participation; an oral presentation on a current human rights issue; a final paper on an individually selected  topic in consultation with the instructor (this includes turning in a thesis statement, an outline, and a final draft; a first draft is optional); and a final take-home exam.
Classes will be conducted in English, which should also be the language of the written work. Readings will mostly  be in English, but texts first written in French will appear in that language in the course pack; they can also be read in English translation by those who are not students in the French Department.
The course pack will be uploaded through the Graduate Center Library before the beginning of the winter term.

Please address all questions to

FSCP. 81000 Captured Bodies, Migrating Spirits: Slavery & Its Historical Legacy in the Cinemas of the Americas
GC: M, 6:30-9:30 pm, Rm. C-419, 3 credits, Professor Carlson

The course will investigate the ways in which New World slavery and its historical consequences have been represented by the cinema.

The course will take a hemispheric approach viewing works from Brazil, Cuba, Martinique, the United States, and elsewhere. The focus will be a comparative analysis of the storytelling forms used to render the three historical stages common to all slave owning cultures of the Americas.

First is the extensive plantation system and resistance to it from within and without. Second is the unstable agrarian period following the abolition of slavery.

Finally, what follows are the massive migrations to urban industrial economies. Close analysis of the films will be complemented by attention to the roles played by music, religion, and prose fiction in telling and preserving the same historical knowledge.

How do musical forms such as the American blues, the Cuban son, and the Brazilian samba sing history?

In what ways do Afro-Atlantic religions such as Haitian vodou, Cuban Santeria, and Brazilian candomble interpret the African presence in the Americas?

And how do the oral cultures of peoples long denied access to literacy find their voices in the written literatures of the 20th century?

These questions and others will contribute to our understandings of the films and their allied forms of cultural production.

The course seeks both to identify commonalities among the cinematic forms and arts of peoples of African descent in the New World and to make distinctions among local cultures and their particular expressive forms. To do so, the course draws from the diverse theoretical perspectives offered by writers such as Paul Gilroy (The Black Atlantic), Antonio Benitez Rojo (The Repeating Island), and Edouard Glissant (Caribbean Discourse), among others.

Students are expected to attend all classes and screenings. All absences must be explained to the professor by email. As for requirements, students will write a brief (5-7 page) analytical essay and a longer (15-20 page) research paper. Details of the assignments will be discussed in class.

Syllabus available in Certificate Programs Office (Room 5109).

CL 80100 - Symbolisms
GC: W, 4:15-6:15 p.m., Rm. TBA, 4 credits, Professor Caws

Taking the term in its broad scope – so as not to limit the field to a particular moment and point of view -- this seminar will begin with a rapid overview of the possibilities included in the narrow and wider sense of symbolist literature and art. The range of readings and visual material covered will begin with Baudelaire and the paintings associated with his poetry, continue through its best-known poetic representatives, Stéphane Mallarmé and Arthur Rimbaud, and reach the twentieth-century representation of the Mallarméan current by Paul Valéry and the strains present in Rilke, Eliot, Yeats, Stevens, and a scattering of more recent American poets. The emphasis will fall heavily on poetry and painting, and touch more briefly on the drama and the essay, depending on the interests of the participants in the seminar. The material will include French and Belgian, Russian and Spanish, Dutch, German and Italian. For example, Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, Huysmans and Maeterlinck with their anti-realist heroes and heroines will share the discussions with the standard symbolist painters such as Moreau and Delville, as well as the very creepy Khnopff and Toorop. The point is to see the enormous scope and influence of symbolisms as we now conceive them, stretching back and out. Class reports and two papers on different subjects, a shorter one at midterm and a longer concluding one.