Graduate Seminars

Fall 2019

FREN 558 Translation Controversy in Twentieth-Century French Literature (Alice Kaplan)

The course considers major authors of twentieth-century France whose work has given rise to fierce debates over translations and re-translations into English. Authors include Proust, Céline, Camus, Beauvoir, Fanon, and, in a reversal of the issues, the French Faulkner. Theoretical questions include untranslatability; the task of the translator; re-translation and the historicity of the literary text; translation and symbolic capital; and the postcolonial turn in Translation Studies. Seminar work entails close readings of the primary texts, literary history, and translation workshops.

FREN 610 Old French (Howard Bloch)

An introduction to the Old French language, medieval book culture, and the prose romance via study of manuscript Yale Beinecke 229, The Death of King Arthur, along with a book of grammar and an Old French dictionary. Primary and secondary materials are available on DVD. Work consists of a weekly in-class translation and a final exam comprised of a sight translation passage, a familiar passage from Yale 229, and a take-home essay.

FREN 802 Medieval Translation (Ardis Butterfield)

Using modern postcolonial as well as medieval theories of translation, memory, and bilingualism we explore how texts are transformed, cited, and reinvented in the medieval period. What happens to language under the pressure of crosslingual reading practices? How can the freedom and inventiveness of medieval poetic practices illuminate modern theories of translation? Texts include material in French, English, Latin, and Italian. Proficiency in any one or more of these languages is welcome, but every effort will be made to use texts available in modern English translation, so as to include as wide a participation as possible in the course.

FREN 822 Ancients and Moderns (Christophe Schuwey)

What does it mean to be new, original, or innovative in literature? On the contrary, what does being traditional imply? What socioeconomic, ideological, and aesthetic issues lie behind those concepts and questions? This seminar addresses these questions at the time they first became central for France, when literature and arts became a market as well as a major political issue. Through literary and metaliterary works (Molière, Desjardins, La Bruyère, Scudéry, Guéret, Perrault) we reconsider our own relationship to novelty, tradition, and literary creation. In order to get hands-on with the most modern evolutions in the field, we also develop a critical edition of La Bruyère’s Les Caractères, a canonical work that looks reactionary in terms of its content and extremely modern in its printing technique. This edition is backed by a Rosenkranz grant for digital humanities in the classroom that will allow us to work with a professional designer.

FREN 842 Sexuality Studies in the French Renaissance (Dominique Brancher)

In the words of the anthropologist Maurice Godelier, “sexuality is always something other than itself” (a biological phenomenon), and it is sexuality’s social and discursive constructions that we study in this seminar, through a large sample of texts from different genres. By crossing the approaches of gender studies, the history of emotions, and historical anthropology and literary analysis, we look at the abundant speech of sex that characterizes the Renaissance, where prohibition has had the value of incentive, as Michel Foucault has so clearly shown. Readings in erotic/pornographic poetry (Ronsard, Jodelle, Théophile de Viau), travel literature (Cholières), self-portraiture (Montaigne), chronicles and anecdotes (Brantôme, Pierre de l’Estoile), medical literature (Joubert, Paré, Duval), and short stories (Cent nouvelles nouvelles). Conducted in French.

Spring 2020

FREN 893 Realism and Naturalism (Maurice Samuels)

This seminar interrogates the nineteenth-century French Realist and Naturalist novel in light of various efforts to define its practice. How does critical theory constitute Realism as a category? How does Realism articulate the aims of theory? And how do nineteenth-century Realist and Naturalist novels intersect with other discourses besides the literary? In addition to several works by Balzac, novels to be studied include Stendhal’s Le Rouge et le Noir, Sand’s Indiana, Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, and Zola’s Nana. Some attention also paid to Realist painting.

FREN 903 Theories of Marie-Antoinette (Pierre Saint-Amand)

This seminar can be considered an introduction to cultural studies. We approach various fictions of Marie-Antoinette, the last queen of France, through a variety of textual materials. We study in particular the way they have represented and reconstituted the controversial life of the doomed queen. Readings in memoirs, letters, pamphlets, plays. We use corresponding critical analysis of those texts, deploying a number of theoretical approaches: feminist history, gender and queer theory, as well as cultural and historical analysis.

FREN 929 Chance and Constraints (Morgane Cadieu)

The course explores experimental prose in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries by focusing on ‘pataphysics, surrealism, Oulipo, the Situationists, New Novel, and post-exoticism. Topics include inspiration and creativity; automatic writing and constrained literature; determinism and free will; the aesthetics of randomness; exceptions to the rule; materialism and atomism. Works by Jarry, Duchamp, Breton, Debord, Perec, Queneau, Garréta, Beckett, Calle, Volodine. Theoretical readings by Lucretius, Spinoza, Althusser, Derrida, Serres, Nancy.

FREN 965 On Violence: Politics and Aesthetics across the Maghreb (Jill Jarvis)

A study of twentieth-century Maghrebi texts and films that document, theorize, and critique forms of political violence. How might aesthetic works—novels, plays, poems, torture and prison testimonies, political cartoons, films—run counter to state-sanctioned memory projects or compel rethinking practices of testimony and justice for a postcolonial time? Works by Kateb, Djebar, Mechakra, Djaout, Alleg, Boupacha, Meddeb, Barrada, Binebine, Laâbi, Rahmani, Mouride. Theoretical readings by Fanon, Mbembe, Khatibi, Kilito, Dorlin, Benjamin, Spivak, Derrida, Lazali.  Conducted in English; reading knowledge of French required.