Recent Seminars

Fall 2016

FRE 526
Readings in the 20th-Century Novel
Thomas A. Trezise

A study of major French or Francophone novels of the twentieth century in conjunction with critical texts on narrative.

FRE 527
The Heroism of Modern Life
Göran Blix

How can modern bourgeois life still claim to be, as Baudelaire suggested, worthy of heroic treatment, despite the rise of democratic values? While many post-revolutionary thinkers opposed heroism on political grounds, or judged it historically impossible, some fashioned new democratic heroes reconciling exemplarity and typicality. Meanwhile, reactionary thinkers revitalized an older heroic code to justify  hierarchy and order. We will examine the nineteenth-century crisis of heroism in a wide range of authors such as Balzac, Stendhal, Marx, Nietzsche, Carlyle, Emerson, Baudelaire, Comte, Michelet, Hugo, the Goncourts, Barrès, and Bergson.

FRE 538 / COM 538 / MOD 579
Le Monde par la bande
André Benhaïm

This course explores representations of the World and History in major bandes dessinées (or graphic novels) published in French from the 1930s to the present, and produced by authors of various backgrounds (French, Belgian, Italian, Jewish, Iranian). Informed by theoretical readings, discussions will address key aesthetical, political, and ethical issues, including Exoticism, Orientalism, (Post)colonialism, national and individual identity, as well as the theory of reception, to critically assess the fluctuations of these visions between fantasy and testimony. (In English)

HUM 596 / GER 596 / FRE 596 / COM 596
Humanistic Perspectives on Literature - Case Histories, Life Stories
Peter P. Brooks / Brigid Doherty

The seminar reflects on the role of exemplary stories - ones that seem to want to offer a lesson in the understanding of life and character, even of personhood as such - in fiction and non-fiction. What do authors intend when writing factual "case histories" or fictional variants on the genre? What are readers supposed to learn from such texts? What is at stake for the subjects of case histories? How do modalities of narration and literary figuration variously shape the presentation of life stories in autobiography, psychoanalysis, art criticism?


Spring 2016

FRE 401
Rousseau
Christophe Litwin


Perhaps no one in the 18th century has been more influential and more controversial than Rousseau. Indeed he was right when he described himself as "un homme à paradoxes." How can a self-made man who abandoned his children write a treatise on education? How can someone who paints the progress of arts and sciences as symptoms of man's corruption choose the career of an artist, a writer and a philosopher? How can the same man theorize the foundations of political right and confess publicly his most frivolous sexual desires? We will explore Rousseau's writings in light of their historical context as well as their broader intellectual legacy.

FRE 500
Second Language Acquisition Research and Language Teaching Methodology
Christine M. Sagnier


Designed to provide future teaching assistants with the knowledge and conceptual tools needed to reflect critically on pedagogical practices in the second language classroom. Examines issues related to teaching language and culture in a university setting, highlighting the relationship between theory in Second Language Acquisition and language pedagogy and helping students understand the practical implications of theoretical frameworks in the field.

FRE 525
French Modernist Poetry
Efthymia Rentzou


This course investigates Modernist poetics in France from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century and seeks to re-evaluate Modernism in French literary history. The course will treat the topic at a variety of interrelated levels by exploring French poetry as part of the broad historical phenomenon of Modernism, while examining the specific ways it materialized in France as formal innovation and as response to modernity. Seminal poets such as Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Apollinaire, and Cendrars will be discussed as well as specific movements. Readings and theoretical questions will also address the complex relationship between avant-garde and Modernism. (In English)

FRE 526
Writing the People in 19th-Century France
Göran Blix


What is the people? Much of nineteenth-century literature is an effort to confront this urgent political question after the Revolution, and to give shape and voice to this amorphous new sovereign. At once ubiquitous and intangible, the people is an unsettling power that modern writing seeks to name, express, silence, or shape. This course examines some landmark novels (by Hugo, les Goncourt, Sue, and Zola) and social analysis (by reformers, hygienists, and intellectuals) at the crossroads between politics and aesthetics. Critical texts by Marx, Chevalier, Rancière, Foucault, T.J. Clark, Lefort, and Rosanvallon.

FRE 583 / COM 583
Levinas and Blanchot
Thomas A. Trezise


A seminar on the work of Emmanuel Levinas and Maurice Blanchot, following the development, from a common origin in German phenomenology, of the ethics and the aesthetics for which they are respectively well known.


Fall 2015

FRE 515
The Classical Tradition - Academic Publishing in the Age of Louis XIV
Volker Schröder


One of the most important cultural developments of 17th-century France was the establishment of royal academies of arts and sciences. This seminar will focus on the multifaceted academic activities and publications during the reign of Louis XIV, ranging from art criticism and botany to historiography and lexicography. We will examine closely several complex book projects in which the leading artists and intellectuals of the time collaborated more or less successfully and harmoniously. Throughout the semester, the class will make intensive use of original editions and other materials in Firestone and Marquand libraries.

FRE 529 / COM 529/ HLS 528
After Odysseus: Hospitality, France, and the Mediterranean
André Benhaïm


After the Revolution, France embraced the role of a universal beacon for refugees. Yet, many modern laws and debates have challenged this altruism. After revisiting ancient Greek and biblical traditions, we journey through France and the Mediterranean to reflect on ethical and aesthetical, individual and collective models of hospitality. Using literature and philosophy, linguistics and the visual arts, from canonical to popular culture, we ponder the notions of cosmopolitanism and borders, address issues such as colonization, immigration and citizenship, wondering what is at stake in the welcoming of a stranger.

FRE 540 / ITA 540 / COM 541
Italo Calvino in France
Christy N. Wampole


How French was Italo Calvino? The prolific Italian writer spent 15 years in Paris at the height of the post-68 proliferation of new approaches to literature. As both a literary critic and practitioner, Calvino redefined the relationship between science and literature and low and high culture. This course explores French theory of the period and situates Calvino within a specific genealogy of French thought and writing, showing his indebtedness to Enlightenment philosophy, the socialist utopianism of Fourier, the aesthetic practices of Roland Barthes, the experimental biology of Jean Rostand, and the rigorously playful spirit of the Oulipo.


Spring 2015

FRE 500
Second Language Acquisition Research and Language Teaching Methodology
Christine M. Sagnier


Designed to provide future teaching assistants with the knowledge and conceptual tools needed to reflect critically on pedagogical practices in the second language classroom. Examines issues related to teaching language and culture in a university setting, highlighting the relationship between theory in Second Language Acquisition and language pedagogy and helping students understand the practical implications of theoretical frameworks in the field.

FRE 509
The Troubadours and the Occitan Tradition - Lyrics in a Manuscript Tradition
Christopher J. Davis


This course provides a comprehensive introduction to the poetry of the Occitan troubadours, their language, and the rich manuscript culture that developed around their works during the thirteenth century. Special emphasis will be placed on the role that these poems played in conceptualizing literary language and authorship in the vernacular and on the construction of a textual and grammatical tradition in opposition to the fundamentally oral and musical nature of the lyric. Students will acquire a reading knowledge of Old Occitan as well as familiarity with manuscript research. Discussion in English, but reading knowledge of French required.

FRE 514 / COM 518
Human, Animal, Machine
Katie Chenoweth


This seminar examines the mechanical and animal heart of Renaissance humanism and the Renaissance "human." From Leonardo da Vinci's mechanistic anatomies and Erasmus's animal dialogues to Ambroise Paré's prosthetics, Montaigne's cat, and Descartes's bête-machine doctrine, we explore the ways in which the emergent category of the human is constituted through (and haunted by) a relation to nonhuman worlds. Special attention is paid to the technologization of the body in print, from anatomy to typography. Readings in posthumanism, animal studies, and the philosophy of technology.

ENG 567 / FRE 567
Special Studies in Modernism - The Avant-Garde
Joshua I. Kotin / Efthymia Rentzou


This course examines the major avant-garde movements of the first half of the 20th century--Futurism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Constructivism, etc.--as well as proto avant-garde movements. The seminar's methodology will be comparative and transnational, bringing together texts and artworks from a range of linguistic and national contexts. The seminar will also have a strong theoretical component and will integrate and evaluate theories of the avant-garde.

FRE 583 / COM 583
Seminar in Romance Linguistics and/or Literary Theory - The Literary Fantastic
Thomas A. Trezise


A seminar on the fantastic in 19th- and 20th-century fiction and related theorectical texts. Issues to be discussed include the fantastic in relation to other genres, the cognitive challenges it poses, its major thematic preoccupations, the importance of reception, and critical approaches drawing on philosophy, pychoanalysis and literary theory.

COM 565 / GER 565 / ENG 544 / FRE 565   
Studies in Forms of Poetry - Poetry, History and Memory
Sandra L. Bermann / Michael G. Wood

This seminar explores the intricate relations of poetry to history and memory in the troubled 20th century. Individual poets are closely studied for their intrinsic interest but also for their (known and still to be discovered) connections with each other. The poets are Eugenio Montale, René Char, Paul Celan, and Anne Carson, but other writers will also be called on from time to time. Questions of war and resistance are important, and above all the course attends to what one might think of as the fate of language under pressure.


Fall 2014

FRE 406 / GER 406
Roots in 20th-Century France and Germany
Christy N. Wampole


This course traces the problematic theme of rootedness, a metaphor for the genealogical origins of people and their attachment to geographical spaces, in the literature, philosophy, and politics of 20th-century France and Germany. Topics: nationalism and regionalism; word roots (Heidegger's etymologizing metaphysics); Jung and Bachelard on roots and the subconscious; Sartre's abject root and the phenomenologists' efforts to "reground" philosophy; Derrida's negotiation of radicality; the root-to-rhizome shift proposed by Deleuze and Guattari; recent attempts to create a non-anthropocentric philosophy; transplantation and colonization.

ART 450 / FRE 408
Seminar. 19th-Century European Art
Bridget A. Alsdorf


Impressionism and Post-Impressionism: New Approaches. This course will consider a range of recent scholarship -- both from the academy and museums -- that has shifted understandings of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painting. By reading these texts against canonical ones, students will gain a deep and critical perspective on the state of the field. Special attention will be paid to methodology and changing approaches to the blockbuster exhibition. Artists discussed will include Cézanne, Degas, Monet, the Nabis, Pissarro, and Seurat. Field trips to museums in NYC, Philadelphia, and Washington.

FRE 516
Seminar in 17th-Century French Literature - Classical Quarrels
Volker Schröder


From the Querelle du Cid to the Querelle des Anciens et des Modernes, the French 17th century was marked by crucial controversies which led to, and beyond, what would later be called "classicism." This seminar focuses in particular on quarrels concerning the theater, whose public nature made it the cultural battlefield par excellence. Readings include both the works in dispute and related critical and polemical texts. Among the issues to be explored: the uses and "morality" of dramatic fictions; the relation between writers, critics, and the public; imitation, originality, and progress; language, authority, and gender.

FRE 518
The Literature of Enlightenment - Defining the Human
Natasha C. Lee


At the eve of the French Revolution, debates about identity and difference, diversity and equality, announced the stakes of the democracy to come. This course asks how political, scientific and religious discourses marked individuals as 'others' in the eighteenth century. What strategies of resistance did individuals, in turn, employ to define themselves? It considers 18th-century answers to contemporary questions surrounding sex, race and class in travel narratives, utopias and political essays. The Enlightenment's legacy, and the relation between colonial past and contemporary post-colonial struggles will also be explored.

FRE 521
Romanticism - Ecocriticism and French Nature-Writing
Göran Blix

The purpose of this seminar is twofold: to provide a practical guide to the burgeoning field of ecocriticism through an overview of its critical canon; and to shed new light on the French Romantic tradition by reading it through an environmental lens. We will look at landscape painting and poetry, nature writing, animal depictions, and orientalist works from Rousseau to Michelet, and, in the process, analyze nature's shifting status as mere background, hostile other, sublime landscape, vital milieu, intimate place, and full-fledged agent. Topics include biocentrism, ecofeminism, vitalism, postcolonialism, animals, and eco-cosmopolitanism.

FRE 528
Francophone Literature and Culture Outside of France - The Francophone Caribbean
F. Nick Nesbitt


An examination of the literature and theory of the francophone Caribbean from the Haitian Revolution to the present. The course focuses on how literary creation, history and theoretical reflection united in this unique and compelling culture.

COM 563 / FRE 563 / ENG 577
Studies in Forms of Narrative - Henry James and Gustave Flaubert
Peter P. Brooks


The seminar starts from Henry James's complex and ambivalent attitudes toward Flaubert's novels, his baffled attempts to understand Flaubert's project, and moves on to consider principally how the two novelists developed radically incompatible theories of the uses of fiction in their late work.

HUM 596 / COM 596 / ENG 529 / FRE 596
Unpacking Derrida's Library: Secrets of the Archives
Eduardo L. Cadava / Avital Ronell


Marking the 10th anniversary of Derrida's death, this course provides an opportunity to "unpack" Derrida's library, to remember several of his lessons - about philosophy, literature, history, politics, religion, economics, ideology, law, rights, nationalism, racism, colonialism, the media, university institutions, capitalism, rogue states, the war on terror, justice, responsibility, language, friendship, love, life, death, and mourning - all of which are more urgent and necessary than ever before.


Spring 2014

FRE 510 / MED 510
Seminar in Medieval French Literature - Living Texts, Live Performances
Jeanette L. Patterson

We often treat medieval texts as dead artifacts by dead authors in a dead language, preserved in "best-text" print editions. This course aims to recover medieval experiences and practices of literature that depended on the living bodies that read, recited, performed, recopied and repurposed it. With attention to the fluidity of the French vernacular and the mediated nature of its early literature, this course covers a range of medieval texts and critical-theoretical approaches to their study, while also giving students hands-on experience with manuscripts and basic reading knowledge of Old/Middle French.

FRE 521
Romanticism - Mil Huit Cent Trente
David M. Bellos

An Interdisciplinary approach to the cultural production of France in a year of revolutionary change. The focus is on the many important works of fiction produced in that year, seen in relation to each other and to the theater, poetry, painting, music and politics of one of the most significant years in French history.

FRE 525
Surrealism
Efthymia Rentzou

This course examines the development of surrealism from its birth in Dada-infused Paris through its years of exile in New York to its decline after the Second World War. Materials considered will include literary and theoretical texts, visual works (including film), and magazines. The course will treat the topic at a variety of inter-related levels, exploring surrealism as part of the broad historical phenomenon of the avant-garde, examining its specific ways of (re)conceiving literature and art, and investigating the epistemological ramifications of surrealism's aesthetic, political, and moral positions. (In English)

FRE 527
The Heroism of Modern Life
Göran Blix

How can modern bourgeois life still claim to be, as Baudelaire suggested, worthy of heroic treatment, despite the rise of democratic values? While many post-revolutionary thinkers opposed heroism on political grounds, or judged it historically impossible, some fashioned new democratic heroes reconciling exemplarity and typicality. Meanwhile, reactionary thinkers revitalized an older heroic code to justify hierarchy and order. We examine the nineteenth-century crisis of heroism in a wide range of authors such as Balzac, Stendhal, Marx, Nietzsche, Carlyle, Emerson, Baudelaire, Comte, Michelet, Hugo, Rostand, Barrès, and Bergson.

FRE 583
Levinas and Blanchot
Thomas A. Trezise

A seminar on the work of Emmanuel Levinas and Maurice Blanchot, following the development, from a common origin in German phenomenology, of the ethics and the aethetics for which they are respectively well known.