Current Seminars

Fall 2023

Prose Translation (LA)

FRE 407 / TRA 407

Mondays & Wednesdays 3:00pm-4:20pm

A practical investigation of the issues affecting translation between English and French. Weekly exercises will offer experience of literary, technical, journalistic and other registers of language. Discussion will focus on the linguistic, cultural and intellectual lessons of translation seen as a practical discipline in its own right.

INSTRUCTORS: David M. Bellos

Modern French Ecological Writing and Thought (LA)

FRE 420 / ECS 420 / ENV 420

Fridays 1:30pm-4:20pm

How have French writers, thinkers, and activists addressed the growing environmental crisis in recent decades? In what ways does their work converge? We look here at how fiction and thought-often inspired by the work of activists-have confronted this challenge. Themes include climate change; agribusiness and factory farming; development and (de)growth; nuclear risk; environmental justice and health; species extinction; the attention economy; and ecofeminist and decolonial thought. Novels, essays, and BDs paired with landmark works by thinkers such as Gorz, Guattari, Serres, Latour, Descola, Zask, Morizot, Pelluchon, and Ferdinand.

INSTRUCTORS: Göran Magnus Blix

Looking for the Beast: Animals in Literature, Film and Culture

FRE 517 / COM 512

Tuesdays 1:30pm-4:20pm

This course focuses on the way literature, film, but also cultural events and spaces (circus, zoo, museum) present animals as objects of admiration and subjects of performance. We will consider thefascination that animals inspire in humans, which might lead to question the distinction between "us" and "them". What is at stake, what are the consequences, for us and for them, when animals are seen or shown as an elusive Other who still beckons a closer encounter? How does the poetic power of language, or the evocative nature of images, affect their agency and our empathy, and eventually our mutual relationship?

INSTRUCTORS: André Benhaïm

French Modernist Poetry

FRE 522

Wednesdays 1:30pm-4:20pm

This course investigates Modernist poetics in France from mid-19th to mid-20th c. and seeks to re-evaluate Modernism in French literary history. Course treats 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. Poets such as Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Apollinaire, and Cendrars, are discussed as well as specific movements. Readings will be organized around 1913 as the pivotal year for Modernism in France with a special focus on poetry in relation with other arts.

INSTRUCTORS: Efthymia Rentzou

Formal and Conceptual Experiments in the Age of Enlightenment

FRE 541

Thursdays 1:30pm-4:20pm

This course explores the connection between the development of new literary forms and the burgeoning of philosophical notions in eighteenth century France. As they questioned the political, social and ethical norms of their time, the "philosophes" also started a major overhaul of the literary rules and conceptual framework they inherited from the "Grand siècle". Through a significant selection of non-classifiable tests, we study how this bubbling laboratory of ideas remain relevant for today's understanding of literature.


Zeitgeist Literature

FRE 545 / HUM 545

Mondays 1:30pm-4:20pm

This course explores the Enlightenment concept of Zeitgeist, or spirit of the age, which emerged in Germany in the 18th and 19th centuries, spreading widely in Europe and resonating still today. With a focus on mainly French sources, the course will explore questions such as: What is the nature of this spirit (or ghost) that haunts an age? How does the popular understanding of the term differ from its original meaning? When does a particular Zeitgeist begin and end? How can literature (fiction, poetry, theater, non-fiction) and other cultural artifacts (journalistic writing, visual culture, objects) capture it?

INSTRUCTORS: Christy N. Wampole

Graduate Proseminar in French Studies

FRE 599

Fridays 10:00am-12:00pm

The goal of this seminar is to provide first-year graduate students with a formal introduction to the Department's curriculum and requirements, through practical training in the various methods of research and scholarly activities and productions. It also familiarizes students with fundamental theoretical texts and approaches to a variety of critical fields pertaining to French studies. Finally, it offers concrete outlooks on their professional future by showcasing ways of optimizing their career prospects in the realm of academia, but also in other domains.

INSTRUCTORS: André Benhaïm

Spring 2023

Second Language Acquisition Research and Language Teaching Methodology
Subject associations
FRE 500

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.

Christine M. Sagnier
Seminar in 17th-Century French Literature: Epistolary Writing
Subject associations
FRE 516

This seminar aims to provide an introduction to the literature and culture of seventeenth-century France through the medium of the letter. We explore the various personal, social, and literary uses of letterwriting, examine some (authentic or fictional) correspondences, and study the beginnings of the epistolary novel. Readings also include verse epistles as well as non-epistolary works in which letters play a crucial role.

Volker Schröder
Surrealism: Masculin/Féminin
Subject associations
FRE 525 / GSS 524

This course examines the development of surrealism from its birth in Dada-infused Paris to its life after the Second World War. Materials considered include literary and theoretical texts, visual works, magazines, and exhibitions. The course treats the topic at a variety of inter-related levels, exploring surrealism as a 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. Gender representation and sexual politics are the focus of the course this year.

Efthymia Rentzou
Seminar in 19th- and 20th-Century French Literature: Georges Perec
Subject associations
FRE 526 / COM 525

Georges Perec (1936-1982) was among the most innovative writers of the twentieth century, whose work encompasses fiction, poetry, radio drama, essays and many unclassifiable texts more or less related to the idea of constrained or formal writing. Relatively obscure for most of his lifetime, Perec has emerged as a post-modern master over the last thirty years and his never pretentious and occasionally humorous work is now published in the prestigious Pléiade collection. This course aims to read through the entire œuvre in a single semester and to assess its aesthetic, human and historical importance.

David M. Bellos
Seminar in French Civilization: Novel and Education
Subject associations
FRE 527

What do novels teach? And can novels be taught? The age of the novel is also the age of education, with the gradual advent of mass literacy, universal education, and democratic citizenship. How does the novel track, chart, reinforce, subvert, and perform the pedagogy of the modern citizen? From Rousseau's Émile to the Nouvelle Éducation (20C), via Guizot, the 1848 Republic, the Commune, and the Ferry laws, reformers of various stripes pinned their hopes for a new society on education. Reading novels and pedagogical texts side by side, we will look at the tangled (hi)stories of education and citizenship and ask what role literature has played.

Göran Magnus Blix

Fall 2022

Slavery and Capitalism
Subject associations
FRE 504 / LAS 504 / AAS 503

The course will examine the place of plantation slavery in the development of capitalist modernity. We will focus on two classic texts: Eric Williams' Capitalism and Slavery, and CLR James' history of the Haitian Revolution, The Black Jacobins. We will also discuss in this context Marx's critique of capitalist slavery in Capital, and its importance for the tradition of Caribbean critique. Also to be considered are the writings of Toussaint Louverture, Henry Christophe, and Aimé and Suzanne Césaire as they develop original critiques of slavery, colonialism, and Antillean capitalism.

F. Nick Nesbitt
Seminar in French Literature of the Renaissance: Montaigne's Library
Subject associations
FRE 513

This seminar investigates Montaigne's library. We study the Essais with attention the way Montaigne reads, quotes, and borrows from other books, exploring the complex stakes (literary, historical, philosophical, ethical, erotic) of citationality. We place Montaigne's reading practices within the context of Renaissance humanism and analyze the way he appropriates, dismembers, and deforms other authors (Plutarch, Lucretius, Virgil, La Boétie, etc.). We explore the legendary tower librairie as both physical space and imaginary scene, relating it to personal libraries past and present, and tracking its afterlife in contemporary media.

Katie Chenoweth
Seminar in 19th- and 20th-Century French Literature: Readings in the 20th Century Novel
Subject associations
FRE 526 / COM 525

This course offers the opportunity for a close examination of certain French or francophone novels that are widely considered to be among the most important of the twentieth century, all from the post-WWII period and all to be read in conjunction with pertinent critical texts. It is neither an historical survey of the twentieth-century novel nor a systematic introduction to narratology nor an overview of contemporary critical perspectives. Instead, our ambition is to articulate and discuss literary and related issues that arise from the close reading of these novels and the inflection imparted to such issues by secondary texts.

Thomas A. Trezise
After Odysseus: Hospitality, France, and the Mediterranean
Subject associations
FRE 529

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.

André Benhaïm
Contemporary Critical Theories: To Excess
Subject associations
COM 535 / ENG 518 / FRE 539

Investigation of the concepts of excess and surplus across several domains: political economy, psychoanalysis, theories of reproduction, environment, literary and artistic representation. In relation to value, affect, energy, material wealth, waste, population, what is an excess? Is more synonymous with "too much"? What are the conditions and uses of surplus? What are its metrics? What are the languages of surplus? In theoretical and literary readings, we consider the parameters and complexities of surplus and excess: the concepts' internal divisions and their capacity to cross discursive thresholds. There may, of course, be too much reading.

Benjamin Conisbee Baer