French Courses

We have a wonderful program of courses in French Language (RLFR 101-106) and Francophone Literature, Cinema, and Culture (RLFR 200-450). For a full list of courses in 2020-21, see the Course Catalog. For questions on individual courses, email the professor and find out more!

The courses listed below represent all of our courses in the French Program. This may be helpful for those who’d like to learn more about our breadth of courses, and for students planning ahead to complete the French Major or Certificate. However, only the courses in bold below are offered in the current academic year. For a clear listing of our current course offerings for this academic year, see the Course Catalog.

FRENCH OPEN HOUSE: Friday, January 8, 12PM (EST) !

Join the French Faculty for Info on the French Major, French Certificate, & French Courses for Spring 2021! Again: To receive the Zoom invitation, you must first enroll in the French Special Interest Group on Glow, by Friday, January 8, at 10AM. Since Pre-Registration for Spring 2021 courses takes place January 11-18, we want to offer this French Open House on January 8 (just like last November 16) to help you with questions about French courses, as well as the French Majors and French Certificate (Minor). While we continue to face the challenges of the pandemic and await the possibility of future travel, this is the perfect time to devote another semester to perfecting your French skills and look ahead to study abroad or travel in the Francophone world in 2021-2022!

Full List of French Courses at Williams                                          

RLFR 101(F)Introduction to French Language and Francophone Cultures

This year-long course offers a complete introduction to the French language and is designed to help you become fully conversant in French by focusing on four fundamental language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Through daily practice, class activities, interactive discussion, listening exercises, written work, reading assignments, and active engagement with music, video, and film, you will quickly gain confidence and increasing facility with your abilities to speak and understand both spoken and written French. In addition, our study of grammar, vocabulary, and communication skills will be organized around an engaging and dynamic introduction to a variety of French-speaking cultures around the world, from France and Belgium, to Québec and Martinique, to Sénégal and Morocco. Conducted in French. [ more ]

RLFR 102(S)Introduction to French Language and Francophone Cultures

This year-long course offers a complete introduction to the French language and is designed to help you become fully conversant in French by focusing on four fundamental language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Through daily practice, class activities, interactive discussion, listening exercises, written work, reading assignments, video-observations, and film-viewing, you will quickly gain confidence and increasing facility with your abilities to speak and understand both spoken and written French. In addition, our study of grammar, vocabulary, and communication skills will be organized around an engaging and dynamic introduction to a variety of French-speaking cultures around the world, from France and Belgium, to Québec and Martinique, to Sénégal and Morocco. Conducted in French. [ more ]

RLFR 103(F)Intermediate Studies in French Language and Francophone Cultures

As a continuation of French 101-102, this dynamic first-semester intermediate course is designed to help you improve your French, while at the same time learning more about French and Francophone cultures, politics, literature, and film. Through the active study and daily practice of listening, speaking, reading, and writing in French, you will: continue developing your communication skills and learn to express your opinions and ideas; improve your command of spoken and written French through a revision of important grammatical structures; strengthen your reading and writing skills in order to prepare you for further study of literary texts; and develop an increased vocabulary and cultural appreciation of French-speaking cultures around the world. [ more ]

RLFR 104(S)Intermediate French II: Advanced Intermediate Studies in French

As a continuation of French 103, this course will help students gain greater fluency in French, through an exploration of French and Francophone literature, film, media, politics, and culture. With a focus on listening, speaking, reading, and writing, students will review advanced grammar expand their vocabulary, gain greater confidence, and both discuss and debate central questions in the social, political, and cultural landscape of French-speaking communities in Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean. [ more ]

RLFR 105(F)Advanced French: Advanced Studies in French Language and Francophone Culture

In this course, we will concentrate on polishing your oral and written expression and on expanding your vocabulary, while focusing on the analysis and discussion of French and Francophone cultures and the concepts that define them. In addition to helping you improve your speaking, listening comprehension, reading, and writing, as well as reviewing advanced grammar, we will explore key myths and practices linked to municipal, regional, and national identities in France and the Francophone world, and seek to understand the history of contemporary debates surrounding these identities. Topics of discussion will include: Which cultural practices represent what it means to be French? How do certain regions and cities derive a sense of identity distinct from that of the nation? How do overseas departments and territories inflect Frenchness by means of their own histories and geographies? Short literary, theoretical, and historical texts, along with films, music, artwork, press articles, and websites, will inform our discussions. Conducted in French. [ more ]

RLFR 106(S)Advanced French: Danger and Desire in French Film and Fiction

This is an advanced course in French language designed to help you improve your speaking, comprehension, reading, and writing, through the dynamic study of short literary texts and films focusing on danger and desire in nineteenth-, twentieth-, and twenty-first-century France. Through active discussion and debate, textual and cinematic analysis, grammatical review, and careful writing and revision, you will improve your command of spoken and written French, strengthen your ability to express complex ideas, expand your vocabulary, and deepen your understanding of French fiction, film, and culture. This is an ideal course to prepare for study abroad or for more advanced coursework in French literature and cinema. As a focus for improving your French, we will examine a broad range of texts and films on danger and desire in France from 1820 to 2020, with an emphasis on passion and ambition, infatuation and seduction, betrayal and vengeance, courage and cruelty, warfare and resistance. Works to include nineteenth-century texts by Chateaubriand, Duras, Balzac, Mérimée, Flaubert, Maupassant, Zola; twentieth-century texts by Colette, Camus, Sartre, Beauvoir, Duras, Ernaux, Guibert, Quint, Lindon, Vilrouge; and twenty-first-century films by Caron, Ozon, Ducastel, Martineau, Dercourt, and Becker. Conducted in French. [ more ]

RLFR 108Voyages Francophones: Alienation and Self-Discovery in Contemporary Literature and Film

Last offered Spring 2020

This is an advanced course in French language designed to help you improve your speaking, listening comprehension, reading, and writing, through the dynamic study of literary texts and films focusing on the themes of alienation and self-discovery in the late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century Francophone world. Through active discussion and debate, textual and cinematic analysis, grammatical review, and careful writing and revision, you will improve your command of spoken and written French, strengthen your ability to express complex ideas, expand your vocabulary, and deepen your understanding of French-language fiction, film, and culture. This is an ideal course to prepare for study abroad or for more advanced coursework in French language and cinema. As a focus for improving your French, we will examine a broad range of texts and films on the themes of alienation and self-discovery-especially in the context of immigration and coming of age-as they are represented in texts from France, Québec, and the Caribbean. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

RLFR 202War and Resistance: Two Centuries of War Literature in France (1804-2016)

Last offered Fall 2017

In 1883, Maupassant called on his fellow war veterans and writers to join him in speaking out against warfare and violence, crying "Let us dishonor war!" From the Gallic Wars against Caesar (during the first century BC) to the recent terrorist attacks in France (at the opening of the twenty-first century), the French literary tradition is rich in texts that bear witness to war and speak out against its monstrous inhumanity. While war literature in France can be traced back to ancient and medieval texts on Vercingétorix, Charlemagne, William the Conqueror, and Joan of Arc, this course will focus specifically on literary representations of war during the nineteenth- and twentieth-centuries, from the Napoleonic Wars, to the First and Second World Wars, to the Algerian and Cold Wars, and the "War on Terror." Discussions will examine the impact of war on soldiers and civilians, patriotism and pacifism, history and memory; the implications of war as invasion and conquest, occupation and resistance, victory and defeat; the relationship of war to gender, sexuality, and ethnicity; and the role of war in colonialism and genocide. Readings to include novels, short stories, and poems by Balzac, Stendhal, Hugo, Rimbaud, Daudet, Maupassant, Zola, Cocteau, Wiesel, Duras, Camus, and Fanon. Films to include works by Resnais, Renoir, Carion, Jeunet, Malle, Angelo, Pontecorvo, and Duras. Conducted in French. [ more ]

RLFR 203Introduction to Francophone Literatures

Last offered Fall 2016

What is the Francophone world comprised of? Who speaks French today and why? What does the idea of Francophonie really mean? Is this term really relevant? Why, how, and by whom is this idea being criticized? How does the littérature-monde manifesto fit within these interrogations? Is the French-speaking world merely a linguistic community or is it also a political, cultural, and economic project? Last but not least, why is the idea of Francophonie so important for France? We will answer these questions through the lens of literary and cinematic texts from Québec, Sénégal, Vietnam, France (l'hexagone), and Haiti among others. [ more ]

RLFR 204Intro to French Literature: French Drama from Classicism to the Theatre of the Absurd

Last offered Fall 2015

What can we learn about French society through its theater? This course proposes to examine the evolution of French plays from the 17th to the 20th century within their political, social and cultural contexts. Readings plays by Molière, Beaumarchais, Musset, Anouilh, Becket and Ionesco will allow students to see how the theater as a genre engages the public through self-reflection and analysis. Readings will be complemented by theoretical texts and film versions of the plays. Questions regarding the nature of the play itself (dramatic structure), the role of space and the role of language, the importance of acting and the public's involvement will be examined and will evolve, into a mini staging of our own. [ more ]

RLFR 205On Strike: Workers and Revolutions in the French Republic

Last offered Spring 2020

The recent "yellow vests" (gilets jaunes) protests in France have attracted international attention to the experiences of French workers. Yet these protests are only the latest example in a series of workers' movements that have shaped French identity. From the revolutions of 1830 and 1848, to the Popular Front of the 1930s, to the general strike that fueled the events of May 1968, workers have played a significant role in determining France's sociocultural values and political orientation. In this course, we will study representations of workers in literary and filmic texts dating from the late nineteenth century to the present. We will consider how depictions of the worker have evolved amid changing sociocultural conditions in France: for instance, the arrival of immigrants from such countries as Spain, Italy, and Portugal, and later from the Maghreb; the entry of women into the workforce; the disappearance of the rural farm worker, or paysan; the creation of a nuclear power grid; and deindustrialization. Finally, we will examine how the memory of workers is preserved in twenty-first-century France. Conducted in French. [ more ]

RLFR 206The Outsider in French & Francophone Film Adaptations of Literary Texts

Last offered Fall 2018

In this course students will examine the figure of the outsider (queer, black, woman, intruder, loner) in several French and Francophone literary texts and their film adaptations and will explore questions such as: how are such outsiders translated onto the screen? To what extent does outsider status help maintain, challenge, or reveal hegemonic discourse? In what ways do non-Western and Western filmmakers (re)cast power and privilege through the figure of the outsider in their film adaptations (of Western canonical texts)? Students will read original French and Francophone literary texts and apply theories of film adaptation to their analyses. [ more ]

RLFR 207(F)Urban Ecologies of the French-Speaking World: Sustainability and the City in the 21st Century

In the twenty-first century, urban populations around the world have continued to grow, all while the climate crisis has become ever more urgent. The fact that more than 55% of Earth's inhabitants live in urban settings today means that cities will be important actors in the fight against climate change moving forward. In this course, we will examine how cities from the French-speaking world (including in North America, Europe, and Africa, as well as along the Pacific Rim) are enacting solutions for sustainable living in their midst. Taking a cultural studies approach, we will examine a variety of sources--including literature, videos and films, press articles, government documents, academic analyses, websites, and artistic productions, among others--to understand the challenges each of these cities faces and the solutions each has introduced. In so doing, we will study how site-specific realities, such as (eco)tourism, the legacy of colonialism and imperialism, relations with indigenous populations, and inequalities (such as those of race, sex, gender expression, class, age, and ability), are interwoven with questions of sustainable development and ecological living. Conducted in French. [ more ]

RLFR 208Queens, Crusaders and Cannibals: Gender, Race and Religion in Medieval and Renaissance France

Last offered Fall 2019

The intersection of gender, race, and religion is at the heart of contemporary political and social debates. How to build a nation and how to live together were also key questions for Medieval and Renaissance writers. In this introductory course in Early Modern Literature, we will study how literary works from the 11th to the 16th centuries represented conflicting debates on gender, race, and religion, from the Crusades opposing Christians and Muslims, to the Wars of Religion opposing Catholics and Protestants. We will explore how these concepts were intertwined in courtly love poems and chivalric novels in Europe, and how they were redefined in humanist writings and travel narratives to the Americas. Through an investigation of epic poems, allegories, tales, sonnets, novels, travel narratives, and essays by Marie de France, Christine de Pisan, Pierre de Ronsard, Louise Labé, François Rabelais, Michel de Montaigne and Marguerite de Valois, students will compare cultural, political, and ideological debates in Early Modern France with 21st-century questions on racism, sexism and discrimination. [ more ]

RLFR 210Scientific Selves: Medicine, Technology, and Identity in Early Modern France

Last offered Fall 2019

The early modern period has long been associated with scientific discovery and shifting ideology in France. From Copernicus on, thinkers such as René Descartes, Blaise Pascal, and Antoine Lavoisier helped advance the Scientific Revolution, which led to medical and technological breakthroughs, as well as important advances in our understanding of the world and our solar system. This course examines the role that France played in pursuing such discoveries, as well as the ways newfound knowledge impacted notions of belonging and alterity. How did the Scientific Revolution and French colonization lead to the creation of social, cultural, and medical "others"? How did scientific discourse permeate verbal and visual expression and depict those who did not fit into normative paradigms of gender, sexuality, ability, ethnicity, belief, and culture? What avenues for self-expression and definition were available to those whom society excluded? What parallels can we see with twenty-first-century questions of political activism, social justice, sciences, and technology? To explore these questions, we will analyze literary texts, visual representations, and historical documents, such as medical treatises, scientific diagrams, and texts on new technologies. Conducted in French. [ more ]

RLFR 211(F)Explorers, Missionaries, Colonizers: French Travel Narratives in the Age of Discovery

Often referred to in European history as the "Age of Discovery" or the "Age of Exploration," the 15th and 16th centuries saw the rise of overseas exploration from Europe to the Americas, Asia and Africa. These travels both contributed to the expansion of the known world for Europeans and also laid the foundations for commercial routes and colonisation. French travelers played a key role in this process and documented their journeys in detailed narratives. After reading short excerpts of earlier works that built the travel narrative genre, such as Ibn Battuta's Travels and Marco Polo's Book of Marvels, we will read longer excerpts from Jacques Cartier's Brief narration of the Navigation to the Islands of Canada, Jean de Léry's History of a Voyage to the Land of Brazil, Pierre Belon's Voyage to the Levant, and study the maps that were created during this time period. We will analyze the representation of the journey itself, the descriptions of the lands traveled to and their inhabitants, and also the enunciation of the goals of such travels. We will see how a rhetoric of fascination, wonder and curiosity is intertwined with economical, political and religious agendas. There is no "official" travel narrative written by a woman in this time period: we will wonder why and study the representation of women in these texts. Conducted in French. [ more ]

RLFR 212Scandalous News: Media and Transgression in Pre-Revolutionary France

Last offered Spring 2020

Today's twenty-four-hour news cycle bombards us with scandalous stories. On our smartphones, tablets, and screens, personal transgressions and their political consequences loom large. In this constant state of media immersion, scandal and its communication have come to define our time. Yet centuries ago in Pre-Revolutionary France, scandalous news played an even more crucial role, in a society centered on obedience to monarchy and monolithic institutions. In this course, we will consider how institutionalized codes of gender, social class, and religion shaped individual identity, how those who broke from these codes created individual autonomy, and how the scandals they caused were communicated to others. To pursue these questions, we will analyze literature, journalism, and legal texts that document scandalous figures and compare these early modern scandals with those of the twenty-first century. [ more ]

RLFR 215The French Adventure: Word, Sound, and Image in the Digital Age

Last offered Fall 2018

The French Adventure examines celebrated French literary texts (from the Middle Ages to Modernity) that draw on the theme of adventure, putting them into dialogue with their graphic novel and filmic adaptations (from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries). This course seeks to explore the phenomena of word (written or spoken), image (still or moving), and sound, as well as their interactions in today's environment of multimedia and digital immersion. Why have we seen an explosion of graphic novels and films depicting French literary classics in recent decades? How can these visual and audiovisual renderings enhance our appreciation for and understanding of written texts, and what aspects of the written word remain untranslatable to the world of the image? To address these questions, we will study a series of literary texts that depict historical moments from the late Middle Ages, to Absolute Monarchy, to the Belle Époque. From our visual vantage point of the twenty-first century, we will gain familiarity with the defining figures and events that these texts represent, from the fifteenth to the twentieth centuries. At the same time, we will interrogate the French-language graphic novel adaptations of each text, as well as portions of American-made filmic representations to consider questions of patrimoine, visual culture, and (trans)national identity. Conducted in French. [ more ]

RLFR 220Fairy Tales: Love and Politics at the Sun King's Court

Last offered Spring 2019

This course explores the literary and historical development of love and politics in 17th-century France. These two motifs dominated courtly life at Versailles during the reign of Louis XIV, the Sun King. Since cultural and artistic creations tend to dialogue with social circumstances, the literature of this time period---which critics have sometimes called the "Grand Siècle"---develops different schools of thought on the interactions between politics and love. Some authors approached these interactions from an idealistic or innocent perspective, while others had a more pessimistic or realistic outlook. Together, we will examine why and how each trajectory formed while also investigating the roles of literary genre and authorial gender. As part of our explorations, students will compose their own, original fairy tales and will also adapt a written tale into an in-class theatrical performance. Conducted in French. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

RLFR 224Sexuality and Seduction in Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century France

Last offered Spring 2019

In 1857, both Flaubert's Madame Bovary and Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du mal were put on trial for sexual indecency and "crimes against public morality." In 1868, Le Figaro attacked Zola's novel Thérèse Raquin as "putrid literature" for its depiction of adultery, murder, and scandalous sexuality in nineteenth-century Paris. A century later, Gide, Proust, Colette, and Duras continued to shock French readers with their extraordinary novels on male and female homosexuality, intergenerational lovers, and biracial relationships. In this course, we will examine a broad range of issues on sexuality and seduction in nineteenth- and twentieth-century French literature, including eroticism and desire, love and betrayal, marriage and adultery, prostitution and fetishism, gay and lesbian identities, cross-dressing and gender representation, exoticism and colonial (s)exploitation. Readings to include novels, shorts stories, and poems by Chateaubriand, Constant, Duras, Balzac, Flaubert, Baudelaire, Zola, Maupassant, Barbey d'Aurevilly, Gide, Proust, Colette, Duras, and Guibert. [ more ]

RLFR 225Remembering the Great War: The First World War in Literature and Film

Last offered Fall 2018

From 1914 to 1918, the First World War ravaged Europe and slaughtered millions of soldiers and civilians from across the globe. Known as the "war to end (all) war(s)," World War I set the stage for an entire century of military conflict and carnage. New technologies led to unprecedented violence in the trenches, killing and wounding as many as 41 million soldiers and civilians. Beyond the slaughter at the front, the Great War also led to the global influenza pandemic that claimed up to 50 million lives, and the Armenian genocide that presaged the later atrocities of the Holocaust. The war also led to massive political transformation, from the Irish Rebellion and Russian Revolution, to the collapse of the German, Russian, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman Empires, and the redrawing of national borders across Europe and the Middle East. Even the end of the war with Treaty of Versailles lay the groundwork for new animosities that would lead to the Second World War just two decades later. However, the First World War also inspired great social change, from the emergence of the United States as a global leader and the founding of the League of Nations, to growing discontent with colonial rule in Asia and Africa, and greater power for women whose wartime labor influenced the post-war passage of their right to vote in countries across Europe and North America. To honor the centenary of the Great War in 2018, we will examine texts and films that bear witness to the suffering and courage of soldiers and civilians, and consider the legacy of the war in the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries. Readings to include memoirs and novels by Barbusse, Barker, Brittain, Cocteau, Graves, Hemingway, Jünger, Remarque, Wharton, Woolf; poetry by Apollinaire, Brooke, Mackintosh, McCrae, Owen, Sassoon; films by Attenborough, Boyd, Carion, Chaplin, Jeunet, Ozon, Renoir, Trumbo, Walsh, Weir; and archival materials on the roles of Williams students and faculty during the First World War. Readings and Discussions in English. [ more ]

RLFR 226Black France/France Noire

Last offered Spring 2020

On the eve of the new millennium, the year 1998 saw the emergence in France of "Black studies à la française" (Ndiaye). Inspired, in part, by the 150th anniversary of the 1848 abolition of slavery, the French black minority "made itself more visible" (Faes and Smith). This course examines a wide range of discursive practices through which athletes, artists, authors, politicians, activists, and scholars amplified their voices in the French hexagone. It retraces the rise of these discourses and how they assert, reframe, and establish blackness as a legitimate field of knowledge and a space of affirmation and contestation. Following a study of the interwar period (1918-1939), when the work of "negritude women" (Sharpley-Whiting) such as "afro-latinité" spurred the negritude movement, we will discuss publications, documentaries, and seminal moments of protest in the early twenty-first century. Course material may include works by Suzanne Césaire, Jane and Paulette Nardal, Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, Achille Mbembé, Françoise Vergès, Pascal Blanchard, Nicolas Bancel and Sandrine Lemaire, Pap Ndiaye, Gaston Kelman, Rokhaya Diallo, Alice Diop, Léonora Miano, and Fabienne and Véronique Kanor. Conducted in French. [ more ]

RLFR 228Introduction to French and Francophone Film

Last offered Spring 2018

In this course, we watch and examine seminal French and Francophone films. Starting with early French cinema and silent movies of the end of the nineteenth century, we continue with landmark films from the 1920s, '30s and '40s. World War II serves as a point of rupture to explore how the advent of Francophone film parallels postcolonial theory. Throughout the semester, we discuss film as spectacle, the emergence of narrative forms, innovative technical practice and their connection to aesthetics. We also look at the role of film in addressing larger questions that include acts of rebellion, decolonization, the radical rejection of societal values, colonialism, dislocation, alienation, French collaboration during the German occupation, and the intersection of history and biography, as well as migration, in between-ness, and transnationalism. Films from the Lumière brothers, Méliès, Guy-Blaché, Vigo, Truffaut, Sembene, Mambety, Malle, Varda, Palcy, Peck, and Sissako. Conducted in French. [ more ]

RLFR 229Black Outside the U.S.

Last offered NA

This course explores multiple ways Black identity evolves, adapts and is experienced differently depending on location. Students analyze Black experience in the U.S., France and Senegal through a range of texts from books and social media to music and film. One key aspect of the course is a study abroad trip to Senegal, which increases cultural awareness through experiential learning. This combination of textual learning with experiential knowledge exemplifies how language, religion, gender, geography, and performance shape one's racial identity. In the first section of the course, students investigate Black experience in the U.S., focusing on such topics as the one-drop rule, racial profiling and where mixed people fit within Black/White tensions. The second section highlights the politics of language in France. Students explore how words like "Black," "noir" and "race" have strong political connotations in France and spur both resistance to and alliance with Black American civil rights history. In the third part of the course, students visit Dakar, Senegal, and analyze Blackness through their own observations and encounters. Their trip insights jumpstart the final focus of the course on Senegal. Students investigate the influence of French colonialism on Black identity in Senegal, which makes the two geographical experiences of Blackness very different but still forever linked. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

RLFR 230Introduction to French Stylistics: The Art of Pastiche

Last offered Spring 2014

Generally speaking, pasticheurs are derivative artists. Yet many of France's most original authors were agile pasticheurs, among them La Bruyère, Proust, and the experimental writers of the OuLiPo movement. What might the art of pastiche suggest about the relationship between imitation and creation, tradition and innovation, and past and present? Discussion of such questions will be grounded in the study of short texts by Rimbaud (as Villon), Zalmanski (as Madame de Sévigné), Janin (as Diderot), Flaubert (as Chateaubriand), and Queneau (as Proust). Analysis and explication of pastiches will strengthen students' technical grasp of French. In the second half of the semester, students will apply their rhetorical, syntactical, and stylistic knowledge through weekly pastiche exercises, submitted as a final portfolio at semester's end. Conducted in French. [ more ]

RLFR 238(S)Le Moyen Âge en images: Decoding the Middle Ages

This seminar investigates questions of visual culture and textual analysis in the Middle Ages. Although different from today's multimedia and digital environment, the Middle Ages boasted its own form of visual culture that will enable us to draw meaningful connections between medieval literature and history and modern-day debates on gender and sexuality. To explore these connections, we will study literary texts from the 12th-16th centuries in modern French translation, making comparisons to bandes dessinées that seek to visualize each text from a twenty-first-century perspective. We will investigate the points of overlap and divergence between the original texts and accompanying comics to ask why and how today's artists are returning to the literature and culture of the Middle Ages, especially in a time of globalization and technological immersion. For example: How might our findings inform our outlook on international politics, as well as gender-based forms of activism, such as the #MeToo movement, among other forms of social and political engagement? Conducted in French [ more ]

RLFR 240The Banlieue in Literature, Music, and Film

Last offered Spring 2017

In this course we will read, watch, and listen to various constructions of the banlieue in French music, film, and literature to focus on the contestatory and affirmative dimensions of these narratives. [ more ]

RLFR 260Reading Comics from the French-Speaking World

Last offered Fall 2017

From political cartoons and satire of the 19th century to contemporary graphic novels, the bande dessinée has a long history in the French-speaking world. We will read classics such as Astérix and Tintin, and contemporary BD from France, Québec, Côte d'Ivoire, Morocco, Rwanda, and Guadeloupe to analyze how they tackle subjects such as nation, empire, sexuality, biography, war and human rights. We will pay attention to the visual form and critical theory of the genre. Conducted in French. [ more ]

RLFR 261Haitian and French Caribbean Literatures and Films

Last offered Fall 2016

Over the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, authors and filmmakers have questioned prevalent representations of the Creole and French-speaking Caribbean such as the idea of Haiti as the First Black republic and the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere and and of Martinique and Guadeloupe as the "French" Caribbean. They have also interrogated their forebears by reclaiming modernity, reframing History, and telling "intimist" stories (Ferly). This course focuses on the diverging paths by Haitian and French Caribbean literatures (short stories, play, poem, novels) and film (short, feature and documentaries) as critical interventions that bring into focus gender, slavery, identity, exile, migration, imperialism, culture, and (non) sovereignty. [ more ]

RLFR 302Monsters of the Renaissance

Last offered Spring 2020

Where did monsters appear before comics and blockbusters? Before cinematic ghosts, vampires, and zombies, the French Renaissance popularized the Scythian Lamb, the Monk Fish, the Monopod, the Wind-Eaters from the Island of Ruach, and the mythic giants Gargantua and Pantagruel. The Latin word monstrum referred to a prodigy that did not fit the laws of nature. Thus, the monster not only generated wonder, curiosity, and fear, but both challenged and disrupted normative social values. In this course, students will analyze novels, travel narratives, medical treatises, essays, and epic poems from 16th-century France, when writers, doctors, and travelers developed a critical reflection on monstrosity in order to deal with otherness. This encompassed fantastic creatures, non-human beings, and natural phenomena, as well as people whose gender, race, religion, and bodies deviated from established norms. In this course, students will think critically about race, gender, and disability, and study the complexities of fear, disgust, wonder, and fascination. Readings to include classical texts by Homer and Ovid, medieval texts like the Legend of Saint George and the Dragon, and Renaissance texts by Francois Rabelais, Jean de Léry, Marguerite de Navarre, Ambroise Paré, Michel de Montaigne, and Agrippa d'Aubigné. [ more ]

RLFR 305Where We Are & Where We Go: Spaces & Places of Contemporary France

Last offered Fall 2018

How do people in France give meaning to the spaces they inhabit or move through? What does it mean to be from "here" or "there"? Through contemporary French literature and cultural analysis, we will explore these questions in the urban landscapes of major French cities, including Lyon, Marseilles, Nantes, and Angoulême. We will focus on literary representations of the home, the street, the park, the grocery store, and the train, and discuss the ways videos, press articles, photographs, and websites depict neighborhoods, festivals, and street theater. We will also examine a variety of theories that will help us conceptualize urban space and interpret these literary and cultural texts on city life in contemporary France. Readings to include texts by Annie Ernaux, Patrick Modiano, Leïla Sebbar, Didier van Cauwelaert, Yasmina Reza, Jean Rolin, Marie Darrieussecq, and Xavier Houssin. Conducted in French. [ more ]

RLFR 309Contemporary Short Stories from North Africa

Last offered Fall 2017

Short stories are the vibrant center of the literary landscape in North Africa today. Written in French, Arabic and sometimes Amazigh languages, short stories provide timely interventions in political and social discourse. In this course, we will read short stories that use humor and satire to address the effects of globalization on local communities, that experiment with language to portray war and revolution, and that seek to create a new space for the discussion of gender. We will also analyze films, sociological texts and Moroccan, Algerian and Tunisian online newspapers in order to explore contemporary transformations of life in North Africa. Readings by Maissa Bey, Abdelfattah Kilito, Zeina Tabi, Mohamed Zafzaf, Ahmed Bouzfour, Soumaya Zahy and Fouad Laroui among others. Conducted in French. [ more ]

RLFR 312Francographic Islands

Last offered Fall 2014

Utopia, paradise, shipwreck, abandonment, exile, death. Man's fascination and obsession with the island as place of discovery, beauty and imprisonment stretches across the centuries. In this class, we will read French literary and imagined islands alongside islands constructed by Francophone Caribbean, Indian Ocean and non-Western writers in French. What does the island symbolize in individual, community, national, and imperial imaginations? And how does the island become an agent in discussions of gender, race, modernity and history? Readings will include works by Paul Gauguin, Pierre Loti, Aimé Césaire, Michel Tournier, Ananda Devi, Maryse Condé, Patrick Chamoiseau and Edouard Glissant. Conducted in French. [ more ]

RLFR 313(S)Tropical Ecologies: Francophone Caribbean Literature and the Environment

The lushness of the mangroves, the flora and fauna of tropical landscapes, the intricacy of the rhizome, the flow of great rivers, the crashing waves of the Atlantic, the heights of mountainous lands, and expanse of the plateau--the natural world is an important site of Caribbean art in general and, more specifically, the francophone Caribbean novel of the 20th and 21st centuries. Applying eco-criticism to the field of francophone Caribbean literature, the goal of this class is to examine the ways that fiction explores the relationship between human activity and the environment. How does the novel inhabit Caribbean ecologies and topographies? How does it represent nature? In what ways do Caribbean texts meditate on nature and culture together or against one another? As the earthquake in Haiti demonstrated in 2010 with calamitous force, and the cycles of Caribbean hurricanes have shown over the years, natural disaster is also a political crisis. In view of this, we will also consider the legacies of slavery and colonialism in terms of class, gender and race politics. This investigation of the dynamics of natural and cultural phenomena will also have a theoretical frame rooted in critical texts of Caribbean of literary and political movements such as Indigenisme, Négritude, and Créolité. Conducted in French. [ more ]

RLFR 315(F)Nature in Crisis: The Classification Craze and The Rise of Museums

This course examines how understandings of nature evolved dramatically (and at times unsettlingly) from the 17th through the early 20th centuries and how this instability prompted a desire to classify and control natural phenomena. To analyze these issues, we will likewise consider the rise of modern museums, as well as the accompanying acts of classification and curation. We will consider how literary and philosophical texts from the aforementioned time periods depict nature, how real-world interactions with nature led to the creation of (illustrated) taxonomies, how colonization inflected notions of the natural world and also museum exhibits, and finally, how the cabinet of curiosities and later, the museum, provided a space in which to display and analyze nature's more unusual treasures. As part of our explorations, we will build a virtual exhibit of our own to reflect our understanding of nature today and our engagement with concepts of nature from previous eras. Conducted in French. Counts as an Envi Humanities Elective for the Envi Concentration. [ more ]

RLFR 316Paris on Fire: Incendiary Voices from the City of Light (1830-2015)

Last offered Spring 2018

During the 1830s, Balzac described Paris as a "surprising assemblage of movements, machines, and ideas, a city of one hundred thousand novels, the head of the world," but also characterized the French capital as a "land of contrasts," a "monstrous wonder," a "moral sewer." Similarly, writers from Hugo to Zola have simultaneously celebrated Parisian elegance and condemned the appalling misery of Paris's urban poor. Since 1889, Paris has been fêted as the "City of Light" for its Enlightenment legacy, its Eiffel Tower modernity, and its luminous urban energy, captured in countless paintings, photographs, and film. However, Paris is also the historical site of revolution, resistance, and riots. From revolutionary revolt (1830, 1848, 1871), to wartime resistance (1870, 1914-18, 1940-44), to reformist and race riots (1968 and 2005), Paris has repetitively sparked with incendiary passion and political protest. As fires raged during the riots in 2005, many heard the echo of Hitler's ominous 1944 question, "Is Paris burning?" and asked: why was Paris burning again at the dawn of the twenty-first century? And following the recent terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015, many wonder what lies ahead for the City of Light. To answer these questions, we will examine the social, political, and literary landscape of Paris during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, from urbanization and modernization, to occupation and liberation, to immigration and globalization. Readings to include poetry, short stories, and novels by Hugo, Balzac, Baudelaire, Maupassant, Verne, Zola, Apollinaire, Colette, Duras, Perec, Rochefort, and Charef. Films to include works by Clair, Truffaut, Godard, Minnelli, Clément, Lelouch, Luhrmann, Kassovitz, Besson, and Jeunet.Conducted in French. [ more ]

RLFR 318Twentieth-Century French Novel: From Adversity to Modernity

Last offered Fall 2016

In his futurist novel Paris in the Twentieth Century (1863), Jules Verne envisions an era of technological superiority, complete with hydrogen cars and high-speed trains, televisions and skyscrapers, computers and the internet. But in Verne's vision of modernity, technological sophistication gives way to intellectual stagnation and social indifference, in a world where poetry and literature have been abandoned in favor bureaucratic efficiency, mechanized surveillance, and the merciless pursuit of profit. To contest or confirm this dystopic vision, we will examine a broad range of twentieth-century novels and their focus on adversity and modernity. In a century dominated by the devastation of two World Wars, the atrocities of colonial empire, and massive social and political transformation, the novel both documented and interrogated France's engagement with race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, colonialism and immigration. Within this historical context, we will discuss the role of the novel in confronting war and disease, challenging poverty and greed, and exposing urban isolation and cultural alienation in twentieth-century France. Readings to include novels by Colette, Genet, Camus, Duras, Ernaux, Guibert, Begag. Lectures to include discussions of Gide, Proust, Sartre, Beauvoir, Cixous, Foucault, Jelloun, Djébar. Films to include works by Fassbinder, Annaud, Lioret, Ducastel, Martineau, Téchiné, Charef. Conducted in French. [ more ]

RLFR 410Senior Seminar: Landscapes of Movement and Migration in French

Last offered Spring 2016

How do migration and movement construct and disrupt landscapes of identity--home, city and nation--in the French-speaking world? How do migration and movement contribute to conditions of alienation, nostalgia and violence? This seminar explores such fundamental questions and asks us to think about how in an increasingly mobile and de-territorialized world, place is imagined, experienced and remembered. Over the course of the semester, we will examine theoretical texts on memory, space, identity and movement, and analyze literary and film narratives of migration that focus on: the immigration experience in France, the construction of an Atlantic identity between Africa, the Caribbean, Europe and the Americas, internal migration between the country and the city, clandestine migration between Africa and Europe, population displacement due to war, and the possibility of creating portable places of memory. Works by Nora, Benjamin, Deleuze, Barthes, Charef, Chamoiseau, Glissant, Diome, Condé, Mernissi, Poulain, Pineau, Sembene, and Binebine among others. Conducted in French. [ more ]

RLFR 412Senior Seminar: Nineteenth-Century French Novel: Desperate Housewives and Extreme Makeovers

Last offered Fall 2019

In 1834, Balzac wrote that "Paris is a veritable ocean. Sound it: you will never know its depth." The same can be said of the French nineteenth-century novel and its boundless ability to echo the past and illuminate the present. From the Romanticism of Stendhal and Hugo, and the Realism of Balzac and Flaubert, to the Naturalism of Zola and Maupassant, the novel became a forum for examining illicit sexuality, institutional misogyny, social injustice, criminal passions, revolutionary struggles, and Parisian pleasures in nineteenth-century France. Characters such as the imprisoned housewife Emma Bovary, the reluctant revolutionary Jean Valjean, the social-climbing lover Julien Sorel, the ambitious undergraduate Rastignac, and the domestically-abused Gervaise became synonymous with France's turbulent social and political landscape from the 1830s to the 1880s. And as recent film adaptations make clear, these desperate housewives and extreme makeovers continue to haunt our twenty-first century present. Reinterpreted by such actors as Gérard Depardieu, Isabelle Huppert, Uma Thurman, Claire Danes, and Jennifer Aniston, the nineteenth-century novel continues to sound out the scandalous and sensational depths of our own century. Readings to include novels by Balzac, Stendhal, Hugo, Flaubert, Maupassant, Zola. Films to include adaptations by Clément, Berri, August, Arteta, Lelouch, Chabrol. Conducted in French. [ more ]

RLFR 414Senior Seminar: Coming of Age: French and Francophone Childhood and Adolescent Film

Last offered Spring 2019

Like the bildungsroman in literature, the coming of age story is a genre in itself in cinema. In this senior seminar, we will watch, discuss, and analyze French and Francophone childhood and adolescent narrative films whose protagonists bring into focus larger issues such as racial discrimination, class, gender, sexual identity, social mobility, repression from the state, regime change, delinquency, justice, bereavement, and human trafficking. We will watch seminal films by Euzhan Palcy, the Dardennes brothers, Céline Sciamma, Férid Boughédir, François Truffaut, Michel Ocelot, Claude Pinoteau, Abdellatif Kéchiche, Laurent Cantet, and Raoul Peck. [ more ]

RLFR 416(S)Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité? Questioning Inclusion in French Literature and Culture

"Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité" is the national motto of France and of the Republic of Haïti. It finds its origin in the French Revolution but was institutionalized as the official symbol of the Republic in 1880. In this course, we will study literary texts and historical documents to explore these three terms, their cultural and philosophical meaning, their institutional definitions and their application in French society. Who gets to be free throughout French history? If equality is a Republican principle, what about equity? Could fraternity be replaced by a more inclusive term referring to more than one gender? Readings will include texts of multiple genres from the 16th to the 21st century addressing class, race and gender (Michel de Montaigne, Marie de Gournay, Voltaire, Montesquieu, Victor Hugo, Aimé Césaire, Léonora Miano, Paul B. Preciado), one short film, as well as other historical documents such as the "Code Noir," the "Déclaration des droits de la Femme et de la Citoyenne," the "Décret d'Abolition de l'Esclavage" and the "Constitution" of the Fifth Republic. [ more ]

RLFR 493(F)Senior Thesis: French

French senior thesis; this is part of a full-year thesis (493-494). [ more ]

RLFR 494(S)Senior Thesis: French

French senior thesis; this is part of a full-year thesis (493-494). [ more ]

RLFR 511(F)Intensive French Grammar and Translation

This course is designed to offer students a thorough and systematic review of sentence structures and grammar to develop a reading knowledge of French. Through this intensive study, students will learn to decipher the subtleties of the written language, and as they become more confident they will start translating a variety of short excerpts. Students are also expected to learn and develop a wide lexical range centered on art history and criticism, but not limited to it. [ more ]

RLFR 512(S)Readings in French Art History and Criticism

This course is designed to provide Graduate Program students and interested others with knowledge of French acquired through translation and interpretation. The core of this course is based on the reading and translating of a variety of critical works covering different periods and genres in the field of art history. The material read will be analyzed in form and content, translated or summarized, in order to develop the skills and understand the techniques necessary for reading French accurately. Grammar will be reviewed in context. [ more ]