French Courses

We have a wonderful program of courses in French Language (RLFR 101-107) and Francophone Literature, Cinema, & Culture (RLFR 200-450). For a full list, 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.

Full List of French Courses at Williams                                          

RLFR 101(F) SEM 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) LEC 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) SEM 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) SEM 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) LEC Advanced French: Advanced Studies in French Language and Francophone Culture

In this French course, we will read and examine literary texts from the twelfth to the 19th centuries, and films from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In order to analyze them, we will briefly situate them in their social and historical contexts. These works will help us better understand contemporary France and explore France's colonial past. We will also learn how to write two short research paper in French in the form of an explication de texte. While the themes, authors, time periods will vary, our approach will remain the same. Three themes, love, fear, and France's colonial past, will serve as the course's organizing principles. A small section of the course will be devoted to grammar revisions in order to continue to improve our reading and language skills. Throughout the semester we will develop our writing skills in French. Conducted in French [ more ]

RLFR 106(S) SEM 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 2024, 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 107 SEM Advanced French: Formation and Transformation

Last offered Spring 2023

This advanced course is designed to help you refine your French speaking, comprehension, and writing skills in preparation for studying abroad or for more advanced French coursework. We will explore the themes of formation (the French term that means at once education and training) and personal transformation, through fictional and autobiographical texts and films. How do individuals find their place in societies and both define and redefine their own identities? Is it possible to reflect critically on one's own formation, or is it easier to do so through works of fiction? We will also reflect on our own educational experiences as we read works by authors such as Marguerite Duras, Maryse Condé, Annie Ernaux, and Pierre Bourdieu, and watch both recent and classic films from 1950s France to 2020s Québec. [ more ]

Taught by: Kathryn E Levine

Catalog details

RLFR 108 LEC Voyages 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 ]

RLFR 202 SEM War and Resistance: Two Centuries of War Literature in France (1800-2015)

Last offered Fall 2021

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 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 203 SEM Introduction 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 206 SEM The 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 213(F) SEM Francophone North America in the 21st Century: Revendications, réparations et retrouvailles

This course investigates post-2000 productions from Acadie, Haiti, Louisiana, and Quebec to examine the socio-literary changes and the current phenomenon of "L'Archipel linguistique." Looking at the concept of "Retrouvailles," or the gathering of Francophone regions through literary expression in a largely Anglophone continent, we will examine how literature depicts current affairs, as well as what it can do to produce change. In addition to novels and films, we will rely on radio shows, news pieces, and tv shows to get a broader picture of the present stakes. All course discussions will be in French. Topics will include socio-political and cultural issues, (neo)colonialism, activism, linguistic insecurity, and race relations as they are addressed in visual art, music, and literature. Some of the texts covered in this course are Kukum (2019) by Michel Jean, L'Énigme du retour (2009) by Dany Laferrière, Ô Malheureuse (2019) by Ashlee Michot, Suite des sens (2023) by Jean Arceneaux, Alma (2006) by Georgette LeBlanc. Conducted in French. [ more ]

RLFR 214 SEM Everything New is Old Again: Legacies of Medieval France

Last offered Spring 2022

In the twelfth century, the French language shifted from a mostly ephemeral spoken language to a language that deserved to be written down. Authors began recording stories that had only been told aloud, and readers of Latin begin translating classical literature for French-speaking audiences. This huge burst of creative expression remade popular culture in ways that we can still recognize today--if we know what to look for. In this course, we will explore how our twenty-first-century passion for memes on TikTok and other social media has similar roots in twelfth-century tastes, and how the literature and culture of medieval France have shaped what we now think of as literature and pop culture. We will explore four major themes: the reinvention and adaptation of classical literature, the invention of modern romantic love, the introduction of King Arthur, and hilarious short fiction (also known as twelfth-century memes). Readings to include love poetry, short narratives both funny and serious, and longer texts about adventure and love. Conducted in French. [ more ]

Taught by: Kathryn E Levine

Catalog details

RLFR 215 SEM The 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 216 SEM Women Behaving Badly: Deviant Women in Early Modern French Literature

Last offered Fall 2022

Female deviance often implies resisting a dominant and oppressive patriarchal status quo embedded within cultural and historical backgrounds. This course explores female characters in early modern French literature who refuse to conform to established gender roles. Defying social constructs of femininity, through either judicious negotiations or more aggressive and violent behavior, is an important trope in the writings of both male and female authors of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. What constitutes deviant behavior, however, depends on social definitions of gender roles, which evolve over time. In this course, we will first examine women's place within the historical and socio-cultural context of the Ancien Régime, which will lead to an examination of female behavior censured during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. We will then reflect on how we, as modern readers, perceive such deviancy at it relates to the past. Finally, we will discuss the relevance of studying deviant women in light of current events, such as the #MeToo movement, which has led to a new level of consciousness and empathy for the plight of marginalized groups. Potential readings to include Corneille's Médée, Madame de la Fayette's Princesse de Clèves, Laclos's Liaisons dangereuses, and Isabelle de Charrière's Lettre à Mistriss Henley. [ more ]

RLFR 217(F) SEM Fierté, Sororité, Vitalité: Trans and Non-Binary Narratives of Francophone Expression

Ten years have passed since Time magazine announced to the world with its June 2014 cover story that the "Transgender Tipping Point" was upon us. The cover spoke to a nation confronting transgender equality as "America's Next Civil Rights Frontier." While this "tipping point" is perhaps salient in the United States, trans(gender), non-binary, and genderqueer identities have world histories with their own vocabularies, knowledge systems, and critiques of normativities. As an important branch of feminist, gender, and sexuality studies, transgender studies continue to revolutionize intersectional inquiry and activist initiatives. In this course, students will explore the genealogical roots of Francophone trans literatures, art, and media as they overlap with fields like critical race studies, Indigenous studies, medicine and technology, carcerality, care, sex work, and entertainment. This course provides an introduction trans studies and trans of color critique and focuses particularly on the contemporary period to gives students insight into the ongoing debates that structure the field and its near future. The course will also have a strong focus on genre and medium as students engage with visual art collections (Kehinde Wiley's Tahiti and Namsa Leuba's Illusions), documentary film (Véronique Kanor's Les femmes viennent aussi de Mars), serial web comics (Sophie Labelle's Assignée garçon), podcasts (Lauren Bastide's La Poudre with Paul Preciado), poetry and performance art (Kama La Mackerel's Zom-Fam), short stories (Chantal Spitz's "Joséphine" and Magali Nirina Marson's "Je me déserte..."), and novels (Ananda Devi's Le rire des déesses, Emmanuelle Bayamack-Tam's Arcadie, and Abdellah Taïa's Un pays pour mourir). Conducted in French. [ more ]

RLFR 218 SEM Translating French: An Introduction to Theory and Practice

Last offered Spring 2023

What decisions do translators make in order to render texts accurately (and even beautifully) into another language? What makes one translation "better" than another? Should we consider translation as a literary genre in its own right, and should we read translated texts differently from texts in their original language? This advanced course will invite you into the world of translation studies, bringing together aspects of translation theory and technical translation methodologies in order to develop your skills as translators, readers, and speakers of French. We will translate texts from a range of genres mostly from French into English and occasionally from English into French, paying particular attention to the formal and linguistic differences that can pose problems for translators. In addition to completing an independent translation project on your choice of text or media, you will also consider your own priorities as translators, formulating and revising two translation statements over the course of the semester. This course will be taught in French, and the class format will vary between lectures, seminar-style discussions, workshops, and student presentations. [ more ]

Taught by: Kathryn E Levine

Catalog details

RLFR 224 SEM Sexuality 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 225(F) SEM Remembering the Great War: The First World War in Literature and Film

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 the 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. In our study of the Great War, 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 226 SEM Black 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 228 SEM Introduction 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 229 Black 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 232 SEM Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité ? Race, Gender, and Political Power in Eighteenth-Century France

Last offered Spring 2023

The French Revolution of 1789 was, to a large extent, inspired by Enlightenment thinkers such as Voltaire, Rousseau, and Diderot who promoted ideas on individual liberty, scientific progress, religious freedom, and secularism. The Revolution brought with it promises of a society freed from the abuses of an absolute monarchy. Yet as feminist thinker Olympe de Gouges would note, when France redefined its notion of citizenship after 1789, it did not include women and people of color. This course examines Enlightenment ideas that led to the French Revolution, while analyzing how those ideas failed to bring true equality. Voltaire, Buffon, and Montesquieu all advocated for the abolition of slavery, but they also held racist and sexist views, justified by pseudoscientific discourse. By further juxtaposing these thinkers with feminist and abolitionist authors such as Olympe de Gouges and Claire de Duras, we will examine how eighteenth-century female authors advocated for the rights of women. Finally, we will analyze artworks such as Marie-Guillemine Benoist's Portrait d'une négresse (1800) and discuss how France is using such works today to reckon with its history of discrimination. [ more ]

RLFR 234(S) SEM Francophone Oceania: The Other Side of the Postcard

Manava i Te Ao Ma'ohi! Tongan-Fijian author Epeli Hau'ofa writes: "Centuries before Europeans entered the Pacific, in the days when boundaries were not imaginary lines in the ocean but points of entry that were constantly negotiated and even contested, the sea was open to anyone who could navigate a way through." Of critical importance to Oceanian communities and scholarship today is the project of remembering and re-membering the stories, knowledges, travel routes, and more-than-human ecologies that have crisscrossed the vast aqueous landscapes of this "other" side of the globe. This course is a comprehensive survey of the literature, modern history, and aesthetics that inform the field of contemporary Francophone Oceanian Studies. Major concepts in Indigenous Oceanian philosophy and genealogies of thought (from Ma'ohi, Kanak, and Ni-Vanuatu communities in particular), European imperialism and racial politics, gender and sexuality, maritime knowledges, the French nuclear agenda and climate fiction will be studied. Students will use multimedia formats and storytelling techniques to cross-examine narrative development, philosophy, and Oceanian history from a comparative perspective. Texts may include: Déwé Gorodé's Sous les cendres des conques (1985), Chantal T. Spitz's L'île des rêves écrasés (1991), Claudine Jacques' L'Âge du perroquet-banane, Parabole païenne (2002), Ari'irau's Matamimi ou la vie nous attend (2006), Nicholas Kurtovitch's Dans le ciel splendide (2015), Titaua Peu's Pina (2016), and Titaua Porcher's Hina, Maui et compagnie (2018) among others. Conducted in French. [ more ]

RLFR 260 SEM Francophone Graphic Novels

Last offered Fall 2022

In this class we will read contemporary graphic novels and bandes dessinées from Côte d'Ivoire, Morocco, Guadeloupe, Lebanon, France, and Québec to analyze how they approach subjects such as colonial history, migration and discrimination, gender and sexuality, and representations of disability and the racialized body. We will pay particular attention to the visual form and the critical theory of the graphic novel to further understand why this hybrid genre has become so popular and widespread, and how it is shaping conversations about difference and power in the Francophone world. Conducted in French. [ more ]

RLFR 261 SEM Haitian 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 262(S) SEM Lâche pas la patate: Francophone Culture in Louisiana

The expression "Lâche pas la patate," or "don't drop the potato" is a way of saying "don't ever stop speaking French in Louisiana." This begs the question: why preserve a language? In Louisiana, Francophone activists have been fighting to preserve their unique dialect of French--or what Professor Barry Jean Ancelet calls "the problem language"--for decades. By promoting the education and use of French in the state, what else are they preserving? From historical, thematic, and literary perspectives, this course is designed to provide an answer to such questions through the examination of Francophone Louisiana from its foundation as a French colony to today. In this course, we rely on contemporary publications and media in French to get a broader picture of the current stakes in Francophone Louisiana. Topics will include sociolinguistics, race relations, creolization, activism, and Americanization. Primary sources include rituals, cartoons, films, memes, music, literature, and cuisine. Texts and media (such as films and podcasts) included are Les Aventures de Boudini et ses amis, Tout bec doux , Ô Malheureuse, Film Quest, L'Habitation Saint-Ybars, Bayou zen, Finding Cajun, Mille misères La Veillée, Charrer-Veiller , Feux Follets , Istrouma : Manifeste Houma. Conducted in French. [ more ]

RLFR 300 SEM The Banlieue in Literature, Music, and Film

Last offered Spring 2022

The banlieue looms large in the French collective imagination. From its origins in medieval law, the term banlieue at the end of the 20th century has taken on multiple, at times overlapping, but almost exclusively negative meanings. It designates a peripheral geographical space often in contrast to its city center, social exclusion, "urban culture"--as in Hip Hop-produced within that space, and last but not least the symbolic bias through which its inhabitants are viewed (Vieillard-Baron). In this course, we will examine various constructions of the banlieue in French music, a manifesto, film, blogs, and literature to focus on the analytical, contestatory and affirmative dimensions of these narratives. Two decades after the film La haine, and ten years after the riots, how are filmmakers, artists, authors, and scholars of the banlieue reimagining and reframing the banlieue? What do current depictions of banlieues in the French media tell us about the State, French politics, and the state of French politics? What do "banlieue films" and "banlieue lit" tell us about the banlieue? In this course, conducted in French, 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 307 SEM Building Francophone Cities: Literature, Art and History

Last offered Fall 2022

Through literature, visual art, and urban history, this class will engage with the remarkable histories, presents and imagined futures of five Francophone cities: Casablanca (Morocco), Algiers (Algeria), Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of the Congo), Fort-de-France (Martinique) and Port-au-Prince (Haiti). We will learn about their colonial foundations and postcolonial transformations while paying attention to how these urban spaces and their people and histories are represented and imagined by poetry, novels, and visual art. (Conducted in French) [ more ]

RLFR 309 SEM Contemporary 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 316 SEM Paris 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 318(F) SEM Twentieth-Century French Novel: From Adversity to Modernity

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 of 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 320(F) SEM Transcending Boundaries: The Creation and Evolution of Creole Cultures

Born out of a history of resistance, Creole cultures transcend racial boundaries. This course provides a comprehensive framework for understanding the creation of Creole nations in various parts of the world. Beginning with an examination of the dark history of slavery and French colonialism, we will reflect upon the cultural transformation that took place when people speaking mutually unintelligible languages were brought together. We will then delve into the study of how deterritorialized peoples created their languages and cultures, distinct from the ones imposed by colonizing forces. As we journey from the past to the present, we will also explore how international events such as a worldwide pandemic, social justice, racism, and police brutality are currently affecting these islands. Potential readings will include prominent authors from different Creole-speaking islands, including Frantz Fanon and Aimé Césaire from Martinique, Maryse Condé from Guadeloupe, Ananda Devi from Mauritius and Jacques Roumain from Haiti. Conducted in French with introductions to different creoles. [ more ]

RLFR 360 SEM Repairing a Broken World: Intro to North African Contemporary Art

Last offered Spring 2023

How do artists respond to a world in crisis? How does visual art engage violent histories, injured bodies, social injustice and ecological disaster? In this course we will explore the political and ethical concept of repair as it emerges in the work of contemporary North African visual artists. Repair is both a material and symbolic transformational practice of putting together something that is torn or broken. It is never complete, nor does it redeem a history of harm or violence. Rather repair is an invitation: a bringing of people, histories, objects, buildings, feelings and geographies into relation with one another in order to link worlds that have been splintered and separated. It is also a call to imagine other futures. North African contemporary artists have deeply engaged in this type of repair work, attending to colonial history, economies of extraction and environmental damage, race and slavery, housing inequity, gender identity and broken transmission of memory. We will dive into the work of individual artists as well as collectives while reading theoretical texts about broken-world thinking, reparative epistemology, alternative archives, and material reparations. [ more ]

RLFR 378(S) SEM Proust's "In Search of Lost Time"

In this seminar we will study Marcel Proust's novel-sequence In Search of Lost Time, widely regarded as one of the most transformative works of 20th-century fiction. The first-person narrative chronicling the life of a fictional figure bearing a close relationship to Proust himself spans several decades from the late 19th to the early 20th century, centering on French high society as it enters the modern world, shaped by historical events such as the Dreyfus Affair and the First World War. Proust's exploration of the consciousness of the protagonist, an aspiring writer, has led readers to see him as a philosopher of aesthetics, of the psyche, of time and memory, and of the nature of desire. His narrative ranges from meditations on such subjects to social satire to absorbing and sometimes soap opera-like plots exploring upward and downward social mobility and a wide array of sexual entanglements, straight and queer. Through his fluent prose, Proust renders the vicissitudes of desire, loss, and joy, of betrayal and emotional intransigence, and tests the power of memory and the imagination to recapture the past. Because of the length of In Search of Lost Time, the emphasis of the course will be more on reading (about 7 to 7½ hours per week) and less on writing (four or five 1½-page journal entries and a final paper of 8-10 pages) than the average 300-level course; and approximately one-third of the sequence will be bracketed as optional reading. [ more ]

RLFR 410 SEM Senior Seminar: Movement and Migration

Last offered Fall 2021

How do movement and migration produce and disrupt constructions of identity, home, and the nation? In the context of movement and migration, how is place is imagined, experienced and remembered? What are the relationships between movement and containment, flight and freedom? Over the course of the semester, we will examine literary texts, film and visual art from French-speaking communities that focus on: the immigration experience in France, the construction of a Francophone Atlantic identity, internal migration between rural and urban spaces, clandestine migration between Africa and Europe, population displacement due to war, and the possibility of creating portable or nomadic places of memory. Works by Chamoiseau, Glissant, Diome, Condé, Maffre, Pineau, and Binebine among others. Conducted in French. [ more ]

RLFR 412 SEM Senior 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 414 SEM Senior Seminar: Coming of Age: French and Francophone Childhood and Adolescent Film

Last offered Spring 2023

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, Faiza Ambah, and Raoul Peck. [ more ]

RLFR 415(S) SEM Breaking the Silence: Women Voices, Empowerment and Equality in the Francophone World

How have Francophone women challenged the historical and current effects of colonialism and gendered racism in France and the Francophone world? How have Francophone women writers challenged the status quo of patriarchy and advocated for change? Beginning with political activist Olympe de Gouges, who published Le droit de la femme et de la citoyenne (1791) challenging gender inequality in France, we will then examine Claire de Duras' portrayal of the intersection between race and gender, Simone de Beauvoir's challenge to traditional femininity and gender roles, and Ananda Devi's intimate portrayal of violence against women in post-colonial societies. Throughout the course, we will use a feminist and intersectional lens to analyze how Francophone women writers have broken the silence then and now. [ more ]

RLFR 493(F) HON Senior Thesis: French

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

RLFR 494(S) HON Senior Thesis: French

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

RLFR 511 LEC Intensive French Grammar and Translation

Last offered Fall 2020

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 ]

Taught by: Pramila Kolekar

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RLFR 512 LEC Readings in French Art History and Criticism

Last offered Spring 2021

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 ]

Taught by: Pramila Kolekar

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