Literature and Philosophy during the French Enlightenment Era
The course examines historical, cultural and epistemological aspects of philosophical major trends of the French Enlightenment. The strong and dynamic link between literature (novel, theater, short stories and poetry) and philosophy (the self and the other, social and ethical issues, tolerance and religion, sexuality, sex and materialism, evil and suffering) will be inquired through the reading of literary texts written by Montesquieu, Voltaire, Diderot, Rousseau and others. Enlightenment primary texts and critical contemporary articles will be read and analyzed in class.
From Romanticism to Naturalism: Stendhal, Balzac, Flaubert and Zola
The course's aim is to study the major literary streams that crossed the 19th century through reading and analysis of selected novels. The historical approach of the literature shows how Romanticism, Realism and Naturalism which are represented by Stendhal, Balzac, Flaubert and Zola, are connected to a political, economic and cultural context. We will focus on this correlation between external forces and literary innovations in order to understand and to know better a major era for literature’s studies.
Literature, Society, Politics from the French Revolution to Dreyfus Affair
The course investigates the dynamic relationships existing between literature, society and politic in France between the French Revolution and Dreyfus Affair. The Golden Age of the realist novel emerges during an unstable political period while economic and social dramatic changes occurred: industrial era, demographic and urban transformations and the birth of the modern capitalism. Those milestones underline the difficulty to define and borderline different fields of acting and thinking and to think methodologically about their intertwining links. The issues of the course are related to theoretical, aesthetical and political/ethical topics capable to sharpen and to deepen our understanding of literature and its writing practices within a specific culture and language. Readings from literary works of Sade, Hugo, Stendhal, Balzac, Zola, and other engaged authors as Jules Valles (the Parisian Commune events) and Octave Mirbeau (Dreyfus Affair) will be a major part of the syllabus in order to investigate the changes and evolutions of the literature and its role in the society. Secondly, analysis of theoretical essays on the topic (Tocqueville, Sartre, Bourdieu, Barthes), and discussions on the poetic characteristics and the literary functions of engaged literature will be hold.
Eros in love: sexuality's representations in the Enlightenment Discourse
The course examines the perception of sexuality and its representations in the literary discourse of the 17th and 18th centuries in France. This period is considered revolutionary in the fields of science and cultural philosophy. We will examine how the perception of man and his physical body, theories of reproduction and birth, and new gender theories all significantly affect written discourse. We will study how they often shape literary writing and groundbreaking unique genres such as the pornographic novel and the libertine novel. We will study the libertine novel as a literary genre possessing unique characteristics and we will create a reading network to analyze several libertine works. We will also examine the connection between libertine imagination and the perception of sexuality during the enlightenment and how this theme became the central focus in scientific and social research. We will study the close connection that developed between sexuality, sex, love, philosophy, and the theory of discourse in the libertine novel. Works by such authors as Laclos, Duclos, Crebillon fils and Vivan Denon will be read alongside a focus on the following issues: 1) how different areas of discourse sustain both a dynamic relationship and reciprocal influence; 2) the attempt to become free from the chains of religious morality and to establish a materialistic and hedonistic approach to the body and its pleasures; 3) the centrality of the Enlightenment to the existential shift in man’s perception of himself.
First Person Novel in France: Narcissus' Blindness
The seminar is designed to introduce students to the emergence of the first person narrative novel in France Enlightenment and to explain the popularity's reasons of ways of writing as the memoirs, the letters and the diary within the fictional field. The prosperity of the novel goes together with a strong tendency of the self to occupy the front of the stage. The narrator is the most often the hero of the plot. He is burnt by a strong desire to tell his life, to expose is most intimate feelings and secrets, to redefine his former acts and to understand their consequences. The first person narrative novel becomes a discursive field of fiction very appreciated by the most important writers of that time. Novels of Marivaux, Prevost, Diderot, Laclos and Rousseau will be read through the prism of theoretical approaches such as critical history, narratology, socio-critic, poetic and discourse analysis.
Women Authors of 21th Century France: Marie NDiaye, Amélie Nothomb, Annie Ernaux and more
The course will explore artistic expressions of contemporary French literature with a focus on famous women authors. What are the literary characteristics of the fiction of today in France and which place do central women authors occupy within the literary and cultural actuality in France? The very contemporary literature is nourished by the daily reality on the one hand and by the social, economic and cultural phenomena that surrounded it on the other hand. It is characterized by the will to arise existential huge questions through a focalization on microcosmic, individual and even very intimate issues. The course will examine three main topics : 1) read contemporary novels considered already as canonic literary works, 2) discuss on the specificity of a work that is still on process, 3) as chef-d'oeuvre, and 3) analyze gender issues from social and cultural point of view (the female ethos – text and context), together with issues concerning poetical aspects (representations and feminist narratives).
The Author in/and his Work: Text and Context
This seminar will examine the concepts of author, writer, and narrator. We will raise the question of the existence of the empirical author in the fictional world, and will investigate the various ways of producing his ethos within the given cultural field (issues concerning the sociology of the literature, editorial world, media, and internet). The necessity of the author for the act of interpretation has been discussed in literary research since the birth of the author as a constitutive entity in the literary and cultural field. Two major opposed stances characterize this discussion: literary historians support the importance of the biographic entity of the author as indispensable to literary analysis (Sainte Beuve, Lanson), while the formalists and structuralism theoreticians argue for the death of the author (Barthes, Foucault). There has been an attempt in recent decades to combine these two stances inspired by Bakhtine's works. The seminar will examine the various aspects of these attempts and offers a systematic analysis of understanding the concept the author in fiction and a method for recognizing the possible components for its identification in the work.
Dialogues in Literature
The seminar examines the philosophical dialog’s development in the history of literature and considers its characteristics and evolution over the ages since the Socratic dialog till contemporary literature in France. We will discuss the reasons of the popularity of this genre in the eighteenth century and its new functions in the novel (Diderot’s short stories and The Nun). We will link the literary phenomenon (through close readings of selected novels from the 18th – 21th century) with major theoretical approaches such as Bakhtine’s concept of Polyphony, Kristeva’s Intertextuality and Theory of Enunciation.
Literature and Testimony
The first objective of the seminar: theoretical and historical approaches of testimony in the French field. Testimony is a discursive attempt to communicate the addressor’s real-life experience to an addressee. In this "speech act", all aspects of communication are tested, discussed and controlled. However, while every person can utter a speech act at any time, a witness is a speaker with a special authority which is granted to him or her by others in a specific context. Therefore, these discursive components change according to historical and cultural evolutions. These topics will be discussed during the first weeks of the seminar.
Second objective of the seminar: investigation and analysis of the dynamic links existing between testimony and institutions. In order to be turned into a testimony, the perception or experience narrative has to be validated as important and approved as of vital concern for the society. The main questions are: what are the relationships between the individual beliefs of the witness and the doxa, between him and the collective patrimony shared by the collective within the witness's life and with which he wants to communicate? What are the tensions existing between different ethical commitments in the composition of testimony and how to resolve them? What are the tensions between the specific narrative procedures adapted to a particular content and existing rhetorical conventions; the influence of this tension on the communication between addressor and addressee.
Third objective of the seminar: reading and analysis of texts concerning literary genres and testimonial discourses. In an individualistic society such as ours, it has become very common to write about the self and to publish autobiographical accounts. Moreover, with the emergence of a literary genre such as autofiction and of the phenomenon of blogs, almost every text dealing with some personal fact taken from real life can be considered as testimonial. The main questions here are: What is the relationship between the individual artistic features of representation and the truth value of the testimony? What is the connection between the memory process, the act of testimony and the chosen narrative structure?
Hospitality in Emigration Novels of the French Revolution Written by Women Authors
The purpose of the current project is to study emigration novels written by women authors who fled France during the French Revolution. The flight of the aristocracy from France to foreign countries produced a vast number of texts, which related the dramatic historical events from different ideological points of view. Among the most interesting of these are the works of fiction written between 1789 and 1815 by male and female émigré authors who chose to present their experience of exile through novels. This research seeks to explore how women authors use fiction to convey their experiences of emigration, exile, the collapse of their known frames of life and their cultural, linguistic and existentialist transitions, as well as how they deal with crises that affect their moral and ethical identity as women, and why they do so by putting their focus on the key notion of hospitality.
During the 18th century in France, the concept of hospitality expanded beyond the private sphere, into the collective and international realms. Hospitality was linked with the ideals of the French Enlightenment, such as tolerance and recognition of the other, but also strongly connected to national questions regarding the welcoming or excluding of foreigners who sought refuge in times of conflict, war and other catastrophes. This cultural emphasis on hospitality and acceptance, combined with the reality of being excluded and expelled from one’s homeland, highlights the relevance of exploring the conceptual link between emigration and hospitality in these texts.
The first goal of this project is to deepen the inquiry on hospitality, as it was developed through literature during the years from the Revolution to the Restauration. Hospitality – including its various forms and its social and political implications - is a prominent, recurring theme in novels of emigration, and is therefore worthy of scholarly attention. This research project also has the second, more specific goal of exploring emigration novels written by women, based on the assumption that women authors can offer a new and complex insight into the notion of hospitality, approaching this topic from a particularly gendered perspective that will differ from that of emigration novels written by men. The third goal of this project is to evaluate the potential impact of the women authors’ struggle for recognition on what - and how - they wrote. In other words, how might the ‘inhospitality’ toward women authors in the literary space of their time have stimulated those who are not welcomed to explore the meanings and senses of hospitality and inhospitality in their work? The final, overarching aim of the project is to elicit a possible theoretical framework through which to analyze representations of hospitality - and its relationship to emigration and to womanhood – in other texts (and contexts) as well. Might similar themes by identifiable, for example, in emigration novels written after the exodus of the Russian aristocracy in the early 20th century? And might they even be fruitful in readings of contemporary post-colonial feminine emigration novels?