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You are here: Home / Graduate Studies / Graduate Seminars

Graduate Seminars

Spring 2017 Seminars 

FR 535: Texts and Performances: Theories of Drama

Instructor: Jean-Claude Vuillemin

Grounded in current theater/performance theories, reception theories and semiotics of drama, this seminar is an archeo-genealogy of France’s theater from the Baroque episteme to the present. Based on a selection of major French plays and unavoidable playwrights, the course, while encouraging incursions into contemporary Francophone theater, will foster an awareness of theater as both dramatic and performance texts, literary and social events, and last, but certainly not least, will emphasize the critical role of the spec-actor.  

FR 543: Studies in the Enlightenment: Kinship, Community, and State in Enlightenment France 

Instructor: Tracy Rutler

Denis Diderot’s bourgeois drama, Le fils naturel (1757) opens with the narrator gazing in on a scene of intimate family drama. What follows is a play where romantic and familial relationships are called into question as each character’s true identity slowly unfolds. In the spectator’s gaze, the inherently intimate becomes overtly political. Blurring the boundary between the public and the private spheres, many authors of eighteenth-century France interrogate modes of political governance via a discourse on the family and its dissolution. In this course, we will read pieces of domestic fiction, taking a cue from Nancy Armstrong and re-linking the language of domesticity to its political power. Texts to be read may include: Diderot’s Fils naturel; Françoise de Graffigny’s Lettres d’une Péruvienne; Rousseau’s Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse; Sade’s Justine; and Voltaire’s Zaire. Framing our discussion will be works by Plato, Michel Foucault, Jürgen Habermas, Nancy Armstrong, Jacques Rancière, Michel de Certeau, Nancy K. Miller, Giorgio Agamben, and Judith Butler, among others.

FR/CMLT 597: Francophone Island Literature: Geographies, Creolizations and Globalization 

Instructor: Emmanuel Bruno Jean-François

While global linear thinking mapped lands and waters, it also conditioned our minds and geographical frameworks. As such, colonial imagination persistently envisioned islands and archipelagoes as vulnerable, exploitable and fragmented isolates, irrelevant to our understanding of processes of cosmopolitanism. Engaging with island literatures (and expressive cultures) of the Indian Ocean, the Caribbean, and the Pacific regions, this seminar examines how ‘insular’ histories and experiences relate more to stories of exchanges and encounters than one would initially imagine. Exploring the possible interactions between relevant postcolonial concepts (mondialisation, Relation, créolisation) and the emerging field of the ‘New Thalassology’ or Ocean studies, we shall consider how Francophone expressions challenge disembodied conceptions of space and fixed notions of borders in order to redraw the contours of islands, oceans, and archipelagoes as fluid and permeable geo-assemblages. Using a variety of approaches, and focusing on both the decentered and decentering narratives offered by postcolonial writers (Devi, Appanah, Collen, Pyamootoo, Glissant, Condé, Chamoiseau, Pineau, Spitz), who make sense of their fragmented worlds differently, we will discuss their particular transformative interventions as a way of challenging exclusionary representations of so-called minor communities and experiences.

The course will be conducted in English, and will only include works that have been translated from French to English. Students who are familiar with written French are however encouraged to read these texts in their original version.

Fall 2016 Seminars

FR 531: Francophone Culture: African Encounters

Instructor: Julie Kleinman

This interdisciplinary graduate seminar focuses on how encounters between Francophone Africa and the West have shaped culture, society, and politics in the Francophone world. Drawing on historical, ethnographic, and literary texts, we will move beyond the colonial encounter to study decolonization and negritude, the construction of African modernities, and contemporary encounters shaped by new forms of movement and migration. The structure of the class mimics the encounter model, as each section puts texts written by African authors into conversation with Euro-American counterparts. The course is designed to give students a historical context for understanding contemporary debates on African-European relations, as well as the conceptual tools to analyze issues of modernity, race, otherness, and cultural encounter from African perspectives.

FR 533: Baroque Episteme: 17th-Century French Litertuare and Intellectual History

Instructor: Jean-Claude Vuillemin

Based on the revisited Foucaldian concept of “épistémè” and the Nietzschean views of history and genealogy, this seminar --while discussing current criticism on early modern France-- proposes the notion of “Baroque” as a pertinent heuristic tool apt to refresh and to question the traditional conception of 17th-Century French Literature. It thus deconstructs the so-called “French classicism,” challenges the ideological claim of a baroqueless France, reconsiders major canonical texts and early modern trends of thought (Aristotelianism, ‘modern science’, Jansenism, Libertinage), and promotes the Baroque as a philosophical concept rather than an aesthetic category.

Spinoza, Nietzsche, Foucault will read Montaigne, Galileo, Kepler, Bernini, Pascal, Corneille, Descartes, La Rochefoucauld, La Bruyère, Mme de La Fayette, Racine, Mme de Sablé, Bossuet... Baroque & Roll!

FR 571: French Literary Theory and Criticism

Instructor: Jean-Claude Vuillemin

While encouraging students to develop a sound theoretical grounding related to their own research interests, this course should help them to debunk ideologies in their thinking, and to gain fluency in theory and criticism. Along with an acquaintance with the most prominent “French Theory” actors: Foucault, Althusser, Barthes, Derrida, Deleuze, Rancière, etc., this course provides students with a systematic study of major theoretical trends (Formalism, New Criticism, Nouvelle Critique, Structuralism, Phenomenology, Reception Theories, New Historicism, Post-structuralism, Deconstruction, Performance Theories) whose knowledge is essential for engaging into fruitful (literary) criticism and for participating effectively in some of the most innovative contemporary philosophical debates. The course will also discuss the problematics of the subject as envisioned by Foucault in his latest research (‘souci de soi’ [epimeleia heautou], ‘dire-vrai [parrêsia]), and the assumed boundaries between philosophy and literature.

FR 580: Approaches to French Culture (Interdisciplinary methods of French cultural analysis and cultural history, with applications to a large spectrum of topics and artifacts) 

Instructor: Monique Yaari

The seminar examines the current “cultural turn” in French Studies as grounded in a variety of disciplines and their interactions: anthropology, historiography, semiotics, sociology, philosophy. The objects discussed consist primarily of practices, representations, and ideologies, ranging in scope from the local to the national and beyond, and from the quotidian to the visual arts. Examples include historical events and commemorations, urban spaces and public exhibitions, tourism, paintings. Seeking to foster development of analytical and interpretative skills, the approach adopted in this seminar combines close formal analysis with contextual and historically informed interpretation.

FR 581: Theory and Techniques of Teaching French

Instructor: Heather McCoy

This course is designed to foster an informed professional outlook on the teaching and learning of French. It includes both theoretical and practical components, provides students access to professional resources for teaching, and introduces students to the necessary vocabulary for participation in informed conversations about teaching and learning.

Spring 2016 Seminars

FR 501B: Pro-Seminar in French Studies II

Instructor: Willa Z. Silverman

This year-long course introduces students to various components of graduate studies while training them for diverse activities associated with their future academic positions. Throughout the course, we explore the scholarly and instructional dimensions of French and Francophone Studies with an emphasis on interdisciplinarity.  We consider everything from publication outlets to teaching portfolios, grant writing to dissertation or book proposals.  During the Spring semester, we focus on skills as varied as writing a conference paper abstract; transforming a seminar paper into an article manuscript; and crafting grant and thesis proposals.

FR 502: Introduction to French Linguistics

Instructor: Marc Authier

An in-depth survey of the subfields of linguistic theory, namely, syntax, semantics and phonetics/phonology based on data from French. 

FR 566: Women Writers in Nineteenth-Century France

Instructor: Bénédicte Monicat

This seminar explores the diversity of women’s literary production and the variety of its objects in nineteenth-century France through the conceptual lens of genre and gender construction.  It examines what the notion of “women’s literature” might entail, looks at the ways in which genre and gender intersect, and reflects upon the construction of literary historiography. 

FR 597A:  Postcolonial Theory, Francophonie and World Literature

Instructor: Bruno Jean-François

Engaging with critical concepts such as postcolonialism, Francophonie and World literature, this seminar will focus on themes of mobility, cultural encounter and globalization as represented in contemporary texts from diverse geographical regions (the Indian Ocean, Africa and the Caribbean). Considering how postcolonial literary productions call for a revision of our historical, spatial and cultural frameworks, we will discuss a variety of approaches (mondialisation, Relation, créolisation, coolitude, afropéanisme) and examine their convergences and divergences as we refine our understanding of the specific contributions of Francophonie to the development of an ‘enlarged thinking’. We shall also examine how the discourse ethic of postcolonial writers from minor/marginal/peripheral Francophone worlds enhances epistemic justice, by challenging abstract cogitos and disembodied universalist traditions, and by bringing into discussion a new interactive definition of World literature, that acknowledges plurality of modes of being, of knowing and of thinking.

FR 597B:  The French City Today: Realities and Representations

Instructor: Monique Yaari

This seminar will approach the city as material and cultural object, as a prism through which to view the contemporary world, and as object of literary representations. Theories of urban and landscape design, the poetics of space, place, and memory, evolving notions of modernity, and potentially new paths of inquiry such as eco- and geo-criticism will inform our discussions.

Fall 2015 Seminars

FR 501B: Pro-Seminar in French Studies II

Instructor: Willa Z. Silverman

This year-long course introduces students to various components of graduate studies while training them for diverse activities associated with their future academic positions. Throughout the course, we explore the scholarly and instructional dimensions of French and Francophone Studies with an emphasis on interdisciplinarity.  We consider everything from publication outlets to teaching portfolios, grant writing to dissertation or book proposals.  During the Spring semester, we focus on skills as varied as writing a conference paper abstract; transforming a seminar paper into an article manuscript; and crafting grant and thesis proposals.

FR 571: French Literary Theory and Criticism

Instructor: Jean-Claude Vuillemin

While encouraging students to develop a sound theoretical grounding related to their research interests, this course helps them to debunk ideologies in their own ways of thinking, and to gain fluency in theory and criticism. Along with an acquaintance with the most prominent contributors to the famous “French Theory”: Foucault, Barthes, Derrida, Deleuze, etc., this course provides students with a systematic study of major theoretical trends (Formalism, New Criticism, Nouvelle Critique, Structuralism, Phenomenology, Reception Theories, New Historicism, Post-structuralism, Deconstruction) whose knowledge is essential for engaging into fruitful literary criticism and for participating effectively in some of the most innovative contemporary philosophical debates.

FR 572: Twentieth-Century French Literature

Instructor: Allan Stoekl

This seminar considers a number of contemporary French "empiritexts," novelistic (but often non-fiction) writings that engage the reader in the consideration of objects, movement, terrains, technologies, and cities. Readings from Jean Rolin, Michel Bon, Annie Ernaux, Bruno Latour, Georges Perec, Olivia Rosenthal, Marie Darrieusecq, and others.

FR 581: Theory and Techniques of Teaching French

Instructor: Heather McCoy 

This course is designed to foster an informed professional outlook on the teaching and learning of French. It includes both theoretical and practical components, provides students access to professional resources for teaching, and introduces students to the necessary vocabulary for participation in informed conversations about teaching and learning.

FR 597A: The Abnormal Early Modern

Instructor: Tracy Rutler

This seminar examines how philosophical and literary works from the early modern period in France construct the idea of a heterogeneous subject, while simultaneously reading works that attempt to disrupt this normative discourse.
The period of the Enlightenment in particular is one in which the classification of knowledge becomes valorized to previously unseen extents. Figures that remain unclassifiable are thus often excluded from the production
of knowledge, or worse, they become instruments in the battle to maintain and reproduce social, religious, and cultural norms. Throughout the semester, we will read novels, letters, and plays that center on characters that defy early
modern formulations of normativity, reflecting upon the ways in which these texts produce different kinds of knowledge. Our discussions will also be informed by readings of modern critical work on norms and abnormality.

FR 531: Francophone Cultures

Instructor: Jennifer Boittin

In this particular version of the Francophone Cultures course, we will explore connections between gender, sexuality and race in several French colonies during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  Using relevant theories, historiographical texts, film and literature, we will consider how thinking about the French empire as a gendered space can help us to better understand the local dynamics that shaped both its varied and diverse spaces and the individuals within them.

FR 580: Approaches to French Culture

Instructor: Willa Z. Silverman

This course presents an introduction to theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of French and Francophone history and culture. While one focus of the course will be on historiography (the Annales School, the cultural and linguistic ‘turns,’ histoire du temps présent, égo-histoire, transatlantic, transnational, and global history), we will also consider approaches to cultural objects drawn from semiotics, sociology, cultural studies, gender studies, LGBT studies, print culture studies, and other fields and disciplines.

FR 597: Migration, multiethnic societies and oceanic creolization

Instructor: Bruno Jean-François 

This seminar will engage with the literature (and expressive cultures) of the Indian Ocean, especially the ones located in the islands of the Mascarene region. The Indian Ocean is the oldest in human history, and it has been marked, for over 5000 years, by episodes of migration, displacement, and re-settlement that have affected all the ethnic groups traveling across its expanse. These diasporic movements, due to trade exchanges, colonialism, slavery, and indenture continue to have an impact on the economic, cultural, and social history of the region. Using relevant theories, we will consider how this history of exchange has led to identity loss and reconstruction, to biological and cultural mixing, to complex situations of oceanic creolization. We shall also reflect upon how the dynamic forms of economic development and political challenges represented in the literature of this region can help recalibrate the geopolitics and discourses of democratic practice in multicultural and multiethnic contexts at large.

Fall 2014 Seminars

FR 570: Modern French Poetry

Instructor: Allan Stoekl

In this seminar we will read Baudelaire, Mallarmé and Ponge in light of Poe's esthetic theory, as elaborated in his essay "Poetics of Composition". We will also consider Walter Benjamin's reading of Baudelaire as an urban poet—again in the wake of Poe ("The Man of the Crowd")--and consider as well how readings of Poe led to a rethinking of the urban (poetic) object, with ramifications in both Mallarmé and Ponge.

FR 581: Theory and Techniques of Teaching French

Instructor: Heather McCoy 

This course is designed to foster an informed professional outlook on the teaching and learning of French. It includes both theoretical and practical components, provides students access to professional resources for teaching, and introduces students to the necessary vocabulary for participation in informed conversations about teaching and learning. 

FR 597A: Éduquer et instruire: Histoires de femmes, histoire des femmes

Instructor: Bénédicte Monicat

Informed by longstanding debates on women’s education and focusing on the nineteenth century as a pivotal moment in women’s history, this seminar looks at women’s instructional writings as critical sites for exploring questions of genre, gender, and knowledge construction.

FR 597B: Montaigne Reads Foucault: Hermeneutics of Modernity

Instructor: Jean-Claude Vuillemin

In addition to confirming the relevance of Montaigne and Foucault in our daily historical experiences, this new seminar will provide students with an analysis of some Montaigne's essays (from Les Essais, II & III) and an in-depth exploration of Foucault's selected problematics and main theoretical concepts. While Montaigne's essays are emblematic of some philosophical and literary issues of (early) modernity, they are also proleptic of many fundamental questions and/or intellectual debates, which will be revisited some four hundred years later by Foucault, as well as by other major contemporary “continental” philosophers.

Spring 2014 Seminars

FR 501B: Pro-Seminar in French Studies II

Instructor: Willa Z. Silverman 

This course introduces students to various components of graduate studies while training them for diverse activities associated with their future academic positions. Throughout the course, we explore the scholarly and instructional dimensions of French and Francophone Studies with an emphasis on interdisciplinarity.  We consider everything from publication outlets to teaching portfolios, grant writing to dissertation or book proposals.  During the Fall semester, we focus heavily upon job market preparation (C.V., job application letters, mock interviews, job talks, etc.). During the Spring semester, we focus more on skills as varied as transforming a seminar paper into an article manuscript; crafting a thesis proposal or writing a book prospectus; and planning a curriculum.

FR 502: Introduction to French Linguistics

Instructor: Marc Authier 

This course is an introduction to theoretical linguistics, a scientific field of inquiry the goal of which is to discover and formalize those subconscious rules that allow us to produce and process natural language sentences. Such rules can be divided into four basic types: those that determine sentence structure (syntax), those that constrain invariant aspects of sentential meaning (semantics), those that seek to capture variable aspects of meaning arising from the context of utterance (pragmatics), those that determine the pronunciation of words and phrases (phonetics/phonology), and those that constrain the combinatorial properties of affixes word-internally (morphology). We will study and illustrate each of these components through data drawn from French. Although our main objective will be to arrive at an understanding of what knowledge of language consists of, we will also consider some of the applications of linguistic theory. More specifically, we will see how it can be used to inform second language acquisition research, language pedagogy, literary analysis and cultural studies.

FR 564: Figures et écriture de l’exotisme : Ourika, Indiana, Aurélia et l/es autre/s

Instructor: Bénédicte Monicat

Literary manifestations of exoticism are most symbolically and problematically embodied by novelistic female heroines who signal a desire to abolish the very distance they represent.  As figures of sexual and racial otherness, their functions and meanings are far from stable, allowing for a critical reflection on the power relations thus revealed through representation and on the critical power of representation.            

FR 597A: Beauty and Decadence: France from 1880 to 1914

Instructor: Willa Z. Silverman 

This interdisciplinary seiminar explores two contrasting yet interrelated notions often used to describe the period from approximately 1880 to 1914 in France: that of a ‘Belle Epoque’ and that of an era of ‘decadence.’ Drawing on close readings of novels, private writings, and  contemporary history, sociology and philosophy texts, but also art and music, we study what contemporaries considered the sources of the grandeur and decadence of this period ; the emblems of progress associated with the Belle Epoque ; and the presumed symptoms of decadence. We examine, too, the perceived historical antecedents of modern decadence as well as ‘antidotes’ against it. Finally, we study how certain artists and witers of this period valorized the notion of decadence, making it the cornerstone of a key esthetic of the late-nineteenth century, overlapping and echoing other esthetic trends such as Symbolism, Art Nouveau, Japonism, and Dandyism.

Fall 2013 Seminars

FR 501A: Pro-Seminar in French Studies I

Instructor: Willa Z. Silverman

See description for FR 501B: Pro-Seminar in French Studies II, above.

FR 547: Modernism, Postmodernism

Instructor: Monique Yaari

Modernism, postmodernism, historical and post-war avant-gardes: these are the concepts we will examine and question in this seminar, from theoretical, historical, and interdisciplinary perspectives, marking, as we go along, the centennial of some of the first ‘modernist’ cultural events of 1913. While we will generally proceed from texts and objects to theories, we will also be moving to and fro between the two. Primary sources for this seminar include literary texts ranging from Baudelaire to Van Cauwelaert, accompanied by a selection of objects drawn from the visual arts, architecture, and urbanism. Among the secondary sources included in our readings, Jean-François Lyotard’s reflection on the seminar’s key concepts will be central to our discussions. Other versions of this course take as their focus the contemporary French city.

FR 569: Major Texts of Twentieth-Century French Literature

Instructor: Allan Stoekl

Established contemporary literary texts, figures, and aesthetic movements in various genres from Proust to Sartre and from Genet to Condé.

FR 571: French Literary Theory and Criticism

Instructor: Jean-Claude Vuillemin

While encouraging students to develop a sound theoretical grounding related to their research interests, this course helps them to debunk ideologies in their own ways of thinking, and to gain fluency in theory and criticism. Along with an acquaintance with the most prominent contributors to the famous “French Theory”: Foucault, Barthes, Derrida, Deleuze, etc., this course provides students with a systematic study of major theoretical trends (Formalism, New Criticism, Nouvelle Critique, Structuralism, Phenomenology, Reception Theories, New Historicism, Post-structuralism, Deconstruction) whose knowledge is essential for engaging into fruitful literary criticism and for participating effectively in some of the most innovative contemporary philosophical debates.

FR 581: Theory and Techniques of Teaching French

Instructor: Celeste Kinginger

This course is designed to foster an informed professional outlook on the teaching and learning of French. It includes both theoretical and practical components, provides students access to professional resources for teaching, and introduces students to the necessary vocabulary for participation in informed conversations about teaching and learning. 

Spring 2013 Seminars

FR 562: Romanticism and Realism

Instructor: Kathryn Grossman

This seminar focuses on various manifestations of romanticism and realism (and, by extension, naturalism) from the First Empire to the Third Republic. What are the relations between the real and the ideal, the grotesque and sublime, the “masculine” and the “feminine,” in the poetry, theatre, and prose fiction of the period? We examine the evolution, theoretical underpinnings, and distinguishing elements of each literary movement in the context of social and political revolution. We also investigate the critical discussion that surrounds each text. Our primary sources include, but are not limited to, selections from the master’s reading list. Class time deals with central texts, with major critical issues addressed by the nineteenth-century French studies interpretive community, and with bibliographical resources and strategies for research in this area by present and future dix-neuviémistes.

FR 566: Écrivaines du XIXsiècle : questions de genres

Instructor: Bénédicte Monicat

This seminar explores the diversity of women’s literary production and the variety of its objects in nineteenth-century France through the conceptual lens of genre and gender construction.  It examines what the notion of “women’s literature” might entail, looks at the ways in which genre and gender intersect, and reflects upon the construction of literary historiography.

FR 574: The Contemporary French City

Instructor: Monique Yaari

As Marc Augé puts it, the city is a microcosm of the contemporary world. Focusing on 20th and 21st century France, we will examine the contemporary French city as a prism through which to access existing tensions between past, present and future, memory and history, material space and immaterial networks, quotidian realities and utopian aspirations, center and periphery, built environment and ecological concerns. The cultural dimensions of the city—from its role as cultural magnet to the symbolic representations and image construction it conveys will also be discussed. Throughout, the modern, postmodern, après-moderne axis will serve as a theoretical and historical guiding thread. Finally, we will analyze representations of the city in the literature of the period.