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Senior Seminar: Nineteenth-Century French Novel: Desperate Housewives and Extreme Makeovers
/ RLFR 412
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.
Grading: no pass/fail option,
no fifth course option
active class participation, midterm exam, and two to three papers
a 200-level or 300-level RLFR literature course at Williams; advanced coursework during study abroad; or by permission of the instructor
French majors and certificate students; Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies majors; Comparative Literature majors; and those with compelling justification for admission
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit: