COMP 318
Twentieth-Century French Novel: From Adversity to Modernity Fall 2023
Division I Difference, Power, and Equity
Cross-listed RLFR 318

Class Details

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.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 16
Expected: 16
Class#: 1156
Grading: yes pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Active class participation, two shorter papers, a midterm, and a longer final paper.
Prerequisites: A 200-level course (at Williams or abroad), or by placement test, or permission of the instructor.
Enrollment Preferences: French majors and certificate students, Comparative Literature majors, and those with compelling justification for admission. Seniors returning from Study Abroad (in France or other Francophone countries) are particularly welcome.
Distributions: Division I Difference, Power, and Equity
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
RLFR 318 Division I COMP 318 Division I
DPE Notes: As the course description explains, this course focuses on a critical examination of difference, power, and equity in twentieth-century France. The course also employs critical tools to teach students how to examine the roles of race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, colonialism and immigration, in the French novel's critical representation of war and disease, poverty and greed, urban isolation and cultural alienation during the twentieth-century.

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