French and Francophone Studies

Graduate Seminars

The Graduate Program in French and Francophone Studies provides an interdisciplinary approach to the study of culture in France and in the Francophone world. You can take a wide range of courses covering the entire spectrum of literary history, combined with allied courses in cultural studies, comparative literature, film, literary theory, history, and philosophy.

Here are some of the graduate courses that are regularly offered by the faculty in French and Francophone Studies

Early Periods (medieval - 17th-century)

Princes, Poets, and Prophets

Gregory Haake

This graduate seminar explores the fascinating and complex relationship between politics, religion, and literature during the French Renaissance. With the advent of Renaissance Humanism and philology, with developments in political theory and the role of the author, and with the Protestant Reformation, this creative and dynamic period was also a tumultuous one. We will explore what this meant for France in the sixteenth century and beyond, primarily through literary texts including, but not limited to, the poetry of Clément Marot, Rabelais's Gargantua, Etienne de la Boétie's Discours de la servitude volontaire, the poetry of Pierre de Ronsard, Jean de la Taille's Saül le Furieux, and Agrippa D'Aubigné’s Les Tragiques.

Classical French Theatre and Psychoanalysis

Louis MacKenzie

We will be looking at works by the “holy trinity” of French classical theatre (Corneille, Racine, and Moliere) through the lens of psychoanalysis theory and thought. Our truck will be with the texts as expressions of issues dear to psychoanalysis, not with the psychograph of the authors. Plays will include, but may not be limited to “Le Cid,” “Horace,” “Andromaque,” “Britannicus,” “Phèdre,” “L’Ecole des femmes,” “Tartuffe,” “Le Bourgeois gentilhomme.” In French or English depending on student preference.

Modern periods (18th-century - 21st-century; Francophonie)

Humanism and Responsibility

Alain Toumayan

An interdisciplinary investigation of the idea of the responsibility of both individuals and sovereign states to respond to social injustice, political persecution or conflict, natural disasters, and humanitarian crises. The course will focus on points of convergence between Emmanuel Levinas' concept of responsibility and The Responsibility to Protect by Gareth Evans and Mohammed Sahnoun. Course to be taught in French. Readings include works by Voltaire, Hugo, Zola, Camus, Sartre, Wiesel, Levinas, and Evans and Sahnoun. Paintings by Delacroix and Millet.

Performing the Text: Literature, Philosophy, Cinema Grammatology of Cinema

Olivier Morel

This advanced seminar consists of seeking to elaborate a "general grammatology of cinema." Revolving around a notion of performance and how textual writing is (always?) an audiovisual performance, our research will explore three directions: 1. an interpretation of textual writing in terms of sound and image as it has been theorized in literary studies from the Russian formalists to Derrida's grammatology through writings by Roland Barthes, among others; 2. a history of proto-cinematic inventions in their relation to theatrical performances and how this long history still informs our understanding of cinema today; 3. today's postmodern writing as a genuinely hybrid endeavor. The ultimate goal of the course would be to define the proper of cinema, or what I call "cinematographèmes" in terms that align with Agnès Varda, Robert Bresson, and Jean-Luc Godard's oeuvres, notably. The course will be nourished by my own experience in making a feature-length so-called "documentary" film with the author (poet, writer, playwright, thinker) Hélène Cixous between 2012 and 2018 ( We will read novels, poetry, and watch films. We will welcome Hélène Cixous on Skype. One written assignment (scholarly paper), oral presentations as well as active participation in our class will constitute the basic requirements

Francophones Extremes: French Writing on the Cutting Edge

Alison Rice

Francophone contemporary written work represents a wide variety of locations and experiences. In order to effectively depict places and events that are new and diverse, writers from around the world who have chosen French as their idiom of composition are currently engaging in innovative stylistic methods resulting in the creation of idiosyncratic French-language texts that don’t shy away from tough topics ranging from immigration to climate change to violence to love. Authors include Mauritian-born Nathacha Appanah, Algerian Maïssa Bey, Guadeloupean Maryse Condé, Patrick Chamoiseau from Martinique, Julia Kristeva of Bulgaria, Congolese-native Alain Mabanckou, and Slovenian-born Brina Svit.

Writing Disappearance in 20th- and 21st-Century Fiction

Sonja Stojanovic

As we look at the works of 20th- and 21st-century writers and filmmakers, we will investigate the many forms that the writing of disappearance takes. From missing persons and absent protagonists to ghosts and clones, from unspeakable names to obsessive inventories, from silenced memories and wars to phantom pains, disappearance is, as D. Rabaté writes in Désirs de disparaître (2015) both “made literal” and “inscribed elsewhere” in the text. In this course, we will pay particular attention to how writers have made certain absences not only apparent but felt and consider the mechanisms that allow for such displacements. We will specifically focus on questions of absence, erasure, gender, grief, memory, race, spectrality, and trauma.