French and Romance Philology

Course Listing

French and Romance Philology

The Department of French and Romance Philology offers courses in French language and literature, as well as French grammar and composition. The department also offers courses in French philosophy, the scientific imagination in France, French painting and aesthetics, French literature and poetry, religion and art in France, Islam and France, Caribbean writing, and structuralism and poststructuralism.


Placement Test

Students who have had courses in French elsewhere (in high school, college, or both) must take the French Placement Test before registering for any French (language) course. The test is given during registration week and the first week of classes. The date and time of each test is posted on the department bulletin board during the registration period. Throughout the term, the test can be taken between 9 AM and 4 PM in the department prior to enrolling in a course.

Language Resource Center

The Language Resource Center, in 116B Lewisohn Hall and 353 International Affairs Building, provides intensive practice in French pronunciation and aural comprehension. Exercises in the laboratory are closely integrated with classroom work.

Maison Française

The Maison Française offers resources, including a library with an extensive selection of periodicals, lectures, and other cultural activities, and regular events such as cinema Thursdays and informal conversation groups. Students are encouraged to take advantage of the Maison Française. For further information, please call 212-854-4482 or visit the Maison's Web site:

CLFR G4000 Theory of Literature I. 3 points.

Leading theories of literature as a cultural category and of literary history and form, with an emphasis on French and Francophone thinkers, including Barthes, Bourdieu, Cixous, Derrida, Genette, Foucault, Khatibi, Glissant and Rancière. Areas of discussion include theories of authorship, narrative and reading/reception and discussions of national, comparative, postcolonial, francophone and world literature. During the semester we consider several novels and films in conjunction with theoretical arguments. Satisfies French MA/PhD theory requirement. Can also be taken as an elective by qualified seniors. Taught primarily in French.

CLFR G4001 Theory of Literature II. 3 points.

What is an author, a text, a reader, an interpretation? What determines esthetic judgments? Readings will include Georges Bataille, Jacques Lacan, Maurice Blanchot, Paul de Man, Julia Kristeva, Jacques Derrida, and Jean-Luc Nancy.

CLFR G4012 Some Puzzles for Theory. 3 points.

Theory has not purged commonsensical ideas about literature.  We tend to harbor a double, conflicting consciousness, at once textual and popular.  Restoring theory to its oppositional edge so as not to turn it into a positivist technique, we plan to define it through the notions it countered, asking also why they survived

CLFR G4090 Reading French Theory. 3 points.

Introduction to French formalism 1940-1970.  A seminal article or chapter read or discussed each week.  Sartre,  Lévi-Strauss, Lacan, Blanchot, Benveniste, Althusser, Foucault, Barthes, Deleuze, Derrida, Genette, and their foreign masters: Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Saussure, Heidegger, Jakobson.  Texts in English or French, discussion in English.


A conceptual and historical study of what it is to read historically, with a focus on the hermeneutic tradition.  Authors include Erasmus, Spinoza, Schleiermacher, Droysen, Dilthey, Heidegger, R. G. Collingwood, Gadamer, Habermas, Hayden White, and Paul Ricoeur.

CLFR W3815 Francophone Noir Contemporary Crime Fiction in France, the Maghreb and West Africa. 0 points.

France has a long and influential history of crime/detective writing, as the use of  ‘noir' as a loan word in other languages attests. Though noir literature and film waned in importance after its heyday in the 1950s, it has lately made a comeback, not only in France but also in former French colonies in Africa and the Caribbean where French remains an important language of cultural production. In these contexts, crime writing often explores the terrain of social and political injustice and inequality, particularly postcolonial, racial and transnational dynamics. Enquiries into the repressed memory of state-sponsored violence, notably the memory of the Holocaust and colonial brutality, these narratives harness the familiar mood, characters and structure of the crime genre, while giving it a local inscription. In this course we read contemporary crime fiction from France and Africa/the Middle East, considering how texts respond to local social and political circumstances and play with the conventions of the genre. We devote particular attention to Algeria, where crime writing has emerged as a preeminent genre in the wake of the acute yet still murky violence of the 1990s, a conflict aptly, if rather crudely, described by Adam Schatz as "one big murder mystery." We also explore some of the principal critical debates associated with detective fiction, including theories about genre and about high and low culture, and readings that situate crime writing in light of questions of international justice, punishment and human rights.  The course is taught in English. Readings can be done in French or English (all of the novels included on the syllabus are available in translation), and papers may also be submitted in either language.  

CLFR W3830 French Film. 3 points.

A study of landmarks of French cinema from its origins to the 1970s. We will pay particular attention to the relation between cinema and social and political events in France. We will study films by Jean Vigo, Jean Renoir, Rene Clair, Alain Resnais, Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard. In English.

FREN G4105 Introduction To Medieval Literature. 3 points.

An introduction to the literature of the French Middle Ages from La Vie de Saint Alexis to Villon’s Testament.  The changes in the language are approached through the study of the literary context represented by a canon of texts, with frequent exercises in translation.

FREN G4203 French Literature of the 16th Century. 3 points.

Survey of prose: notably, Rabelais and Montaigne, and poetry, the Grands Rhétoriqueurs, Marot, Scève, the Pléiade, Desportes, the religious poets

FREN G4401 French Literature of the 18th Century. 3 points.

The leading writers of the Age of Enlightenment, notably Montesquieu, Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau, and such major novelists as Lesage, Prévost, Marivaux, and Laclos.

FREN G4508 From Baudelaire To Structuralism: Ins and Outs of Criticism. 3 points.

Survey of French literary criticism as it shifts from rhetoric to history, from art to science, from impressionism to  linguistics, psychoanalysis, semiotics, and after. Baudelaire, Sainte-Beuve, Taine, Lanson, Proust, Thibaudet, Bachelard, Sartre, Barthes.

FREN G4601 French Literature of the 20th Century. 3 points.

Introduction to the major literary and critical works of the 20th century.

FREN G4623 Foucault's Critiques of Marxism. 3 points.

In this class we will return to this issue of the different "critiques" of Marxism proposed by Foucault and the different effects that they produce on our understanding of Marx and the relevance of his theory for our present, focusing on the central sequence between 1971 and 1976, when Foucault (in implicit rivalry with Althusser), proposes an "alternative Marxism" addressing issues of State power, reproduction, and social war. This will be preceded by a review of Foucault's early "epistemological" critique of Marxism, and followed by an overview of his late description of neo-liberal governmentality as a rectification of the understanding of homo oeconomicus (or the capitalist form of subjectivity).

FREN G6005 Stylistics. 3 points.

The linguistic fundamentals of the study of style: the function of language; language and discourse; pragmatic aspects of communication; theories of literarity; notions of style; models of classic rhetoric. The theories and methods of modern stylistics. Style resources: lexicon; syntax; prosody; the grammar of the text; composition; narrative techniques; argumentation; metrics; prosodics. The text and the intertext. Stylistic analysis from the 16th to the 20th century of French texts in prose and in verse.

FREN G8020 The Oral and the Written in Francophone Literature. 3 points.

A study of what it means to transform oral Myths and Tales into written literature; to go, as Congolese writer Tchicaya U’Tamsi puts it, “de la chose orale à la chose écrite” (from the oral thing to the written thing). The way in which orature (oral literature) plays with itself and the way in which writing “plays” with orality will be studied through different francophone African authors and French ethnologists: Tchicaya U’Tamsi, Marcel Griaule, Blaise Cendrars, Amadou Hampate Ba, Birago Diop, Léopold Sedar Senghor, Abdoulaye Sadji, Bernard Dadie, Ousmane Soce Diop, Jean-Louis Copans, Philippe Couty.

FREN G8116 Queer Love in Medieval France. 3 points.

What did it mean to be queer in the francophone Middle Ages? Was there such a thing? The term ‘sodomy' was used in the period to describe a wide variety of acts (not all sexual), and the term would seem to foreclose the possibility of female same-sex desire. The questions we will address include the following: In an era in which all non-procreative sex was conceived as sinful, does the opposition between homosexual and heterosexual still hold? How does reproductive discourse underpin medieval conceptions of artistic creation? Was male and female homosexuality conceived symmetrically? Our readings will take us through a broad range of genres-from penance manuals to lyric poetry to romance. Texts include Marie de France's lais, troubadour songs, Alan of Lille's Plaint of Nature, the Roman d'Enéas, Heldris of Cornwall's Le Roman de Silence and selected saints' lives.  

FREN G8215 After Barthes. 3 points.

  Rereading of Roland Barthes, 35 years after his death, and for the centennial of his birth in November 1915. Interest will be focused on the major periods of his work, from Existentialism and Marxism, to Structuralism and Psychoanalysis, Post-Structuralism and Textuality, Photography and the Novel. Emphasis will be put on the confrontation with a series of competing personalities.

FREN G8312 Literature and Politics In the 17th Century. 3 points.

Political power and its representation in memoirs (Cardinal de Retz, Saint-Simon); in drama (Corneille); and in political theory (Pascal)

FREN G8316 Diderot and the Disciplines. 3 points.

One of the central concerns of Denis Diderot's famous Encyclopédie - the "machine de guerre" of the Enlightenment - was the organization of human knowledge. In this course, we will read Diderot's remarkably wide-ranging corpus as an occasion to think critically and historically about the organization of disciplines in his time and our own. On the one hand, the range of Diderot's polymathic writings indicates the extent to which our modern disciplinary divisions were not operative during the Enlightenment: his work ran the gamut from natural philosophy, to theater, to the novel, to moral philosophy, to political theory, to medicine, with significant overlap among these areas. On the other hand, he contributed to the elaboration of a number of modern disciplines, both through his reflection on knowledge in the Encyclopédie and through his forays into new modes of knowledge such as art criticism and anthropology. We will read his works both in their Enlightenment context and in the context of recent critical reflections on the organization of knowledge and the problems it poses in our own interdisciplinary, information- laden age.  

FREN G8417 Pascal Hermeneutics and Rhethoric. 3 points.

This seminar deals with the connections between hermeneutics and rhetoric in Pascal. We will focus on the notion of Figure, which applies to both fields in a problematic way. We will use ancient hermeneutics and literary theory in order to define Pascal's general theory of interpretation

FREN G8420 Rousseau and his Critics. 3 points.

In this course we will read Rousseau through the lens of the highly polarized critical reactions his writings have provoked, from his time to our own. We will try to understand why this figure has been viewed as an exemplar of both the Enlightenment and the Counter-Enlightenment, as a defender of human liberty and as a proto-fascist, as an inspiration to women writers and as a misogynist. We will also address how Rousseau defined himself and his work, often in opposition to his fellow philosophes and critics, and how various personal and philosophical quarrels helped shape his major works. The course will be held in French but papers may be written in English for students outside the French department.

FREN G8516 Women in/of Disorder. 3 points.

      In this course, we will consider the configuration of various female characters in twentieth century literature of the French-speaking world, focusing specifically on what these characters reveal about the concerns – at once social and aesthetic – that mark the historical and political realities of their creators. Looking at texts from France, West Africa, North Africa, and the Caribbean, we will take note of the manner in which the presentation of “disorderly” women in many ways facilitates the expression of original and subversive discourse. We will explore, for example, the points of intersection between racial and sexual otherness, and examine such phenomena as domestic dissatisfaction, accusatory madness, and unbridled eroticism as fundamentally destabilizing of conventional narrative authority.  

FREN G8618 African Literature and Philosophy. 3 points.

Negritude: Literature and Philosophy. The movement of Negritude started in the 1930’s in Paris by African and Caribbean francophone writers was at once a literary and a philosophical project. The literature of Negritude will then be studied in this seminar as literature and as philosophy.

FREN G8619 French Empires: Colonial/Post-Colonial Historiographies. 3 points.

  As in many other European countries in the last fifteen years, the historiography of France has been reshaped by interest in the imperial trajectory of the nation. This class will explore this 'imperial turn', and examine its specificity vis-à-vis the historiographies of other European empires. We will examine the questions that have been at the center of the historian's agenda: what kind of historical processes are revealed (or masked) by the imperial perspective? How do we think historically about the relationships between nation, Republic and empire?  How has the 'imperial turn' shaped the categories and writing practices of historians? What are the contributions of historians to the understanding of postcolonialism? All readings and discussions are in English.  

FREN G8626 The Maghreb in Transition: Literature and Cinema in Contemporary Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. 3 points.

In this course we explore recent literature and film from North Africa, asking how the region's political trajectories have intersected with developments in the sphere of the arts. Our examination begins in the 1990s with the violent conflict of Algeria's Black Decade, and continues through the Tunisian Revolution of 2011 and its complex aftermath. We consider how cultural productions have participated in political opposition as well as their role as custodians of repressed memory. Over the last quarter century, new media, genres and aesthetic currents have emerged in the region, and new writers and film-makers have won recognition. We examine some of the most interesting examples of this Maghrebi new wave. The course is divided into units examining questions such as gender and sexual politics, the changing realities of migration and transnationalism, new media, and developments in the production and circulation of literature and film. The Course is taught in English. Readings are in French and English and students may write in either language, though French Department students should write in French. Each member of the seminar will undertake a research project focusing on a particular artist or work, which s/he will introduce in a multimedia class presentation and write up as a final paper.

FREN G8716 Literature and Eloquence in Early Modern France. 3 points.

  A study of the rhetorical tradition in French literature from the late sixteenth to the late eighteenth century. Authors include Montaigne, Cyrano de Bergerac, Pascal, Bossuet, Longinus in Boileau’s translation, Rousseau, de Staël.

FREN GU4025 Practicum In French Language Pedagogy. 3 points.

Designed for new Teaching Fellows. An introduction to the conceptual and practical tools of French language pedagogy.

Fall 2020: FREN GU4025
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
FREN 4025 001/11900  
Pascale Hubert-Leibler 3 4/15

FREN UN3131 Third-Year Conversation I. 2 points.

Prerequisites: completion of the language requirement in French or the equivalent.

Conversation on contemporary French subjects based on readings in current popular French periodicals.

Fall 2020: FREN UN3131
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
FREN 3131 001/11006 M W 2:40pm - 3:55pm
Online Only
Eric Matheis 2 3/15

FREN W1105 Accelerated Elementary French. 8 points.

Prerequisites: The instructor's permission

This course covers in one semester the material normally presented in Elementary French I and II. This course is especially recommended for students who already know another Romance language.  

FREN W2202 Intermediate Course II. 4 points.

Enrollment limited to 20.

Corequisites: Recommended: FREN W2221-FREN W2222.

Prepares students for advanced French language and culture. Develops skills in speaking, reading, and writing French. Emphasizes cross-cultural awareness through the study of short stories, films, and passages from novels. Fosters the ability to write about and discuss a variety of topics using relatively complex structures.

FREN W2205 Accelerated Intermediate French I and II. 8 points.

Prerequisites: Completion of Elementary French II

  This course covers in one semester the material normally presented in Intermediate French I and II. This course is especially recommended for students who already know another Romance language, or we have acquired very strong elementary language skills in Elementary French 1101 and 1102.

FREN W2222 Intermediate Conversation II. 2 points.

Corequisites: Recommended: FREN W2201-FREN W2202.

Conducted in French. Practice in conversational French, with emphasis on comprehension, pronunciation, and idiomatic usage.

FREN W3498 French Cultural Workshop. 3 points.

Prerequisites: completion of FREN W2202.

Designed (though not exclusively) for students contemplating a stay at Reid Hall, this course will foster a comparison of the French and American cultures with readings from sociological sources and emphasis on in-class discussion in an attempt to comprehend and avoid common causes of cross-cultural communication.

FREN W3515 Writing the Self Workshop. 3 points.

Corequisites: FREN W3333-FREN W3334 or equivalent, or the director of undergraduate studies' permission.

In this course, we will read works spanning the history of French literature from the Renaissance to the present in which the problem of writing the self is posed. We will also engage in various writing exercises (pastiche, translation, personal narrative) and discuss the works on the syllabus in conjunction with our own attempts to write the self. Authors will include Montaigne, Rousseau, Roland, Sand, Colette, Barthes, Modiano, and NDiaye. This course fulfills the pre-1800 requirement.

FREN W3616 Paris, capitale du 19e siecle. 3 points.

Prerequisites: completion of FREN W3333 or W3334 and W3405, or the director of undergraduate studies' permission.

  In this course we will consider literary representations of Paris in French literature of the 19th century. The city that was in many ways the cultural capital not only of France, but of all of Europe, played a decisive role in the development of literary modernity. Reading authors such as Flaubert, Baudelaire, Balzac, Hugo, Rimbaud, Stendhal, we will pay particular attention to the the portrayal of the city of Paris's role in the upheavals of modernization.

FREN W3666 Moliere. 3 points.

Prerequisites: completion of FREN W3333 or W3334 and W3405, or the director of undergraduate studies' permission.

Study of Molière's major plays, including Tartuffe, Dom Juan, and Le Misanthrope, focusing on key concepts such as naturalness and convention, value and exchange, and the relationship between ethics and comedy. Special attention will be paid to the connections between critical approaches of the text and the various ways in which the plays can be staged.

FREN W3726 Sex, Class and Shame in 20th-21th Century French Literature. 3 points.

Prerequisites: Prerequisites: completion of FREN W3333 or W3334 and W3405, or the director of undergraduate studies' permission.

The second half of the twentieth century in France saw a sudden explosion of literary works examining, with unprecedented explicitness, sexuality and social class and the relations between them. This course will provide an introduction to the literature of sexual and social abjection, beginning with Genet and Violette Leduc and including works by Annie Ernaux, Christine Angot, Virginie Despentes, and Edouard Louis. We will also consider relevant sociological writings by Bourdieu, Eribon, and Goffman. Readings and discussion will be in French.

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